27 February 2014

Blending Well #3: Define Your Family's Culture

This is the third post in "Blending Well: A mini-series on cross-cultural marriage." You're invited to catch up with the first two posts on studying each other and communicating everything as well as join us for the climactic conclusion here: 

courtesy of Lehua Noelle

Every marriage brings together two families. 
Every marriage merges two backgrounds into one future. 
Every marriage blends, but to blend well--we must define who we are as one.

The growing into each other will happen regardless. Even if you do nothing on purpose, your household will show signs of each of your families, each of your pasts. Eventually, you will have a home culture that is distinctly your own--no matter what--even if you are from very different cultures.
~True story~
At this point in our marriage [15 years], I can’t even tell where my culture ends and [my husband's] begins, to be honest!

The blending happens over time, but if you do not choose which parts of you and him will dominate and which aspects will endure, then your family's culture will be a result of reaction instead of intention

Hear this example:
~True story~
My parents also had a cross-cultural marriage, but even though my mom is bilingual, I am not. Several of my friends are like this too. Because my dad doesn't speak [a Filipino dialect], our household spoke English 24/7, and my brothers and I never learned to speak my mom's first language. I don't think they planned it that way, but it happened. I guess it was convenience, and no one objected.

This language preference is just one aspect of a family's culture, but every part can be shaped by choice rather than chance. Now that you are married, who are you as a couple? What will define your family--now and as it grows?

Here are 5 things to remember as you begin to define your family's culture:

1. You are forming a different culture than your parents'.
This doesn't mean you cut ties with your parents. It doesn't mean you don't do some things like they did. What it does mean is that your new family will not be a carbon copy of either of your childhoods. Therefore, your parents may criticize you for being less cultural in their eyes. Remember, though, that this should happen because you're merging with your husband. You're blending with his culture.
~True stories~
Our parents on both sides think we are becoming too Korean or too American.

I think something that can be really hard, though, is having extended family understand who you and your family are now when the two separate worlds you grew up in morph into a completely different world.  There are some things that turn out exactly the same of course (respectively), but more often than not, they’re somewhere in the middle.  When we go to my husband’s family’s home, it seems as if they think we’re really minority sensitive, trying to speak Spanish to the kids when it’s not really necessary. And then when we go to my family’s home, it seems as if my parents think I’ve become completely white and have forgotten all of the things they’ve taught me growing up.
So it's normal, and it's right. Both sides will feel like you've changed because you have.

2. Choose traditions that matter to you.
Make it happen if you want it to continue. Your favorite traditions will slip away if you do not make an effort to reenact them in your new family. 
~True story~
One thing that we do try to do for Christmas is to spend Christmas Eve as our own little family. Christmas Eve is when my family celebrates Christmas. Since Mexican Restaurants are not open on Christmas Eve, we always eat Mexican food on Dec 23rd :-) I need my Tamales. I didn't have them one year and [my husband] was heartbroken for me.

Like my friend demonstrated above, it's also important to include your husband and tell him what matters to you. If you need to, sit down together with a calendar and mark down all the days you'll want your family to celebrate each year. This way, you both will be aware of an upcoming event and can party together--instead of each keeping traditions alive alone.

3. Live where you are.
No, that isn't a typo. It's possible to 'survive' where you are or 'tolerate' where you are. But we need to live where we are.

Marrying outside of your culture oftentimes means that one of you will feel out-of-place where you live, at least for a while. Still, emerge from hiding, throw away prejudice, swallow any cultural superiority, stomp out thoughts of "if only"--and LIVE.

Truly, if you and your husband have defined your family's culture, if you know who you are as a couple, then you will be the same strong family no matter your address.

4. Look forward to/for your children.
Before you have children, consider how your cultural choices will affect them. If you don't critique your past and pick out the weedy habits, then they will continue sprouting into the next generation. So look forward to your children.

And when you're making choices about them, look forward for them. Should they learn to speak German? Look forward and see if it would benefit them. Should they go to boarding school? Should they participate in the cultural rites of passage? Should they spend so much time with their extended family? Look forward. Look forward.

Don't do things just because that's the way they've been done. That's looking back. And often when we live that way, we're moving blind-like. And don't make choices based only on yourself (maybe what's easiest for you). Look forward for them.

And one more thing about children: they form habits early. Once you make a decision about how you will raise them, you should begin shaping that habit right away.
~True story~
When I got married and moved away, my mom told me that I would have to decide what I'd want my kids to be like. Then I would have to make it happen. She gave me an example about extended family: "Do you want them to know all the names of their relatives? Then put up pictures on your walls."

Again, be intentional, not reactive. Like my friend said, know how you want your family to look then, together with your husband, make it look that way.

5. Let Christ rule.
This is the underlying absolute to all of the above: put God above your culture.
~True story~
What's most important in our household is that God's word is respected first and foremost.   My Japanese culture and tradition are nothing but preference, and they are not worth being put above God's word.  So, if we argue about [my husband] putting his feet on something, then I have to first think about 1) respecting my husband, 2) considering what the scripture says about my attitude, 3) and whether it is serving anybody at all. And when I see that I should just "drop" my cultural preference, then I just have to remind myself that God is bigger than my culture and my momentary discomfort.  
I would be highly cautious not to let culture influence my theology, but let theology influence my culture.
Can we read that again?
Do not let culture influence your theology; rather, let theology influence your culture. 

The first thing that must define your family is Christ. Never should a culture be held above the Bible's truths, standards, and commands. No matter what other labels your family earns with your merging cultures, make sure you can proudly wear the one that says "Believer."
~True stories~
One of the things I'm trying to learn is to relax and stop trying to hold on to things of this world, including my culture. Some things are fun and harmless, but some things are not all that great and I need to let them go. If something is interfering with my marriage, [my husband] and I need to inspect it  and figure out the best way to make it dissolve. Our goal is Christ, and marriage is an earthly way for us to understand our relationship with Him. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, but we are His bride, taking on His name and going to live with Him for all eternity.

The best advice I could give to anyone is to pray for God's wisdom every day. He knows each one of us best and desires to be glorified in our marriages--as trials come, He seeks to sanctify us and make us more like Himself through them.
courtesy of Lehua Noelle

Define your family's culture. 
Choose to keep Christ as your identity then decorate your life with cultural traditions you enjoy and value.
Work together, promoting both sides of your oneness.
Know your husband, communicate with him, and blend well with time and intention.

God bless your marriages,

{with thanks to my ~true story~ friends}

How have you defined your family's culture? How can we be more intentional about creating a home that reflects what we cherish and believe?

Did you enjoy this series on marriage? I'd love to hear from you either in the comments or by email. You're also warmly welcomed to connect with us through email subscription (in the sidebar), FacebookGoogle +, or Pinterest.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Comments awaiting moderation may not appear for several hours or--if the kids and I fall asleep at the same time--at least a day. Thank you for your patience and please do not feel deterred; your feedback and insight are most welcomed!