When two cultural backgrounds meet in a marriage, the relationship can be enriched. But obstacles first need to be identified and addressed.

The way you’re brought up is the way you’ll live unless you discover another option that seems preferable. Customs and culture have taught you and your spouse different values and priorities. This means the two of you need to learn and compromise.

How can you handle cultural differences in your marriage? Here are five recommendations:

  1. Educate yourself and your family about the other culture. This can ease surprises and defuse potential conflicts. Ask questions of your partner. Research norms and expectations.

    Because she loved Andres deeply, Wendy did a thorough study of the Latino culture. She talked with him about what she’d learned, pointing out where she and Andres were likely to experience tension in their relationship.
  2. Challenge false beliefs you may have about the other culture. Discuss as a couple the belief system each person has, and explore the evidence supporting those beliefs. If the beliefs are held simply because the extended family has said so or "society is just that way," challenge them gently and respectfully.
  3. Discuss the positives and negatives of the two cultures and jointly choose which parts will best fit in your relationship. Talk with your mate about the weaknesses and strengths of your own culture. Decide which attributes of both cultures might enhance the household you’re building.

    This worked for Andres and Wendy. Andres questioned the "machismo" attitude that had hampered his ability to resolve conflict with his wife. Wendy realized that her openness created pain when she didn’t think before speaking.
  4. Adjust and adapt to one another’s cultures through compromise and communication. This takes humility and courage. It also takes a willingness to give up some of your desires in order to meet the other person’s needs. Listen to each other before identifying differences, problems and solutions.
  5. Be patient as your partner adapts. If you continually correct your spouse, he or she may lose interest in adjusting to your culture. People tend to gravitate toward familiarity and success; provide both as your spouse tries a revised and expanded way of living and perceiving.

Taken from Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage. © 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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