Culture plays an important role in a person’s development. It teaches how to think, behave and follow a set of behaviours that are considered a part of the “norm” within a society. With the best of intentions, couple relationships are hard to navigate without the cultural difference. But if there are cultural differences in the relationship then understanding them and knowing how to work with them can give you additional tools to build healthier and stronger relationships.
Broadly speaking, and according to Hofstede, there are five different ways to understand cultures:
- Identity – Individualistic or Collective
- Power – Egalitaria or Herarchial
- Gener – Masculine or Feminine
- Uncertainty – Ambiguity or Structure focused
- Time – Relationship or Task oriented
Understanding the difference
In my counselling practice in London Waterloo and in Hampton I work with couples from different backgrounds. Many of them from different cultural background. I have learned to navigate the cultural differences that might separate a couple. I help them understand how their cultural differences play a role in their thinking and a lack of understanding of the other. With all the will in the world, a style of thinking that has been developed since early childhood through cultural and social norms, generally does not go away or change because you found love. Differences begin to emerge at various points in the relationship and varies for each couple.
Cultures don’t automatically mean different countries. Micro culture within bigger cultures can also be separated by beliefs and values. For example two people from the same culture of origin but raised in different countries might grow to have different value systems.
Stages of life
In the honeymoon stages of the relationship, the differences are generally looked over. It is not till this stage is over or sometimes even later on in life when the couple have children that differences emerge. Sometimes in marked events like birthday celebrations or sometimes in unmarked events like aligning social calendars. If left unaddressed they fester and used as evidence that your partner does not understand you. This creates gaps in the relationship.
What you need
Tolerance and curiosity alone are sometimes not enough to navigate cultural differences. A deeper understanding is required. Of the culture and the partner to help you build the stronger relationship that you want. Counselling can help bridge the gap. It helps you understand the difference and can become something that you can see as complimentary rather than a gap in the relationship.
Are you a couple from different cultural backgrounds struggling with their relationship? Then get in touch.