Saturday, December 29, 2007

Your Culture Influences Your Relationship

So I'm sitting trying to blog about how culture influences our relationships but my mind is distracted from searching blogs and news sites on elections results in Kenya (occured Dec 27). Our families are there and so we are naturally praying for calm as the electoral commission drags its feet on announcing results. God has been so good to Kenya and we want to keep it that way - peaceful.

Hence my thoughts on how culture influences our relationships. I choose to define culture in this context as the behaviors and beliefs that define a certain ethnic, social, or age group. Most people think culture means racial or ethnic identity, we'll work with whatever works for you. My advice is to embrace the positive parts of your culture and make them work in your relationship.

It's a good idea to shelf the negative - an example is an old tradition in my tribe that allows for women to aqcuire a younger woman for their husbands when they get older. I'm not going to do that - I do not like sharing my hubby and its not Biblical. Yeah, I know the dicey stories of concubines in the Bible - Old Testament - I'll be quick to add. So no acquiring anyone for my hubby thank you! Hence my point on shelving the negative parts of your culture and keeping the positive. My positive cultural borrowing would be a strong respect and concern for the elderly, a strong committment to marriage, strong communal support for family structures and basically being there for each other through thick and thin. Weight or no weight gain :)

I really love the family of origin section in the PREPARE/ENRICH inventory that I give to engaged couples for premarital education. I love reviewing their family histories and alerting them to issues that will influence their first year of marriage. Our families define the culture we grow up in - culture also means the customs acquired through being a member of your family. If your dad golfs on Saturdays, chances are you hate it or you've accepted it. When your new hubby decides he'll hang out with the guys on Saturdays - that will trigger childhood memories of hating dad's golf or accepting it. If your mom stayed home and provided cooked meals the entire day - a guy might expect that of his new wife. I love stay at home moms so don't write me about that - I've partly stayed home with my son while attending grad school at night :)

In your first year of marriage, you need to be aware of hidden expectations that you'll carry into your relationship based on your family of origin (family culture). The secret lies in deciding to create your own "couple culture". I love that term and would probably trademark it if no one has :) Shelf the negative in your family of origin and create new and positive trends and habits for your new family structure with your spouse. This cool website features videos where you can view answers to issues engaged couples face - Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot answer questions at

This is one of my big ta da moments in counseling & education. Culture plays the biggest part in how you will relate to your partner. Did your dad handle all the finances? Well, chances are you think your husband will - you need to both decide the best person suited to handle your finances. Did your mom nag your dad incessantly? Did he withdraw and keep quiet to avoid fights? Well, guess what - chances are you do the same or you hate and confront every little thing you disagree with. Being aware is winning half the battle.

Family culture will influence your relationship - You need to be on the offensive and chose your positives to adopt and negatives to dump. I'm aware that interracial and intertribal couples face additional issues but the premise is the same. You choose what culture will define your new family. You can blend cultures, adopt some, dump others or create a new one!

Gotta go for real - have a good weekend and a great new blessed 2008!

Friday, September 21, 2007

From Cohabitation (living together) to Marriage Part 1

Back to my endless hope for marriage especially among fellow Gen X'ers. Over 90% of Americans will get married at least once in their lifetime despite all the doom and gloom of divorce rates. The business of marriage is booming and for that I'm thrilled!!!

A recent trend in premarital counseling (i'm a church counselor & marriage educator) shows more couples are living together before the wedding day. Its not just non-religious couples living together, some Christian couples are choosing to live together as well. They do not want to experience the horrors of divorce showcased by their parents, they believe it makes financial sense and they are testing sexual compatibility. A longer list of reasons is listed here though in small script. Here are some marriage myths as well - it's marriage friendly :)

Divorce statistics are consistently higher among couples who lived together before marriage. Researchers have listed some reasons here. If possible avoid serial cohabitation - statistics show women suffer the most. If a couple who cohabited before marriage stays married for 7 years, their chances of divorce revert to those of regular couples.

Good news - to give your relationship a great chance at marital satisfaction - consider marriage education, avoid serial cohabitation and pay attention to your spiritual needs as a couple.

Some couples feel premarital counseling means there's something wrong with their relationship. Premarital counseling and premarital education (skills-based instruction) are preventive measures for a relationship and they are worth every dime! Some marriage programs such as PREPARE-ENRICH have a component for couples living together (PREPARE CC) which helps with transitioning to marriage. If you are planning your wedding and are living together, you should definitely consider premarital education! There's always hope for a happy marriage despite unwise decisions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Post Wedding Withdrawal Syndrome

So I've been checking out wedding sites and came across a couple of questions on post wedding withdrawal symptom. I experienced it after my own wedding in 2000. After the frenzy associated with planning a wedding, slowing down after the honeymoon can be rather disconcerting - wondering what to do with that diverted energy. A wise friend warned me to be on the lookout for post wedding blues and it really helped.

I'm not sure men experience it except a huge sigh of relief that the madness is over!!! Some common symptoms include still browsing your wedding planner, constant browsing of wedding magazines in the store, endlessly obsessing over what happened during the wedding, feelings of sadness and emptiness without the frenzy of planning, wondering if you are supposed to feel different now that you are married, panicking whether you made a mistake etc. Not all brides experience this but for those who do, it can be a worrying experience. Check back to see my post on how I dealt with it or post your own ideas how you coped.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Smart Marriages Conference 2007

I attended the 2007 Smart Marriages Conference in Denver, CO and it was incredible! There were over 2,500 people in attendance and most of us were therapists and marriage educators. There is hope for marriage!!! It was very enlightening especially on the resources available for couples who want to stay together. Even couples who'd like to get the 'want to' feeling to stay together, can get help on how to achieve it.

Interesting statistic for all folks skeptical of marriage, 90% of Americans will get married at least once in their lifetime! So if we choose a mate, its a good idea to attend some relationship coaching/education classes and get a one-up on maintaining our relationships. I actually provide some educational info for couples at

I just had to rant and rave about Smart Marriages (, those folks are so marriage friendly and didn't bash other community groups either. It was all out effort to strengthen families through strengthening relationships. I've been married for 7 years now, with a toddler, in graduate school, doing marriage education, church counseling and baby tshirts. Any wonder, I needed the conference to recharge my own batteries!