Heather is a gorgeous lady in her late thirties. She was born and raised in Germany. She met her husband Mike some 14 years ago. Now Mike is a third generation Hispanic American serving in the military. They met while Mike was stationed in 34 Germany. Theirs is a story of love at first sight with no letting go. So their marriage was a rush before he was transferred back to America.
Heather and Mike have two beautiful daughters. They can speak fluent English and Germany as their lovely kids do. This is the second marriage for this couple however. Again, Heather finished high school and now a homemaker. Mike, on the other hand, has Master’s Degree. Both are good Christians and Catholics for that matter. Like most interracial relationships, it’s not been all rosy.
Cultural Differences: The Need to Fit
Heather recounts specific challenges she’s gone through being different. The first of which was cultural difference. According to Heather, it can be quite difficult to come to terms with a set of new beliefs, traditional norms, cultural expectations and pressure that comes from your husband or wife’s side. “There’re a lot of things detailed in one’s culture, it’s a bit hard to master all that.”
Conceptual Variance & Personal Beliefs
Along with cultural differences such as how people communicate to each other, new intercultural couples also face the challenge of conceptual differences as a result of different backgrounds and worldviews. Even though an entirely different topical issue, one’s view of a man/woman’s place and roles in the family may differ sharply depending on their personality, background, and beliefs
Family Objection: The Hushed Hostilities
While Heather and Mike’s other family members basically expressed doubts over how long their marriage would last; it was not the same with her mother-in-law. “I think that besides the cultural issues we had, there was a big problem with his mom. I felt that if I had to choose between fixing his mom and coming to terms with our cultural differences, I would rather opt for the former,” she said.
Language Barrier: The Hidden Meanings
“I have learnt over time that there are certain norms on how to say some things that could come out as nice and easy or blunt. It’s the one thing you lose completely when you’re not familiar or if you don’t have a good grip of the language, which is something that I did not have,” she said. She also agrees that challenges such as frustration, exclusion and misunderstanding are common.
Travel Logistics and Security Clearances
For some interracial/intercultural couples, getting married mean leaving one’s home and country and changing citizenship at times forever. In some countries, this means a lot of paperwork. In the case of Heather, Mike’s imminent transfer with the Marine Corps meant a real hassle. “Marrying a foreign born lady, I had to do a lot to make sure all security issues were cleared,” said Michael.
When about asked how they manage some of these challenges, this couple had a lot to attribute:
“There’s no better solution to such indifferences than a good humor. It’s a great way to cope with interracial difficulties and challenges I think. It’s been the magic for us. Each time we experience moments of awkwardness one of us cracks a joke and we laugh about it. I would actually do that whenever I felt she had a bad day with mom, she can be difficult at times I know,” said Mike
“I think it’s important to learn a thing or two about your partner’s language and culture. This will help improve your general understanding of the same, strengthen the bond within the family, and avoid feeling excluded especially for the ladies who spend most of their time with their husbands and their people. This is essential for both especially the lady,” added Heather the mother of two.
Yes, communication is important. It’s a way of understanding one another, getting to know the challenges and solving them. It is one thing that I actually think has been a great pillar to us. We wouldn’t survive, especially Heather, it’s been tough for her considering my mobile lifestyle given the job that I do. And this is important, spoken and the non-verbal. It matters,” He added.
“If it weren’t for Mike’s love, trust and great support, I wouldn’t have any reasons to stay in such hostility. It’s not that I’m complaining. Before her mother accepted this marriage, she did give us a hard time. At one time I came back only to find the doors locked with a note slipped under the door that I must leave. My parents always assured me of their support had I decided to leave,”
Setting themselves common goals and working towards them was their other way of overcoming the challenges. Mike felt that when they worked towards achieving these set goals they would be forced to communicate about them. He says he would always drag her out for an evening walk in the park with the promise of a healthy life, which Heather says enabled them to shed off the bad.
Other tips that can help overcome interracial challenges according to this couple also includes: understanding the challenges together as a family and learning from them, looking the brighter side, that is, the benefits of your marriage such as double holidays for some, cutting each other some slack and not sweating over small stuff, personal preparation, tolerance, and seeking help.