Dating Outside Your Race|Part III: Bridging Cultures
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Cultural differences can make or break a relationship. It all depends on you and your partner.
Really, it does. I say this because it is so hard to bridge completely different cultures together for the sake of unity, sometimes. I asked my volunteers if it was difficult to bridge their families/cultures together. For the most part, I got positive responses, such as Kelly’s experience. She said “[we] had no problems introducing one another to our families and had great relationships with them.”
Oscar stated that it was easier for him because of his skin shade. He is Mexican, but people assume he is white. It’s a blessing and a curse because although he appears to pass as white, he has a heavy Mexican accent.
There were many great experiences my volunteers had, except there were a few instances when it became difficult. My volunteer Damara brought in an issue that many of us may not think about, language difference.
It’s difficult only because my family doesn’t speak much Spanish. So when my parents came we translated to his mom . They got along famously even though they don’t speak the same language Damara Hernandez
Another difficult part I found interesting, yet not surprising, was the stereotype issue. Sometimes we walk into situations thinking that it’ll be easy to introduce families, but there may be that uncomfortable energy because of an inkling that a stereotype may come into play.
Tavia described her experience meeting her boyfriend’s parents as getting along great with the mom, but
“his dad’s views on black women were bad. He believed the stereotypes and told his son to be careful. But he learned through my boyfriend who I [truly] am. Tavia
Amanda had to deal with the fetishizing of her race and culture from men she decided to date as a bridge she has to continuously cross.
Some of them felt intrigued/proud that their son could pull a Brazilian woman.
I asked Amanda if she ever felt the need to share her disapproval of being fetishized by her partner/family, she responded:
” Honestly, it’s horrible of me to say it but it’s become normalized to me. it’s something I am struggling to unlearn. If it’s coming from someone who i find attractive/have an interest in, I take it as a compliment & use it to my advantage to get their attention. It even carries over to the bedroom with certain things that they would like me to say/expect me to say. I have never argued/confronted my partner about their fetish.”
I understood Amanda’s issue, because her and I had a discussion about trying to be approved, it becomes easy to take a fetish as a compliment and move along your day.
But, linking families gets difficult especially when you are coming into (or bringing) a traditional culture into the picture. It can be hard sometimes to not be culture dominant if your partner is not in agreement.
What I mean by culturally dominant is that when two cultures are combining, it is important that both partners try to understand and learn both cultures. If I am black and my partner is Indian, I need to know their culture and he needs to know mine. We have to come to an agreement on what we will agree to do in either culture and what we will not. If you are more open to accepting your partner’s culture requirements, then this should be a little easier for you. But for me it was not.
Being culturally dominant means that one partner basically sacrifices their own to follow their partner’s cultural customs. When I began dating my ex, we had to have the conversation about what I will and won’t do in his culture and he did the same. I wasn’t expected (from him) to do nyab duties, and I wasn’t expected to go to every family event (this took a lot of conversation), I was also not required to do a Hmong wedding. Which automatically won in my favor because I am not a Hmong woman.
But I’ve noticed that a lot of couples get into huge arguments about cultural differences, especially when it comes down to tradition. Such as weddings. In the Hmong culture, there is a dowry that the man pays to the woman’s family (usually $5,000+) that in the end comes back to the couple. Some people that come into the culture are not aware of this, and are not comfortable with “paying” to marry their love.
I get it, I really do. But this is where a conversation needs to be had. If you are the one that has the traditional culture and if you don’t agree with a rule, will you force your significant other to follow it?
Kelly Her put it this way, and I can’t say that I agree 100%.
“The bride price def conflicts with my beliefs and morals. Therefore to solve that, I have agreed to help pay for half my price and have heard others say they’ll take out a loan for theirs. “
But to each their own.
I have found it interesting that most people have to compromise something regarding cultural differences, even if they don’t agree.
Adrienne described her encounter with her fiance’s parents as being supportive. Although they had different wordly views (the male hierarchy), their son was able to introduce the concept in our country that men and women are treated equally in a relationship.
I guess I wonder where we draw the line. Do we continue to make our partner compromise their beliefs to fit our culture’s rules and traditions and we not do the same?
Is it fair? Can we honestly say that we understand each other if only one person is sacrificing?
I will conclude with this, when it comes to bridging families you owe it to yourself and your partner to have those hard conversations until you are on common ground. If you don’t believe in a custom, then don’t do it. If your partner doesn’t agree, listen to their concerns and try to understand where they are coming from.
See you next time,