Monday, July 27, 2009

Is a Cross Cultural Marriage Tough?

Yes it is, as tough as any other marriage. I have faced this question so many times over the past years, and each time I have answered differently, and only now, I believe I have my final answer with me. Any marriage is equally easy or difficult, whether it is inter-caste/religion/region/nation or intra-caste/religion/region/nation. What counts are the people involved.

A marriage if seen from the Indian perspective, of uniting families, is always a lot tougher than one, where just two people commit to each other. The more the people, the more the likelihood of trouble, because there is greater amount of interaction , with greater likelihood of frictions. If the question is subjected to marriage as the relationship between just a man and a woman, I would say whatever their cultures, whether the same or varying, making a marriage succeed or fail is completely about the two people involved in it. Their level of commitment to the relationship, their belief in each other, as well as the mutual love and respect. A marriage works or does not, just based on the people involved, how well they get along and how deep is their affection for each other. Their region, religion have no consequence in a relationship that close.

Couples fight no matter whether they belong to the same culture or not, but what they fight about, how they handle their differences is completely based on them as persons and nothing else. It is unfair to think that belonging to the same culture would mean less marital discord. How does something like religion matter when you are sleeping with a person, living day in and day out, even having babies together? But if they do split up, the cultural difference is just an excuse to put up. Would they not break up if they belonged to the same faith? I don't think so, the difference in region or religion can only be an add on, or an excuse for breaking of a relationship, in which the reason lies much deeper. I have friends married to people of the same subset of background they belong to, with enough marital woes to last them a lifetime, and there are those married to people as different from themselves as can be, and yet their marriage rocks. This is just an example to say that the typical mindset of marrying a person of a different background spells doom is not correct, because every marriage is eventually the product of a relationship between two people, and just the two people alone.

A regular married couple can fight about who gets up in the morning to make tea, but I doubt that it is because of what religion they belong to, they may have altercations about their children's education, but does it really matter here, what their caste is? I think any marriage, is a reflection of the people who make it, it can be a sweet loving marriage between two people from different parts of the world, or the most horrible suffocating one between two people who share a common heritage. This post at the Indian Homemaker's blog for example, is about a woman in a hopeless situation, how would it be different if either of their religions, caste or creed varied? At the end of the day it is about the two people involved.

Coming to the bigger perspective of an Indian marriage which involves families, the reasoning remains the same. It is about the people. A nice person would be nice irrespective of their background, and a nasty person would be they way he is. In such situations, the difference if present, is just that another tool is used to hurt or taunt. In my case for example, if there have been relatives from the in-laws side who have passed snide remarks about my being from a different faith, I know for sure, that those particular people would have passed snide remarks irrespective of my faith, just that then the context would have been different. Wouldn't you agree? When we think of relatives, some people are always out there to get you, and after marriage it is quite impossible to completely evade the politics, and games that exist in a scheme with a large number of people involved. Some have personal vendetta or ulterior motives, some are plainly hurtful, some will befriend you defying all expectations, some just sit quietly and observe, there those who will stab you on the back, and also those who will stand up for you in your absence. There are all kinds, everywhere.

At the end of the day, it is all about the people, their personalities, and their values, which do or do not create trouble in a marriage. The commonality or difference in cultural backgrounds are just a very small, almost insignificant part of a marriage, the big things are trust, love, mutual respect, the want to create happiness, honesty and ofcourse the readiness to change.

9 comments:

asaaan said...

Interesting post. Your last sentence summed it up well.
It doesnt matter what caste/religion the person is from, its what you bring to the table that matters the most..

That said, NK and I argue alot about food. He gets pissed if I throw sausages into upma or do weird stuff like that. :)

Piper .. said...

Absolutely! No matter what caste or creed, its a matter of an individual`s value system. People will be nasty or petty-minded irrespective of whether they belong to the same caste or not. Likewise, people will be nice and cordial irrespective of other variants. Its absolutely about an individual`s inherent traits. Nothing to do with same caste marriage or otherwise.

Sraboney said...

I agree with what you have said but aren't the adjustments more in cross cultural marriages? What if for example, one partner wants his or her culture to be the dominant one at home? Wouldn't this cause a rift?

Solilo said...

You have answered your question at the very end. Every marriage has its ups and downs. People think arranged marriages with families involved give bigger security than a love marriage and that too between people following different faith. But the fact is, if the couple allows external factors to interfere then there is always bound to be problems. Be it religion, be it unnecessary advices.

Every relationship that crosses the limit, creates trouble. Parents don't own children but in most cases when they choose their life partner, parents become wary because it was not their choice. The sense that their own is moving away scares them. It is more when the new entrant is a girl. The possessiveness has nothing to do with religion or region. In fact the trouble caused by human nature is worse than the ones that arise from different faith/culture/region etc.

In day to day life, we hardly talk about our religion/culture/race/region. I mean most of us. So it shouldn't really matter. If we keep an open mind then it is actually easier to introduce our child to different religions and languages. All of us adapt to alien country's culture/language and to an extend faith too when we join in their celebrations. So why can't we do the same at home?

Passionate Goof said...


Asaaan - You mirror my opinion! About food arguments, bound to happen, you are different people, cannot agree with everything!

Piper - Agreed. :)

Bones - Not really. Am telling you this from personal experience, as well as observations. Usually cross cultural marriages are love marriages, where the individuals are more agreeable to adaptations.If you are talking about cultural domination, that might as well happen in people with similair backgrounds getting married. Because at the end of the day, every household is different, I know a couple, my parents' generation, where everything is cooked based on the husband's demands, meaning, the style of cooking followed on his his side of the family. Any variant is highly derided. So the woman can never eat, what she is used to since childhood. SO you see, it is the same thing, just that the adjustment is over food. In a cross cultural marriage, only the cause of disagreements will be different, not the marriage per se.

Solilo - Exactly. It is very sad when a third person is allowed to interfere in a marriage. And yes the marriage hits rocky edges or not, because of the kind of people involved, not their cultural backgrounds.

Rakesh said...

You're right. Simply put, marraiges are tough... (And awesome as well) Culture doesn't really make a difference...

mindspace said...

I read it the other day but didnt leave a comment i guess.. Marriage is a strange ritual actually or maybe its an amazing bond.. balanced with moments of all kind. Its a gamble and how the two parties involved take each other and react to each other makes all the difference. A good partner can let you have the freedom or independence to be what you want and the same fellow can give u the severest of headaches at times. Ofcourse its a different ballgame all together when there are non-supporting vibes from anyone (families inclusive)

intomymuddledmind said...

Okie this post is so relevant to me right now..i needed somebody to say that..thank you!
This is also the first time i am delurking, i love your blogs and i think you make a lot of sense..i am definitely hooked! :D

Passionate Goof said...


Rakesh - Hai na?

Tara - Oh God! We should do a tag called Indian Marriage - My Experience! And you have put it so well.

muddledmind - You are welcome.*hugs* Glad to know this post helped you in some way. Thanks for de-lurking.... keep giving me your honest views on future posts, would really appreciate it.