Marrying for love can be risky and the chance for it to fail is just as much as the chance for it to succeed. Unlike in normal relationships, marrying for love on a cross-cultural perspective will have more culture-related challenges as well as difficulties normal relationships have.
As modern culture becomes more influential, people are now seeing cross-cultural marriages as a possibility; but are they really willing to face culture related challenge that will come their way? Different cultures have been practicing arranged marriages for centuries and they show no signs of discontinuing the tradition as it has produced happy and successful families. However, other people view this tradition as a violation for the right of an individual to marry for love without the influence or the pressure inflicted by culture. Facts, however, prove that arranged marriages, still practiced by some cultures, produce successful and long lasting marriages even if a significant number of these marriages are not considered as love marriages. This essay tackles how love alone is inadequate in relationships (Coontz, 2005), how and why different cultures still practice century old traditions such as arranged marriages (Stanley, 2008), facts about arranged marriages and how it differs from forced marriages (Singh, 2009), and also facts about cross-cultural marriages (Vu, 2010) as well as how to keep intercultural marriages strong and successful by not just loving but also by understanding a cross-cultural partner and being knowledgeable about cultural differences. (Shelling 2005).
Marrying for love is considered as a rare historical event as it is not usually the sole reason why two people choose to tie the knot and spend the rest of their lives together. Choosing a lifetime partner on the basis of something as fragile and as irrational as love only leads to a partnership filled with discontent (Coontz, 2005). Moreover, marrying someone whose beliefs and cultural background differs from your own was thought as improbable.
That was back then. As the world progresses and modern views have become prevalent and are more preferred over century old tradition, cross-cultural marriage has become an accepted possibility for people in a relationship despite the difference of personal beliefs and traditions. Nevertheless, a couple with different beliefs who are in love with each other and are willing to face the challenges of cross-cultural marriage will still face difficulties as century old traditions and culture might become more influential over love.
Different cultures have already seen how love alone is an inadequate reason for marriage. For centuries, these cultures chose a system where marriage is arranged with the help of the couple’s parents who act as matchmakers. This tradition of matchmaking is practiced with the consent of the couple and it also follows a system of courtship so that they also have the time to get to know each other better. Factors like social status, profession, age gap, and physical features play an important part in arranged marriages. Falling in love during the matchmaking process is also common occurrence, which is why these arranged marriages end up being successful.
Although an arranged marriage is perceived as similar to a forced marriage, these two are actually quite different from each other. According to Aman Singh, forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the consent of both parties and where pressure is a factor. Threats of violence, emotional pressure, harassment, or even murder are placed on individuals who are put into forced marriage. Victims are usually young men and women between the ages of 14 to 25 (2009).
Forced marriage is a highly sensitive issue that is being hesitantly treated by he government so as not to offend cultural sensitivities. However, forced marriages violate the rights of people to choose who to marry without pressure or threats. Private organizations and human rights activists are working with the government to educate people about the harms involved in forced marriages. As more and more people become aware of the negativities of this particular type of marriage, the percentage of reported forced marriages continue to decrease.
Arranged marriages are prevalent in cultures where commitments such as the couple’s ties to their parents, relatives, and to their God is more important than love according to Coontz (2005). Countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and far eastern countries have practiced arranged marriage for centuries although the number of love marriages from these countries continues to increase. For people who follow the tradition of arranging marriages, they see love as an absurd reason for one person to get married. In fact, the term ‘love’ in Chinese does not translate to the feelings between two couples but it is a term used to describe a socially disapproved and illicit relationship (Coontz, 2005).
A parent’s or a matchmaker’s influence over arranged marriages should also not be disregarded as their wisdom and knowledge will be highly revered by the individuals to choose a partner that has been paired with them. Unlike a love marriage, arranged marriages do not start at dating or at courtship. Although most of the time, individuals paired to each other have already known each other for some time.
Matchmakers actually devote a lot of time and effort in making sure that they find the perfect match for each individual. Countries like India refer to birth dates, social status, educational background, and genes to ensure compatibility and success with the marriage (Stanley, 2008).
India is a country where majority of people still prefer an arranged marriage to marrying for love. A staggering 80% of young individuals still prefer their marriages arranged by their parents or by a trusted matchmaker (Stanley, 2008), an encouraging statistic that shows how an arranged marriage can successfully produce a happy union. The majority, however, still does not prefer cross-cultural marriages.
Arranged marriages become successful in the long run although there still are couples who end up splitting. Most arranged marriages don’t break down as a strong foundation and support from community and family is present. Moreover, not all successful arranged marriages become successful because of love; there are cases where the respect for their beliefs, traditions, and parents are the ones that keep the relationship strong (Coontz, 2005). With an arranged marriage, love becomes a work process as the couple learns to love each other through time. A love marriage, on the other hand, can either be strengthened or weakened through time as the couple gets to know each other more and they discover traits and facts that might make them love their partner less.
Cross-cultural marriages are seen as long lasting since the conflicts and the problems that the couple had to go through and endured make their relationship stronger. However, individuals from families that are against their decision to marry someone who is not of their own culture will likely be disowned and will receive no support. Through time, most parents who’ve disowned their children because of marrying someone who is not from their culture reconcile with their children and support them as soon as they learn to accept their child’s decision.
However, for other cultures, non-belief of their faith leads to eternal damnation. This is a major reason why cross-cultural marriage is still highly unacceptable by communities who respect their culture and do their best to practice their traditions. Although most people from different cultures have become more open with inter-cultural relationships, there are still cultures that are uncomfortable with defying tradition through practicing cross-cultural marriage. It should be understood that arranging marriages for individuals of the same culture and beliefs has been reinforced for centuries and it will still be prevalent for a long time as it is hard to break.
