Does it make sense to date somebody from a familial or cultural background different from your own? Variety is often the spice of life, but is there such a thing as too spicy? The basic “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” element is already enough to leave couples scratching their heads trying to figure out dating and marriage. How different can two people in a couple be and still make it work?
There is no single relationship recipe. While some people want the safety and predictability of marrying someone with a personality like their own, others prefer someone with a completely opposite personality. It can be exciting and thrilling, but also challenging. When it comes to background, my experience is that the more similar the background, the easier it is for couples to understand each other and “speak the same language.”
The shidduch (matchmaking) system was crafted to facilitate an independent thought process in choosing a mate. It assists singles in deciding what values they hold dear, the qualities they respect in a mate, and the type of home they’d like to build before becoming emotionally invested in a relationship. Whether you go the shidduch route or not, it is important to go into the process of dating for marriage with these things firmly in mind. Once you are invested, after all, clarity goes out the window and is replaced with the fantasy that “love will conquer all.” It won’t. If you don’t believe me, look at the statistics: love alone does not guarantee a marriage’s success.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when dating someone from a different background:
1). Common Goals and Values: Do you value the same things in life and see yourselves heading in the same direction in terms of the future of your relationship and a home together?
2). Respect: A relationship without respect cannot survive. Here’s a litmus test for respect: Ask yourself, “Would I want my child to turn out like my date?”
3). Respectful Disagreement: Can you maintain different opinions and give each other the space to “do your own thing”?
4). Confusing Differences: Parents who are on the same page send children a message of consistency and safety. It’s difficult and confusing for children to get different messages from their parents. When they love both, they are caught in the middle.
5). Acceptance: Can you accept and love this person for who they are without feeling you need to change them? If you can’t, you will be in for a rocky relationship.
6). Face Value: Have you listened clearly to what your date is saying? When a person says, “I’m not the traveling type,” “I don’t want a big family,” or “I really can’t live in a messy house,” do not ignore them. Often, disagreements crop up later over these very topics that were plainly stated… and ignored.
While similar backgrounds tend to reduce relationship friction, I have seen successful couples from very different cultures and homes build beautiful lives together. It takes more work, flexibility, compromise, and commitment, but if both parties are invested, honest with who they really are, and willing to seek the right guidance and coaching when needed, it can be done!
Wishing you all the shortest route to your longest relationship!
By Rachel Burnham