I think that the idea of dating somebody from another country has always captivated most of us. You see it in the movies, you hear it from your friends or maybe even better, you had some experience yourself.
Dating somebody from a different culture is exciting, it’s different and it’s exotic. The problem is that sooner of later, culture kicks in and things begin to change, but, it doesn’t have to be like that.
You know the story, you move to a new country, start dating somebody either local or another international like you. In the beginning, it goes amazingly well until suddenly, the problems start and next thing you know, you are saying that you never want to date somebody from that culture again.
He likes things a certain way, she likes them a different way. Her parents are not so sure of the idea of having a foreign son in law. His parents want him to return home and start a life there. I could write a whole telenovela about it! But instead, I will just write this post.
I’ve noticed that culture is the most common reason why multicultural relationships split, how do I know this? Well, they tell me. Distance tends to come in second place. But, do you really think that culture is the real problem?
Let’s imagine you both live in the same city, maybe even… TOGETHER hehe no? too soon? Ok. Anyway, you both have been living there for a year. You both already survived the culture shock roller coaster and now you are stable enough for a relationship.
The first 3 months go great, followed by the 4th-month bump. You survived it and managed to make it to month 9. You begin to argue, but now you start sharing the things that have been piling up for a while. It finally explodes and you both conclude that because of your different backgrounds, you want different things and agree to split.
After 15 years of living abroad, I’ve seen it and experienced it too. And I just came to the conclusion that regardless if people have the same background or not, the key is communication. Necessary to any relationship, whether romantic or not, you both need to learn to understand the other side.
Quick question: How can you know how I feel if I don’t tell you about the way you make me feel with the things you do or say?
This applies to any relationship! The thing is that in multicultural relationships, people just blame culture because “you can’t do anything about culture, right?” It just makes things easier. Maybe after a while, after you have reflected on the way things went down, you will find the one conversation where things began to change.
Communication is the key and I don’t mean just talking to one another. I mean quality, meaningful conversation. I mean empathetically listening to one another. The problem is that “we are taught how to speak, how to read and how to write but, nobody teaches us how to listen,” as Steven Covey said in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
You all want something but, nobody talks about it. Either you don’t express how you feel or if you finally build the courage to do it when you finally decide to be vulnerable and share your perspectives, the other side is not listening to you.
That is why, since we don’t clearly express how we feel, we need to learn how to listen empathetically. This means listening to feelings. It’s hard, it takes effort and time but, next time you have a conversation try to listen to how the person is feeling.
Creating your own relationship culture.
Because both of you are bringing your relationship “learnings” (also known as baggage), the goal is to create a new one, based on open communication. One in which there is no space for judgment.
A relationship in which both of you can express how you feel, your dreams, your wants, your fantasies and be certain at the same time that you will find the support you need. Keep in mind that this takes time and it’s never too late to change things, you just both need to agree to work on it.
How do you build this new culture in your relationship? Well, both of you need to work on your emotional intelligence, which is then improved by developing your level of self-awareness. They also take time and constant work but, they are extremely rewarding.
Now, there is something you can work on that will yield faster results, your mindset. It’s amazing how fast we can rewire our perspectives. It sometimes just takes one idea or one statement for you to change your views.
These are the statements through which I guide myself. They frame my perspectives, thoughts, and actions when it comes to my relationship. They allow me to create the space I’m telling you about.
- A relationship is a team. You need to have each other’s back. Trust is then, the essential element to building a solid foundation. Never judge.
- Others will do whatever they want, whenever they want. You can’t stop them and it’s not a reflection of you. You can’t take things personally. You only have control over your actions.
- You need two to tango. Both of you need to be committed to it.
- You both need to have your personal space.
- You need to become truly interested in your couple’s interests, culture, traditions, background, etc.
In the end, is all about your empathy skills. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Ask yourself, in which situation do I need to be to do something like that? Listen empathetically!
And when you are upset, tell them how you feel and what made you feel this way. It’s way better than just getting angry and hoping the other person doesn’t get bored in the process of finding out.
If you know of somebody who may benefit from this post, make sure to share it with them.
What I would like you to do now is to scroll down and share in the comments your experience with multicultural experience, either personal or from a friend. What are your learning points? What were your challenges?
I believe that being in a multicultural relationship is an extremely rewarding experience from which you can only learn and grow from.