Finding “The One”…When Cultures Clash

culture-clash-3I want to outline a scenario and see what people think about it. It’s loosely based on a real case, but the case is not unique. There are a lot of young men and women in situations like this one. It’s a common problem for children of immigrants who have grown up in America.

I specifically want to know what people believe about love and finding “the one”, and also how they feel about this. So here’s the story.

Let’s say there is a young woman.  She’s 21. She was born in America, but her parents are from a culture where traditions are very important. Let’s say they are Indian.

So the girl goes to college and BAM. She falls in love.

The man who steals her heart is American. He’s as American as can be and he’s a Christian.

Now the girl knows she can’t take this boy home. Her family is simply not going to be okay with the situation.

If you’re an American and you don’t understand this, just take my word for it. I work with people like all the time. So what she does is she sneakily dates the man who he makes her heart sing.

Now in my culture, it’s believed there is a soul for every soul.  There is someone out there for each of us, whether you wind up with them or not.  So let’s just say this relationship is of that quality.  The girl is not rebelling or experimenting – she really loves this man and he loves her.

But you know what? It’s just impossible.  Her parents will never accept him, and ultimately she ends the relationship and decides to focus on finding a partner her parents will accept.

Now what does this mean, hmm? I am not someone who lacks respect for tradition.  I do believe there is a soul for every soul, but is a person really the soul for your soul, if it creates a lifetime of discord in your family?

I imagine this would have to be considered on a case by case basis, but you get my gist. I sure wouldn’t want to be faced with a question like this, especially at 22 years old!

There are exceptions,  but I think by and large, when a family does not back a married couple, it does a lot of harm. It makes it very hard on the couple.

On the other hand, being and staying married to someone, primarily because they are appropriate is also quite hard.

It’s not just race/religion. It’s very hard for someone ultra-rich to marry someone poor, or from the other side of the tracks. These situations are essentially the same as far as I can see. The family is not into the potential partner, simply because they are not what they want for their child. They did not to X, Y and Z, to have them wind up with C!

Being the way I am, I would go for the love myself, hands down. I would pay the price, but it’s easy for me to say that, since I have no family or status to lose!

It makes me think of various religions / cultures, such as the Amish or the Mormons, who kick you out of the community it you don’t maintain their standard. This is a serious situation. It’s painful.

I have been the person from the other side of the tracks. I married a man from a family with status and we had no peace whatsoever. Someone called him on a DAILY basis to tell him not to be with me. When he decided to marry me, they called him twice a day and when he did marry me, he was called non-stop until we divorced! I mean, if you think this doesn’t take a toll, you’re crazy.

There is more!

In my culture, the marriage take precedence over the relationship you have with your family. The spousal relationship is primary.

In other cultures, the family / your blood comes first.  So while I think you should be with the person who takes your breath away, others would say, ‘Not at the expense of your family.”  And  who am I to say they’re wrong?

There are very sticky questions. Have you faced anything like this in your life? Please share.

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Finding “The One”…When Cultures Clash — 42 Comments

  1. “In my culture, the marriage take precedence over the relationship you have with your family. The spousal relationship is primary.”

    This was never said explicitly, but I was raised heavily Christian and this is what was communicated.

  2. @Oshun, weirdly, I think that having this understood, in either direction, would be really helpful.

    The more you know about where you stand, the better. This way everyone can agree on everything -know what they are involved in and/or signing onto.

  3. Elsa, this is very true in Tunisian families. Sure, there is open-mindedness about some things, but it’s very hard to be friends, to fall in love, or to have a job that family may disapprove of for various reasons. It takes effort to reconcile my desires with those of my family sometimes, but it brings the most amount of comfort to my Sun and Moon.

  4. You’re correct Elsa. Come to think of it Every family has its set of socio-economic traditions, behavioral tendencies, political traditions, religious traditions, professional traditions… While continuing certain traditions can be appropriate, even a slight deviation can be tricky.

