Friday, November 6, 2009

Culture Shock

A common difficulty in starting a new family is the combining of two family cultures. This process can be particularly difficult in the courtship stage, when the two young people are moving from being two individuals under their respective authorities, to being one couple under God. This transition, already difficult for everyone involved, is further complicated by differences in family cultures. 

For example, one family may place a heavy emphasis on education, while another believes common sense and hard work are enough. 

One family may be reserved in showing emotion, while the other family is very expressive and affectionate.

One family may be well to do, and the other may struggle to make ends meet. 

One family could be large, while the other has one one or two children.

One family may be relaxed, the other may be involved in each other's lives.

Parenting styles vary widely as well, from the hands-off, "You're both adults now." To the hands on, "you're still ours till you're out of the house."

There is nothing wrong in ny of those things, they are just the circumstances that each couple will face. I listed maybe six, there are hundreds of others. Each one will effect your courtship in some way. The important thing is to be aware of these differences.

The most obvious challenge in facing different family cultures is the difference in thought processes and expectations. A family who places great emphasis on education may have difficulty in understanding why their son/daughter's CB has made different choices. A family that is very physically affectionate might not understand why their son/daughter's CB doesn't initiate hugs more frequently. The result could potentially be hurt feelings, particularly if these differences aren't understood.

I think the most challenging time is in the first few months of the courtship, while things are still in a flux and the "new normal" hasn't been reached yet. It is important to keep in mind throughout the courtship and engagement (and marriage too, I'm sure!) that each family is coming from a different background. Learn everything you can about the family you are entering.  Don't react too quickly, take time to learn what makes them tick. It is possible that the hurtful thing they said or did (or didn't say or do!) was never intended to cause pain--it may even have been a loving thing in their minds! Be understanding of their unique way of viewing the world. Love and forgiveness are the keys.

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