Being in love in exclusive long-term relationship is not easy, but is even harder when you are in love with someone with a different cultural background, maybe someone who is originally from a different country.
No matter if you are just starting dating or if your relationship is already getting serious, many things got in the way, first of all communication. If you are in a relationship with a person that come from another culture and spoke another language, communication is your first obstacle.
Don’t get me wrong you and your partner may spoke the same language, and yet have problem communicating.
How so? Because communication is not just the language you speak! Non-verbal communication is 70% of our communication information and it is largely influenced by culture. If that was not enough, culture also define what is proper and improper to say in a certain situation, hence you may got in a fight just for asking the right thing in the wrong way. I remember once a mixed couple, he was Japanese and she was American having a huge fight because he asked her “What’s wrong with you?”, when she was feeling sick.
If you are from a western back ground, or simply if you are not Japanese, probably you would feel as the intention behind this question was the one of complain, almost as he wanted to belittle her illness; but if you are Japanese, you know you were just trying to understand what happened to her, why she was in pain. So, as you can understand from this simple example, differences in culture can be a great obstacle in a relationship of two people from different cultural backgrounds.
Having said so, here some tips to enhance your relationship no matter if you are just starting dating or if you are planning a life together:
1. Don’t give anything for granted
As in the example above, when you are in a relationship with someone from another culture, you should always give them the benefit of the doubt when you feel offended by their words, or behaviours. This, should be actually a rule in any relationship, but became a necessary rule when you are in a mixed couple.
First ask your partner to justify his/her behaviour or their words, and then you can still get angry at your partner! Talk, talk, talk! Say even the obvious! The point is to understand your partner’s point of view. Then, you can still can get upset, but at least it would be for the right reason!
2. Learn your partner ‘s language
If you really want to understand your partner and enhance your relationship, my advice is to learn your partner’s language. Even understanding a little is enough. Knowing just a little bit of his/her native/family language will be enough to get in his/her shoes. Any languages brings with them a cultural baggage and a way of thinking. Learning that way of thinking is what will make you understand your partner better and have less fights over silly misunderstand.
3. Learn your partner’s culture
Learning your partner’s culture means to learn his/her way of life as they have been taught by their family. Our cultural background influence us deeply as it sets our values, our life goals, and our way of life; it shapes us as we are. When partners come from different backgrounds despite sharing same values in principle, still their goals may be different or they may have a different way to reached them. It is important to understand where our partner came from to reach a shared ground for future plan.
Therefore, my suggestion is to be open and curios of your partner’s culture and learn as much as you can from different resources. This means to expand your research outside your relationship with your partner and learn about his culture from his/her family and friends, as well as from books, YouTubers, or other person from his same background not necessarily close to your partner.
Knowing your partner’s culture is very important to set future plans on a common ground, especially if your partner turn to be “the one” you will share your all life with.
Sharing similarities and being aware of the differences is what you need to build a solid relationship that will last forever.
4. Look for a solution, look for similarities!
It is very easy to find what make you different, but is way more helpful to look for similarities, especially when you do not agree on something. Again, my advice it’s to focus on what bond you, so that it would be easier to overcome differences.
It is very common that mixed couple are divided by their differences as the people around them naively orient their focus on the differences, which became impossible to overcome in the eyes of the lovers. Truth is that such differences are in every couple no matter if they come from the same cultural background or not; but the illusion that coming the same background unite people deform reality.
Mixed couples should avoid let themselves get tricked by such illusion and ask themselves “How can we make this work?”
5. Look online for tips from other mixed couple
Nowadays, many interracial/mixed couple share their experience and tips on how they made it works online, especially via YouTube. My advice is to look online for couples similar to yours and learn as much as possible from their mistakes as well as from their successful strategies.
Be straight forward on you values, desire, and life plan
Again, this is a tip I would give to any couples, but I think it become an even more necessary strategy when it comes to mixed couple, be straight forward! When it comes to love people have this magic belief for which their partner should be able to read their mind, to feel what they feel, but for as much as your partner would love to be able to do it, they are not yet that magic! Put yourself in their shoes, would you be able to magically read any of their though or feelings? No, right?! So, be straightforward on everything, let your partner know what you want, what you feel, what you desire, and let them respond to that! Let the real magic of love happen!
7. Be ready to be discriminated
I know, I know, it shouldn’t happen, but yet it’s real! Discrimination and racism towards mixed couple is real and for as much as it pains me to admit it, you must be prepare to face it as a couple. Not just as an individual, but also as a couple. As your relationship evolves, you must decide as couple what to do and how to react to possible act of discrimination/racism against you as a couple or against to one of you.
Sometimes discrimination and racism come from the couple’s families of origin, sometimes it come from society, no matter where it come from, you need to be prepare on how to face it. Decide and plan together your reactions and strategies.
In my professional experience, when mixed couple found themselves unprepared to face this eventuality, they not just suffer the consequences of the event itself, but also they got emotional scars for not being able to protect/help the partner.
The pain coming from such event can lead the couple to break up as one of both partners may not believe to be able to protect their partner therefore it is important to be prepared and avoid this possibility.
8. Create your supportive social network as a couple
As a couple you will need the support of other people, you friends, your colleagues, and your families. It is important to be surrounded by people that will accept you as a mixed couple and help you go through your daily life without the drama of discrimination. Choose those who can better advice you on how to cope with difficulties.
9. Decide together where you want to build your life together
It is very important that at some point, when your relationship became serious, that you decide where you want to live.
This is the case in which you met your partner while you are studying abroad for example, therefore you live for a limited time in the same country. Where you are going to live together is an important decision and you need to be aware of the consequences. For both partners, as the one who remain in the foreign country may need help to adjust. You want to avoid your partner feel lonely and estranged by family and friends as a result of being away (especially when your partner is originally from the other half of the world).
10. If you are a homosexual couple: Try to help your partner coming out with his/her family.
A special tips for homosexual couple is to be very careful about how homosexuality is seen in your partner’s home country. Sometimes, homosexual couple fight over one of the partner not coming out with his/her family. Of course this is a very sensitive matter, but the reason why your partner may not decide to come out with his/her family may not be because he/she do not love you enough; on the contrary, it may be because they want to protect you. Still today, many countries see homosexuality as a crime and is not accepted by society, hence your partner may not want to disclose his sexual orientation as both your lives would be at risk of being harmed even by his/her own family.
Such dreadful fear may be enough to stop your partner to ever coming out with his/her family, therefore it is necessary for you both to talk about it and take a decision together.
Looking to improve your relationship with your partner? Our couples therapy in London is here to help! Our experienced therapists are dedicated to helping couples communicate effectively, resolve conflicts and build stronger, healthier relationships. With our safe and confidential environment, we provide a supportive space for couples to address their issues and work towards a happier future. Book a session today and take the first step towards a happier, more fulfilling relationship.