  5. I have a friend who is wealthy and prominent in her community. She’s Catholic, and very down-to-earth.

    One of her daughters has chosen a man whose family has no resources. She told me she had no problem with this whatsoever. Her side of the family would be happy to pay for everything…whatever wedding they wanted, etc. She literally told this guy not to worry about it at all. That she could care less…

    She also told him they could get married wherever they wanted, however they wanted, but if he wanted to do something for her, that would mean a lot to her – could they please, please, please ask a priest to bless their marriage. She literally asked this a favor from her future son-in-law and guess what he did?

    He went straight into RCIA! He’s becoming Catholic and they will be married in a Catholic church.

    She’s happy of course, but she didn’t expect this.

    So this is a situation where one person is going to enter the realm of the other. I am sure this bodes well for the marriage.

    I also admire my friend. Her daughter’s happiness is the most important thing to her BUT she did not conceal her feelings around this…and then perhaps build resentment of bad feelings of some kind.

    I think she’s great! 🙂

  6. The more alike you both are, the more support from your families. The more support from your families, the less stress on your marriage and kids. Given the ups and downs of life and marriage, I can see the value in that.

    If a potential or current spouse is persona non grata, that will take a toll. So instead of this easy flowing relationship, it’s this thing that needs special attention and protection to remain viable. That’s a lot of work and would make me wonder if the person is really “the one” if it is that difficult.

    I have also seen examples of people who followed their heart and it wasn’t some kind of cinematic, romantic triumph. I do think sometimes people believe that because it is hard, it’s somehow more valuable and that they’re going to be rewarded for their perseverance, instead of getting the average mixed-bag that real marriage is, even if you’re happy with it.

    There are lots of people who enjoy difficult relationships and like the idea of being “me and you against the world”. Some people like to say fuck you to their families, and this is one way.

    I guess it depends on your personality and goals for marriage. I personally don’t want to alienate my family, and I also don’t need any additional difficulties in my life in top of what happens naturally.

  7. My father-in-law did not attend the wedding due to me being an American. He didn’t speak to his son for a year. Now he speaks to us, but only to try to manipulate and hurt our marriage.

  8. Love trumps anything else. You can’t tell someone who they are allowed to love, that’s ridiculous. I appreciate and respect peoples’ devotion to their cultures, but when it causes someone pain then things need to be re-evaluated.

  9. My Ex’s Italian family had no reservations what so ever about a foreign, non-Catholic “daughter-in-law”. We’d still be together if it was for them! But they are/were (sadly, not all that family survive) exceptionally good people to begin with. And I was respectful of their culture – religion as such never was important to my Ex, I had a bigger stand there, wouldn’t have converted myself, but was actually telling Ex our children should be raised Catholic, since we lived in a Catholic country. Also, my Ex’s father was only 8 years younger than the woman who raised me, my grandmother (and only two years younger than my other grandmother). I probably was able to relate to him psychology a lot better than an average Italian girl my age would have been. So, this was never an issue.

  10. I know this story from the side of a young indian man, who was raised in the US but his parents were immigrants. He married in an arranged marriage. It lasted 10 years. He was miserable but followed through out of duty. He then, through his career, made a great deal of money and semi-retired just past the age of 30. He took a look around and divorced his wife. She’s very well cared for by him but he’s free and now, finally, years later, in a relationship with someone who has similar interests as him and who is very american as it were. He’s happier than I’ve ever seen him.

    When asked about the situation now he is very clear that he cares for his ex-wife but not in that way and that it’s not her fault.

  11. I was born and raised in mainstream U.S. culture, find the person you love then marry them, etc., so what I am about to share is not my experience.

    I have heard/read stories from young people in cultures where arranged marriage is the norm. Some of them otherwise assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, some never exposed.

    A lot of them say they prefer arranged marriage. They believe and trust that their parents know them best, and are more capable of finding a compatible partner than they are! “I’m young and don’t know anything!” seems to be the sentiment.

