I’ll never forget the uncertainty and fear I felt, as I sat at the kitchen table, tracing the word “pyaar” (love) in gold letters on our wedding invitations. My thoughts were racing to process the contents of a recent discussion Varun and I had had in premarital counselling.
While exploring the chapter on extended family, Varun had explained that he would expect and hope to be available to care for his parents as they age. This, he shared, might mean, moving home to India or inviting them to live with us. I had two thoughts when I heard this: run! ignore! If I’m honest, there was a big part of me that was tempted to say, He doesn’t really mean that. He’ll change his mind. But, the wiser, more mature side of me knew, If I marry this man, I marry him as-is.
Now, let me clarify: I absolutely love Varun’s parents: they are generous, kind, loving, fun-loving, wise and affectionate. They have made me feel like a beloved and welcomed daughter from Day 1.
However, the intensity of Varun’s conviction in such a nebulous proposal made me do a double take. It really had nothing to do with his parents, or where we should live or whether or not we would move to India in 15 years. What terrified me was that there was an ingrained, cultural ideal that made Varun feel convicted, and I did not hear that same voice tugging at my heart and mind.
As I stacked completed wedding invitations, I had a growing realization of the fragility of our relationship. We are two people from vastly different religious, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, about to pledge our hearts to one another for life, no matter what. I didn’t hear the voice that Varun did, and yet we were committing to walking hand in hand into the future.
I knew at that moment, that if I married Varun, I would be marrying those voices. This doesn’t mean we blindly follow my culture or his, or that our families, backgrounds or customs dictate our choices. What it does mean, is that there are voices and customs and languages and ideals offering their vote in our heads at each junction; and it’s our job to forge ahead, creating a unique Varun & Amelia hybrid culture. (Hint: easier said than done!)
With my invitation-making party drawing to a close, I had come to a conclusion in my heart: because of our shared faith, the integrity of Varun’s character and my absolute joy in being with him, I would continue forward. I also made a commitment to myself never to irnore or underestimate the differences, but to truly listen and hear, even when the desires or convictions run counter to my own.
I recently had the privilege of chatting with an incredible intercultural couple who will be getting married soon. As we chatted about intercultural relationships, I realized how much Varun and I have wrestled with over the years, the hard conversations we’ve had, and the things I wish we’d been asked about or told.
I started thinking about the power of conversation, and the possibilities of creating a tool to help those on the intercultural marriage journey. So to that end, I want your input! Leave a comment, shoot me an email, text, PM, call…or even write me a letter (yes, the kind with stamps) and tell me:
- What questions helped you to process your intercultural relationship (before or after marriage)?
- Did you find premarital counselling helpful? Why or why not? What in particular was helpful?
- What were the biggest hurdles you found in moving from dating to marriage?
- What do you feel you were unprepared for after marriage? How do you feel you were prepared?
- How do your cultural differences impact your marriage/relationship?
- How did you navigate differing familial and cultural expectations around wedding ceremonies, traditions, etc.?
- What cultural differences have the biggest impact on your marriage/relationship (family relationships, finances, community, sexuality, etc.)?
- What do you wish someone had told you ahead of time about being in an intercultural relationship?
- What supports would empower you as you negotiate and learn the ropes of an intercultural relationship?
*All responses will be kept in confidence. I won’t blog about you–without asking first!
It’s important to note that I want to hear from everyone, as every relationship is, in some way (big or small), intercultural. I’m so excited to hear your thoughts!
Happy Friday, y’all!