The Importance of “We”

The Importance of “We”

It’s no surprise that online relationships can be challenging, especially when trying to meet Filipino or Chinese women online. Whether you are looking for a pen pal; a long term relationship, of your future bride; building a future life with an Asian woman will take work and many are up for the task. Looking for love outside of your own culture can be exciting and rewarding; as interracial couples (Caucasian or European men and Asian women) tend to report that just being aware of their cultural differences increases curiosity and discussing their differences directly may even enhance intimacy.

A recent research study (Seshadri & Knudson‐Martin, 2013) examined inter-cultural (as well as interracial) relationships in the United States. Cultural differences, especially around tradition (how we “should be”/“should behave”/”social expectations”) in a long term relationships or marriages become opportunities to co-create new traditions, increase personal meaning, and intimate strength in relationships. After conducting multiple interviews, researchers identified 4 relationship structures involving mixed culture relationships (see below).

One wife said ‘‘I thought I was pretty westernized until I married my husband. Then I realized that I was actually pretty Asian in a lot of ways. I think it’s relative to who I’m with…’’

 4 Relationship Structures with cross-cultural relationships (marriages)

Couples can use 4 major strategies to manage their cultural differences on a day-by-day basis:

  • Creating a We. Building a life after meeting online, dating and agreeing to marriage involves co-authoring a new chapter in a life story, your story. The key pieces involved in creating a ‘‘we’’ include: friendship, common ground, similar goals, working together over time, and commitment.
  • Framing Differences. How couples look at cultural differences makes all the difference. Key pieces in framing differences include sharing differences as attractive, being flexible and respectful about your spouse’s culture, and understand that cultural differences are something to learn about and celebrate.
  • Paying Attention to Feelings. We all need somebody to lean on. Strong emotions may come up from difficult culture-related situations, for example disapproval from a family member.  Communicating with your spouse about your feelings and insecurities, and clearly listening to theirs will help strengthen the emotional connection. Find ways to make adjustments around culture-related differences and find support with each other.
  • Connecting with family and community members.  “Hi Mum and Dad…Meet my special someone.” No couple is an island, it is important to set boundaries and draw respectful lines with family and community members who may have strong feelings about your friendships and relationships.  Sometimes it is best not to react to negative opinions; stay calm, collected, and unwilling to get into an argument over your relationship with your Chinese or Filipina girlfriend (or wife). Some couples use humor (appropriately) to deal with cultural differences. It may just take some time to let family and community members come around. Give them space, and in this case not physical space – emotional space. Emotional space gives the person time to come around on their own terms.  Once family members start to relate and connect to their new in-law as individuals; cultural issues fade away.

Putting it all together – finding the right woman from a different culture (Chinese, Filipina, or somewhere else in the world) online for chatting, an email pen pal or a future bride; it is important to communicate about culture and understand that integrating cultural traditions, values, and ideas into a solid state of “WE” will support a long and satisfying connection.

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