    Love is universal, but romance and marriage are social constructs.

  12. elizabethe, that’s my mother’s line. She always said as long as you marry the man you love the rest will take care of itself. My parents married against religious lines, lutheren and catholic. Most grew to love them both but some never spoke to them again.

    I do see women in abusive relationships with the men they ‘love’ and vica versa. I do see women to whom children and family are important married to irresponsible and absent men. I have come to think that life goals and dreams and whether the two can support that for each other is most important in the long run. But even then goals and dreams change.

    And some people out and out need to make choices and succeed or fail and learn. Marriage/divorce laws allow that now.

  13. I am in this situation. My parents would disown me if they saw the person I’m with. So I just keep it to myself. In essence, I’m living two separate lives. I decided to take this route because it’s just easier on everyone involved. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, so it works for me. I’ve brought home partners of other cultures before, and my parents never liked it. So, I balance the two cultures by keeping them separate rather than trying to blend them. It might sound horrible or deceitful to some, but it works, and it’s actually not as hard for me to do as one might think. Of course, I can’t get married or have children with my partner, but it’s ok because my partner and I don’t want those things. To each his own…

  14. I understand this, being raised catholic, it was never really stated, just expected that we would marry a ‘nice, catholic boy, settle down, have kids and raise nice little catholic kids’.

    That is not what I did, I married a non-Catholic, leans towards Buddism. It was accepted, but is still a source of strife with my extended family. It has also caused trouble with his family that I am religious. (I call my family, my husband and little ones. Everyone else outside that, my parents, his, my siblings, his siblings, etc, they are ‘extended family’).

    I think this speaks of challenges of the North Node in the 7th house, growing towards partnership, and pulling away or putting the self after that. Also of South Node in Cancer, learning to pull away from family and growing towards independence (cappy north node). I have both of these, my Cappy NN is in my 7th conjunct my DSC and my SN is in Cancer (mixing it up with my 1st house merc/mars conjunction) and I see this play out just about everyday and in every way in my life.

    As for my little ones, I pray they find their one (each of them) and I pray it sticks. I will be there to support them and help them as much as I can along the way, but not to stand in the way of their choices or destiny. It fascinates me to give them the freedom to grow into their own selves 🙂
    Angie

  15. Being an Indian from India I must say you have pointed out a very important dilemma. People are caught very heavily here between loyalty to their family and their spousal relationship. My mother had eloped to marry my father but her own family (brahmins) kept insisting that he will be sick all his life (because he smoked!) and ultimately he did die pretty young from an illness which I feel was a self fulfilling prophecy because they said it a thousand times a month. My mother still carries the guilt of having married him and takes it out on me and his entire family.
    I too was made to break up with my boyfriend whom I deeply loved by my sister and its been seven years and I still cry about him. I am not even allowed to mention his existence in even private conversations with my family it is distressing. And there is so much guilt tripping associated with that even now. They have been matchmaking me with men who cant seem to see past my body and it is humiliating in the very least.
    Another couple I know married at 56 and 57, because they were waiting for all the people elder to them to pass so that they could be together.
    But I also see a lot of women in their late 40s and 50s here who chose family loyalty over their own happiness getting cancers and needing to get their uterus removed. Uterus removal is like the new epidemic here (I believe there have been some online statistics for these also) and no one wants to blame their marriages for that. It is very obvious and kind of sad.
    I so wish parents would mind their own business.

  16. Yes. It was the first boyfriend they ever heard about. I was blackmailed several times into not physically seeing the person and also into going on trips I did not want to go on… which makes no sense, but whatever. I did not want to go on a trip to someone’s out of state graduation, so they blackmailed me into going.

    I did not have a good relationship with my parents anyway. I thought I could, but the veil dropped. So the blackmail was pretty much what pushed me over the edge to decide I don’t really want contact with them.

