Managing Cross Racial Marriages Within Extended Families

While not quite the mainstream, it is becoming more common these days to find marriages taking place between two racially diverse individuals who decide to tie the knot. Races have their own unique culture.

Here is the problem. And it is a harsh truth.

In order for the marriage to be successful, it is not enough that there is everlasting love between the husband and wife-to-be. It is essential that the families and close friends each has buy into the culture that sometimes divides the couple.

The boy and the girl (we are only dealing with hetrosexual unions for this article) may quite easily adapt to each other’s culture their race represents and values. They obviously love and care for each other. They have taken the big step having had a relationship for some time, maybe even lived with one another before marriage, and devised ways to minimize any conflict, misunderstanding or dislike for certain practices or values each other’s racia, cultural differences.

Here is an everyday example. In Asian societies, particularly in India and Pakistan, it is quite common–in fact expected–at a party for the genders to separate. Men will congregate one place, women in another. Even in today’s modern, non-sexist society, it is hard to find a true gender-blender, where men and women sit next to each other, drink together for an extended period.

Each culture is rich with its values, practices, and yes oddities–at least as observed by people who do not know or belong to that culture. How do you manage to impart functional understanding to your friends and family of the items–practices, rituals, beliefs and values–that makes up the core of your spouse’s culture?

It is not going to be easy. The worst thing you can do is to be over-optimistic about it and think “I come from a decent family, have decent, reasonable friends, all I have to do is get them to meet my spouse and it will be smooth sailing”. Unless you have history or facts to support that conclusion, it is like buying a lottery ticket and basing your retirement on its outcome!

For instance, your path may have been made smoother by another cross-cultural marriage in your family or amongst your friends. Assuming the person from another race or culture has been accepted as one of your own may be an excellent precedent that will enormously help you navigate your relationship amongst your family and friends.

But what if you are a pioneer in this area? Here are some practical tips you can plan and follow.

=Unless you or your partner want to isolate your self from each of the families, make an effort to understand your partners culture, practices and ancestry. Mix with them.
=food is a wonderful unifier. You will be surprised how many similarities exists in foods.
=Religion can be a sour spot, so bring it front and center with your partner. As you become parents, you want your children to adapt both religions.
=Give respect to your elders.