Love Without Borders: Cross-Cultural Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Love Without Boarders: Cross-Cultural Relationships

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, l know that all relationships bring a variety of challenges and opportunities for growth. At the same time, some couples  — particularly those in intercultural and cross-cultural relationships — get involved in online couples therapy or relationship coaching because they have further to go in bridging the gap. 

This is understandable. There’s often much to work through, and it can be easy to get into a power struggle when each partner feels strongly that their way of being is “correct.” Worse, partners may lack genuine understanding and empathy for each other’s valid perspectives. Cross-cultural relationships or intercultural couples can have vastly different relationship expectations regarding gender roles in the home, the role of extended family, how to communicate, and so much more. 

While, ultimately, the diversity of their union can lead to an enormously strong and healthy relationship, couples from very different cultural or racial backgrounds sometimes need to work harder to create understanding and compromise, in order to connect with each other.

Cross-Cultural Relationships and Family of Origin

For the record, it is important to note that everyone comes into a relationship from a different family of origin that had its own values, belief system, internal culture and way of doing things. Even individuals who may, on a surface level, appear to be of similar backgrounds may have had entirely different “family cultures” that are influencing their expectations in their relationship with their partner, and creating resentment when those expectations are going unmet. (This is often the underlying reason why financial therapy for couples is so necessary!)

Strength In Diversity

One big strength for interracial couples, cross-cultural, and international couples is an overt awareness that they need to openly discuss and respect these differences in order to achieve congruence.Constructive conflict” is a non-negotiable relationship skill for most couples, but especially for those coming from very different places and perspectives. In contrast, couples who make the mistake of assuming that their partner’s life experiences were similar to their own run the risk of having unspoken assumptions and expectations lead to conflict, emotional flooding, and hurt feelings. Knowing from the outset that you both have perspectives, values and expectations that are simultaneously both different and equally valuable is a huge asset.

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Navigating Cross-Cultural Relationship Differences

It’s very easy for couples to get entrenched in conflict rooted in a core belief of “right and wrong” when it comes to how to approach various aspects of their shared life. This can be especially true around hot-button issues such as:

These are points of conflict for many couples. However, if a couple in a bicultural marriage, cross-cultural relationship, or with a multicultural family background has very different life experiences that they each wish to replicate in their marriage with each other… the battles can get fierce and even nasty. In contrast, cross-cultural couples who approach each other from a place of sensitivity, openness, and willingness to listen wholeheartedly have the opportunity to learn and grow, celebrate their differences, and take the highest and best from both of their backgrounds in order to create a unique, beautiful blended culture in their new family, together.

Relationship Advice From Cross-Cultural Relationship Marriage Counselors

To tackle these questions, and provide some direction for how to begin bridging the gap and building bridges to the center of a cross-cultural relationship, I’ve asked some multicultural relationship experts to join me for this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Relationship experts Dr. Georgiana S., Ph.D., LMFT , Tania C., and Teresa T., are all marriage counselors who often work with cross-cultural relationships and interracial couples, and have great relationship advice for how to create peace and harmony in your gloriously diverse family.

Specifically, we’ll discuss:

  • Why cross-cultural relationships often get into power struggles about various aspects of their shared life.
  • The shift in perspective that can help you restore the empathy in your relationship and understand each other more deeply.
  • How to find ways of creating agreement, while simultaneously honoring and appreciating your differences.
  • How couples with different expectations of extended family roles can find balance between boundaries and togetherness.
  • How interracial couples can become a united front in understanding and confronting racial injustice, together.

Whether you’re in an interracial relationship, blending a multicultural family, or simply coming to terms that you and your seemingly-similar partner are actually coming into your relationship with very different perspectives, the perspective of marriage counseling experts Dr. Georgiana S., Ph.D., LMFT, Teresa, and Tania can help. I hope you join us — click the player below to listen to the conversation!

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Love Without Borders: Cross-Cultural Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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