    This wasn’t because of a culture clash. This is just because they don’t approve. They want me to “focus on my career” and marry someone they approve of (later).

  17. I got married at 57. I was conscious. The single years were special. Love was always love until it wore out, and it does.

    My mother died when I was 18 so I didn’t have to please her with a son-in-law and grand kids. I fell in love every weekend after two Harvey Wallbangers.

    Marriage is a CONTRACT and you’d better read the fine print. Put everything into the contract, cooking, screwing, money, get it all in writing while his tongue is hanging out. he won’t remember shit when the wedding is over.

    Life is a lot easier to just screw the one you love and put ypur money into houses and condos, they will bring you happiness in oh-so-many ways.

    And, that’s the truth.

  18. I walked away from my family at young age and we were both from the USA I knew in my gut I was right and have always been an independent thinker , but my family now admits that my heart went down the right path never doubt your gut .

  19. Well, this all shows up in the chart. Some people are blessed to find and actually live out their lives with real romantic love in it. And some people just don’t get to have that this time around.

    This does not mean they are denied happiness of any kind in this lifetime. They are just denied *that* for one reason or another — usually a very frustrating and tragic reason. But even though it’s frustrating, tragic — *unfair* — it doesn’t mean this stuff can be ironed out somehow and fixed so you can have your true love. Sometimes, but sometimes; usually, given the chart dynamics — not.

  20. Sounds like she needs to decide whether she wants to live for herself or her parents. Her parents need to unclench, but she has no control over that and never will. It could be worse. She could be a lesbian (Gasp!) and bring home a black, disabled, atheist woman.

    My parents tried to tell me not to date or even be friends with other races so I did it just to spite them. I would rather still be with a black guy I used to date than the one I ended up with. He was a lot kinder to me even though he didn’t have the bank account.

  21. I think the best thing I ever did for my daughter was to refuse to tell her what to do when her boy friends family said they were not to marry. I said I love you and telling you what to do (elope or call it off or wait or or or) would be no different than what they are doing. I will respect you decision. Talk it through, know what your getting into. What your marrying into. But it wasn’t so much a cultural problem as a his dad had no respect for her dad therefore didn’t like her, problem. Values were definately at play. As was religious issues. It’s a weird dynamic in my now son in laws family… Well weird to me but it works for them!

    Cancer girl and I now have the best relationship we have had in all of her 21 years. But she works hard and probably always will to deal with her father in law.

  22. If your parents have no regard for your happiness and try to manipulate you with emotional blackmail, you should probably re-evaluate whether it’s healthy to have people like that in your life. Yes, even if they’re your parents.

  23. My family was like that but not anymore. The reason my cousins and I didn’t choose partners from our own culture was not because we didn’t want to but because our family didn’t understand that we were not very clued into our own culture in the first place. My cousins grew up in the country where they were the only Chinese family in their town. They didn’t move into the city until they were in their late teens and they were very Australian by then. Their parents worked seven days a week and the person who brought them up was their grandmother who spoke in a different dialect. They had no exposure to modern Chinese culture and I share the same problem with them. No Chinese guy our age wanted to date us because we were to ‘Australian’. Both my cousins are married now to men they love and our family is happy with it even though it took them a while to come around and they don’t try too hard with the language divide. My Aunt and Uncle can take a joke and that’s how most of the communication is made. If there was any serious or deep conversations to be made they understand a lot more beyond words in that way.

  24. In my case I have prevented potential conflict by not introducing the man I am living with for many years to my family, which comes easily as there is few countries apart.

    My family is messy, loud, crazy, noisy and easy going, and I can imagine how it would conflict with mr. polished, refined, pedantic and inflexible. I know he wouldn’t be able to throw himself into other culture that easy, so one day, I will probably do it the other way and invite my family over.

    However, I am not in the hurry: I know that blending the families can start problems that can be avoided-I know he would start to criticize my family and start to put them down, (as he already been doing, just knowing them from the stories) which, in the end would make me extremely angry, and we would end up fighting all the time. Ending up fighting is leading to breakups, and since I love that man, I will keep it the way it works best-where nobody gets hurt.

