Some day, I hope to write a book on the deeper side of intercultural marriage, but I still feel like I don’t really know enough to even know where to begin. Hence my search for deeper understanding of the complex beauty of intercultural relationships. I’ve read lots of books on intercultural marriage, but just came across one that’s the most helpful I’ve seen so far.
In love but worlds apart: insights, questions, and tips for the intercultural couple, written by Grete Shelling and Janet Fraser-Smith. Both are in intercultural marriages of sorts and have years of working with other couples in intercultural marriages. The book is written in a half-teaching/half-workbook style, with commentary, explanations, and examples followed by lists and lists of questions for intercultural couples to discuss. It pretty much skips over the typical ‘cultural fascination’ dimensions (the visible layer of the iceberg concept of culture) and gets straight to the heart of intercultural relationship by helping the reader examine if they can truly live out the rest of their life in an intimate relationship with someone from another culture.
The book starts by examining the question What kind of partner am I looking for? by exploring questions like these:
– How can you find “the one”?
– How would I know if he or she is the right one?
-What do we imagine about one another’s cultures?
– Where do I belong?
– How do we show that we like or love each other?
– What do we really want from our partner?
– What if our situation changes?
– Will our parents support this relationship?
From there, it discusses how intercultural couples sort out where to live, how to forge a new cultural identity as a couple, how to determine working values to guide your relationship (regarding, money, family, gender roles, children, etc.), and finally, how to develop healthy interpersonal skills in light of cultural differences. Each of these chapters has a similar list of questions to those listed above.
As my husband and I have recently been reflecting on the joys and challenges being in an intercultural relationship, we continue to see the value of awareness and honesty as a means of growth and acceptance. In love but worlds apart provides a framework by which to explore how to do this. While it’s written in a tone toward an unmarried couple, I’d just as easily recommend it to those already married. My husband and I will certainly be chewing on some of the questions for quite a while.