Cross-cultural relationships are now easily accepted as people now embrace diversity in culture. Although enough time is still needed for the acceptance of personal beliefs, inter-cultural marriages are considered as a possibility when two people are in love and are willing to face the trials that come together with their decision. There have been instances where the parents of couples in a cross-cultural relationship are against their decision to marry, but as modern tradition influences people, these misunderstandings get easily resolved and full support from their family and their community is provided.
A solid support system can help cross-cultural couples easily endure the hardships of cross-cultural relationships. Supportive families and friends can make the challenges of an intercultural marriage a lot easier and raises the chance for a cross-cultural marriage to grow strong. This makes resolving family conflicts and making sure that both families of an inter-cultural couple agrees with a cross-cultural marriage important. A cross-cultural couple should not only marry for love, but they should also ensure that the people they respect support this decision they are making so that they get support from them whenever problems and other types of cultural conflicts arise.
More problems with cross-cultural marriages arise when the family becomes larger and their children start to grow older. Most kids of inter-cultural marriages have a hard time identifying themselves culture-wise. This is also a problem voiced out by the parents and elders of an inter-cultural couple. Preservation of culture and avoiding culture related conflicts become more difficult as children of these couples have a hard time figuring out which culture to follow. Different cultures have different rules, boundaries, and practices. This can be a lot confusing for the married couple’s children who try to conform to two different cultures while trying to identify themselves (Vu, 2010).
Couples, especially intercultural ones, should not think that love will be the key that will make things fall into place for their marriage. It will require patience, understanding, and a lot of sacrifices, culture-wise, for a cross-cultural relationship to work out; and it is not easy. In Grete Shelling’s book, In Love but Worlds Apart, she mentions more than twenty tips that can help an intercultural couple get through the complications of a cross-cultural marriage and start creating a happy and normal family. Some of these include worldview, religious beliefs and morals, rituals and holiday traditions, basic needs, and laws of the land (2005).
Cross-cultural couples should be able to develop the same worldview based on the combination of their cultures. Couples will have a stronger understanding and relationship with each other once they share the same opinions and answers to universal questions such as their views on nature, man’s kindness, virtues, and the importance of suffering and sacrifice. Sharing their views and opinions about these matters will help the couple understand each other better.
Rituals and holiday traditions also differ from one culture to another that is why discussing it is important for an intercultural couple. Knowing what rituals and holiday traditions to practice and to celebrate will be essential as well as knowing the significant reason for its practice and celebration especially when the family becomes larger and children from a cross-cultural family start to grow and discover their identity.
Underlying values also vary from one culture to another (Shelling & Fraser-Smith, 2005). It is significant for a cross-cultural couple to establish which values to uphold so that their children won’t get confused on a mish mash of values from one culture to another. Couples should think about similar values upheld by their respective cultures and they should be able to decide which ones to inculcate to their children.
Even if it is a love marriage or not, cross-cultural marriages should be carefully thought out and planned. Just like an arranged marriage, there should also be enough time given for the couple to really get to know each other well. Difference in religious beliefs and morals should be discussed before getting married so that a couple then decides which type of ceremony to choose for their marriage and who should sacrifice his or her own marriage traditions. This is a tough decision that needs to be thought out properly and not hastily to avoid any conflicts.
Before cross-cultural couples decide to marry for love, they should also think about their future. When they start to build a family, how will they be able to help their children find an identity? How will they teach them about the differences of their cultures, which traditions and rituals to practice, and which religion to believe in? Proper education on how to raise an intercultural offspring is essential so that cross cultural couples are ensured of raising a child that is sensitive to both cultures, that respects their differences, and that is able to identify himself.
Even if people nowadays are more open to cross-cultural marriages, inter-cultural couples should not decide to get into marriage at once. Marrying for love will not be effective if it is done in haste. Take some time to determine the hurdles you need to get through first and also think about your future family before getting married to ensure a long lasting and happy relationship. Seeking the help of relationship experts as well as seeking for the support and approval of the people important in your life is essential. A relationship expert will be able to guide you through the hurdles of cross-cultural relationships and he will also be able to dispense priceless advice and guidance that will keep your relationship strong.
Nevertheless, love can move a cross-cultural relationship forward and can be the reason for two people, from two different cultures, to go against the odds and decide to marry. Love is still a crucial part for marriages, cross-cultural or not, to work well and to stay strong. Love should always be present in cross-cultural relationships as it will help the couple get through tough times and it will constantly assure them that their decision to pursue a cross-cultural marriage is worth it.
However, A person should not only marry for love but also for the understanding of cultural differences and beliefs and making that understanding a foundation for creating a family that knows how to embrace cultural differences and traditions. This is why knowledge about the differences of you and your loved one’s cultures is also highly important. A person should also marry for knowledge and for the belief that no cultural difference can break a loving and knowing relationship, cross-cultural or not.
Coontz, S. (2005). Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, 15-20.
Shelling, G. & Fraser-Smith, J. (2005). In Love but Worlds Apart: Insights, Questions, and
Tips for the Intercultural Couple, 119 – 122, 133, 135-137.
Singh, Aman (2009). Forced marriages. Sikh Philosophy Network. Retrieved from
Stanley, R. (2008). Are arranged marriages better than love marriages? Arranged marriage,
Love Marriage and Cross-Cultural Marriage. Retrieved from http://www.southasianconnection.com/articles/332/1/Arranged-Marriage-Love-Marriage-and-Cross-Cultural-Marriage/Page1.html
Vu, H. (2010). Cross cultural marriage acceptance growing for asian-americans. Medill
Reports Chicago. Retrieved from http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=156390