    There is also more to the story, which is the age difference-and my family says they are ok with it, but I know they are not-and what they are not ok with especially, is that I by choosing that man I letted down the family values and the family story. The myth my family lives by, is a ‘poor artist’ vs. the ‘business mind’ of my mate. It was like I have proved that what my family believed in, as for the ‘simple life is happy life’ is false. It’s like I got a lot of appraisal when I was playing idenpendent and strong woman, and they can’t get used to my current status of in relationship and dependance.

    It’s like I have betrayed these values and beliefs, which were forming skeleton of happiness and sense of worth for my family, so I feel I am no longer fitting in there.

    I know my issue is quite trivial in comparison with really serious problems people when can’t be with someone they love. My blessings to everybody-keep strong and take care of yourself and of your love!

  25. I travelled a lot from early teens to til my 30’s. For any men I was with, I was in their Country- a foreigner- always considered an outsider… & in a few intances, branded as a slut & worse… trying to “steal” a Son.

    Fortunately for me, I had great loyalty, support & back up-from said Sons… but it made ME uneasy & unhappy because of general Family dis-ease/ immense pressure. I can totally see the mind-set & why they would think that, but was perpetually saddened they didn’t take me at my worth & SEE me as a person, not whatever they perceived me to be =(

    Saturn Chart Ruler is going to have a problem with this stuff! Wierd situations to find yourself in, for sure. I never really managed to solve anything… other circumstances caused me to move on. Can’t say I missed any of that side!

  26. “If your parents have no regard for your happiness and try to manipulate you with emotional blackmail, you should probably re-evaluate whether it’s healthy to have people like that in your life. Yes, even if they’re your parents.”

    Couldn’t have said that better. Of course each one of us has freedom of choice. If it’s about choosing between two things that will cause trouble to a varying degree, it should suffice to keep in mind that one is self-chosen and expression of one’s will, the other is forced upon the person who has to choose, and by someone who is assuming “love” is about dictating the conditions of somebody else’s happiness to boot. I would choose my Path as I already did other times in Life, no doubt. But in the end it’s your call.

  27. My uncle and aunt went through this. My aunt grew up with traditional Indian views and she was suppose to marry and love another Indian. Instead she marries a black man who was born in England, like herself, who has some Indian blood (thanks to British Colonialism) and had 2 children. Where her Dad stopped to talking to her and her Mum still spoke to her and now almost 17 years later her Dad loves her to pieces and her family even more.

    Currently there’s a guy from work who likes me and he’s a full bloodied Italian. If it becomes serious I don’t know how his family would react to be honest. They could be cool or it could be full on racism. I don’t know.

  28. I am glad you used the “r” word, Empress. Look at this thread…yet it’s supposedly only white people who are racist. That’s one of the most ludicrous claims there is!

  29. I didn’t want to use the ‘r’ word initially however that’s the way to name it. And it’s true it isn’t just white people who are racist. Some people from all colours and creeds are racist. My aunt’s dad was like that towards my uncle… Indian on black so no difference there in terms of offensive behavior and racism.

  30. Our problem has nothing to do with race or religion. It’s about age. I am older than my husband. His Mother was furious about our relationship. She wanted him to marry a young woman that would have several grandchildren for her.

    She didn’t want me. She was very vocal about it. She was even horrible to my children. I continued to be in this relationship because of love.

    Believe me when I tell you it’s not easy for a woman to love a younger inexperienced man. We have to take the lead and make serious decisions until they age and catch up. It’s hard work and it only works if there is deep true love involved.

    She wouldn’t accept it. She pretended to try but it was there like an elephant in the room every time we got together. She tried so hard to pull him aside at family gatherings *in my house* but he wouldn’t budge.

