What do cultural differences mean for your relationship?

It's not unusual these days to choose a partner from a different culture to our own - in fact, it may be part of what draws us to that person. Differences in beliefs, values, ways of thinking about being a partner, a parent, how to live life can be challenging and inspiring, and encourage us to imagine different possibilities and create new synergies. However, cultural differences can bring some unique challenges as well. Often these challenges are not as evident at the beginning of a relationship. Even where we are aware of them, they may seem peripheral to the main event of forming a relationship with someone we love and want to spend our life with. It's later, especially when children come, that these differences may become more pronounced and harder to resolve. Differences that all couples have may become more obvious- for example, balancing need for space with need for togetherness is an issue for all couples to think about, especially where one may need a lot more space or togetherness than the other. This is complicated further where one person growing up may have learned a complex set of rules about the importance of maintaining close ties to extended family, while the other may have grown up in a culture where extended family members had very little contact with each other, and where obligations to one's own parents and sliblings were minimal. The key to working through what may seem like incompatible differences is to avoid judging one as better than the other. By taking the perspective that although they are different, they have equal value, it becomes possible to craft ways of doing your own relationship that blend the best of both worlds, and where one person's needs are not upheld at the expense of the other's. By appreciating the complexity of really grappling with what it means to truly respect each other's culture, you may find that the rewards are very great, and vastly exceed the struggle that it takes to get there!

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