One of the biggest challenges of dealing with a cross-cultural relationship is hitting a favorable equation with your extended family. If they are not a very open-minded set of people, it won’t be easy for you and neither will it be easy for them. However, it may be important to your partner that his family and you can blend in together, so appreciate his sentiment in trying, and be aware of a few things if you want your cross cultural relationship to bloom.
- Initial Hostility Not Directed At ‘You’
To begin with, in a cross cultural relationship, you need to be prepared for some level of initial hostility or discomfort. The family, and especially his/her parents, may have had a more traditional expectation from his partner. Since you obviously don’t fit the bill, you may feel judged and rejected. However, be mature about this, if you can. They are not judging you the individual, only you as a representative of your culture, and the fact that you are not what they expected. If you are patient, they might get over this initial hurdle and begin to appreciate your personality and qualities.
- Be Sensitive To Their Values and Customs
You need to make a special effort to be sensitive to his/her family’s values, culture and traditions even if they are not prepared to do the same. Remember that you and your partner had the capability and the perspective to be able to choose someone from another culture. They have got forced into accepting the choice, and may not be as broad-minded as you. So, considering an example, if his/her family has a custom where one is required to bow before the elders, see if you can adopt it while you are with them. You may even be required to dress in a certain way. These are small things that can help you bridge a big cultural gap. If they see that you are making an effort to blend in with them and respect their sentiments, you may in turn earn a lot of respect from the family. Remember cross cultural relationships are more demanding and require greater understanding of your partners culture and values.
- He Is Still On Your Side
No matter what treatment you face from your partner’s parents and other family members, don’t start to equate your partner with them. Remember, he/she is not ‘one of them.’ He/she is on your side just as much as theirs, so it is best if you take him in confidence and get his/her help to get over this hurdle. This is not easy on him/her either, so if you take out your frustrations on him/her, it will not be fair and will do your cross-cultural relationship no good.
- You Are Who You Are
In any relationship and specially in a cross cultural relationship, you need to accept that no matter how hard you try, if they are not willing to take a step forward, you will never be able to gain the respect of his/her family. So, don’t bend over backwards trying to please them. If you are seriously uncomfortable participating in a certain custom or behaving in a certain way, don’t get pushed into it. The first person you should be talking to is your partner. Communicate how you are feeling, and if you are too shy or embarrassed confronting his/her family, let him/her do it on your behalf. Finally, they have to learn to look beyond their differences and respect you for who you are. If that doesn’t happen, don’t be totally disheartened. You may still have your partner’s support, which is essentially all you need to make your cross-cultural relationship work.
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