“Everyone in your family is a _________.” Cultural/social differences

“Ron, would you like to knock me up?” a rather shy single female British schoolteacher asked me one afternoon. I was puzzled by her request but sat quietly for a few moments until I figured out what she meant, and it wasn’t what you thought it was.

We were both members of the Livingstone, Zambia “Railroad Tennis Club,” where we, along with a dozen or more other people from around the world, met to play tennis every Saturday. A court had just come open, and my friend wondered if I would like to volley for a while so we could “warm-up” before playing a match! I wonder what she would have thought if I asked her, “Would you like to warm up?”

At the same time and in the same town, Rasheed and Usha Khan were friends of ours. Rasheed was a Muslim, and his wife Usha was a Hindu. The major religious difference between them created stress every time they returned to South Africa to be with their families.

Cultural and social differences can be significant barriers to happy, loving relationships. Marriage is difficult enough when you marry someone of the same religion, ethnicity, language, and worldview. If you marry someone outside of your social or cultural status, you increase the difficulties of communicating. That’s why your mother wanted you to marry “someone like us.”

Most couples believe that their deep love for each other will enable them to conquer all differences. Love does help, but understanding comes slowly and with less passion. Often the differences that appeared charming during courtship become unpleasant, even repulsive after a few years together.

Cultural/social differences do not have to be as dramatic as language or race to cause difficulties in relationships. Differences in social prominence, financial status, and political positions can cause problems. Family traditions, social expectations, and child-rearing can also create discord.

Did you see the movie "Overboard" starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell? It is a good example of how cultural and social differences create problems. Just because the show ends happily does not mean that the poor carpenter, Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell), and the wealthy socialite, Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn), lived happily ever after.

So what about your love relationship? Do cultural and social differences hinder intimacy? If so, they need to be resolved, or they will create impenetrable barriers that lead to separation.

These differences are not easy to deal with. The way we were raised, the customs and mores we learned from our parents and grandparents are not easily compromised. We all think, “The way MY family does things seems to ME to be the right way to do them.” If they are widely divergent, tension is sure to follow.

Those areas of tension must be discussed at a time when there is no crisis, no anger, and plenty of time. Each person in the discussion needs to be able to speak, and more importantly, each person needs to listen. Discussing your cultural/social differences in a non-threatening way makes understanding likely and compromise achievable.

Once resolved, the cultural and social differences that exist between you and your mate will no longer cause contention but will be opportunities for celebration.

©2020 Ron Ross All Rights Reserved

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Ross is the author of nine books, a speaker, seminar leader, and co-founder of Powerful Seniors. He lives in Loveland, Colo.