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!