    She hasn’t been in my home since 2006. If she could act right she would be more than welcome. He won’t speak to them. (and I think this is sad for everyone involved because if I didn’t have a relationship with my sons I would curl up and die)

    I stayed out of it. My husband protected our relationship. She stayed angry until it all fell apart. Now there is nothing but silence on both ends. She has not been able to enjoy him, his life and his accomplishments. I can’t imagine 7 or 8 years apart from one of my children. It would be the sure death of me.

    I knew from the moment my children started dating that if I showed unhappiness at their choice that would simply drive them together! I trusted their choices. They know what makes them feel alive and happy. I raised them to make these choices for themselves. Until 6 months ago my oldest son remained married for over 15 years. My youngest has been with his wife for 6. It’s none of my business. I decided long ago that if I love them, I needed to work to love who they love. It is possible when you open your heart. My only concern is for their happiness.

  31. This is just one of those issues that I can see both sides of. There is value to both situations. It’s not a right or wrong issue for me. Family and tradition are important but so is romantic love.

    I just don’t think I’d like to be the cause of drama within a family. If I’m causing problems for the man I love, I’d like to think I’d act with integrity and leave.

  32. No, I just don’t believe a person that separates one from his/ her family is ‘the one’. And I don’t think that’s love. Feelings of affection are supposed to encourage a person, to lighten their life and offer a brighter perspective.
    My sister has been trying to convince me for the last 10 years that she’s found ‘the one’ and I try (everyone tries) to understand. But I have all these questions in mind and I don’t understand? Is ‘the one’ suppose to dominate you and put you in a hold, infiltrate him/ herself in every aspect of your life? Does a relationship mean not being able to take one step without the other’s knowledge? Is it ok for ‘the one’ to send subtle messages that the family you come from is broken and inferior to her/ his own?
    Who the fuck is ‘the one’? What the fuck is love? Why do people throw aways their families in the name of love? And families can make mistakes as well, but is it really worth it to not fight for them? Sometimes the longest relationships we have are with family members.

  33. I forgot to mention. Not only did they disapprove. If I had told them sooner, they were going to go all control-freaky on his ass to ‘make him fit/conform’ to the image they approved of.

    I decided to distance myself from my family independently of him.

  34. “Well, this all shows up in the chart. Some people are blessed to find and actually live out their lives with real romantic love in it. And some people just don’t get to have that this time around.
    This does not mean they are denied happiness of any kind in this lifetime. They are just denied *that* for one reason or another — usually a very frustrating and tragic reason.”

    Totally true.

    My family is guaranteed to disapprove of anyone I bring home, period. Most of my family doesn’t like *me* (or at least, the ones that live nearest to me are either apathetic or outright can’t stand me), they sure as hell won’t like anyone that I like. And most of the time, we do not “merge the families.” My parents’ families did not like the spouses and they were never welcomed into the family. At best, they were mildly tolerated/obligated to invite us a few times a year. Hell, my mom was never called “aunt” by my dad’s sister’s kids, because she didn’t count. As for my parents, anyone I dated was Stealing Their Baby, ’nuff said.

    Frankly, it wasn’t worth the drama. I can’t have parents and an SO at the same time, even though my mother claims she’d act differently “this time” if I dated again. Hah. No. I would not bet one shiny penny on this. If I need family support for anything, forget it.

  35. My grandma’s family was Gernan. One day, a young Irishman started calling on my grandma who was 19 at the time. Her German family was HORRIFIED. Her grandmother was so upset that whenever the Irishman came to the house, she would only speak in German. But my Irish grandpa would not be dissuaded in his pursuit of my grandma so he learned some German to talk to her grandmother.

    On my dining room table, I have a beautiful, antique hand knit lace runner. It took a year to make. It was a wedding present for my German grandma and Irish grandpa, from none other then my grandma’s grandmother, who finally saw the young Irishman for the wonderful loving man he was.

    Love triumphing over culture clashes is a classic American story.

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