It could be said that most individuals experience stress if they enter a relationship in which cultural differences are involved. These commonly take the form of differences in religious background, taste in foods, ways of keeping house, managing money, negotiating power.
Migrants can bring particular issues to the relationship, such as homesickness. The family of origin of each individual will also influence them through direct pressure and expectations, unconscious beliefs about the rightness of things, and differences in expectations about how much time will be spent with family of origin – to name just a few of the major struggles which may arise in the couple relationship.
Rituals, values, ways of celebrating life events, roles, work ethics, parenting advice or expectations, discipline, privacy, language barriers, language used in the home versus school, capacity to be a part of a new community, sexual expectations, role expectations and so on all play a major part in the life of the couple and will need to be negotiated.
Culture is the container for the things we value, and validating this is essential. Respecting differences is a precursor to making changes work. Being able to ask the question ‘how do my expectations impact the relationship?’ supports the relationship rather than attacks it from a position of ‘being in the right’.
Loyalty to our own culture can be accentuated when we are out of it. From a distance of geography or time, it may appear that the past is better or more valuable in the face of current dilemmas or struggles.