If coaching is largely about shifting and expanding people’s perspectives in a way that they can translate into daily actions, then working with individual belief systems and assumptions is vital. Beyond these individual creeds, coaching has to explore the embedded collective paradigms, which feel to humans like the water that fish blissfully and obliviously swim in.
Integrating the cultural dimension into coaching is not only necessary to increase coaching’s validity and applicability in today’s intercultural environment. It is also an opportunity to learn from alternative cultural perspectives about crucial areas such as communication, thinking, time, power, identity, purpose, organization, or territory. Bridging coaching and interculturalism leads to a more creative and global form of coaching.
Getting involved with someone from another culture is very exciting and rewarding. Your friend or your significant other may show you the colors of life you have never seen, make you hear the music you never thought existed, and open your mind in ways you never realized were possible. Yet there are times when both of you misunderstand each other’s customs and cultures, and there are times when you find it so difficult to communicate that you don’t even try. Coaching has been known to be the tool that helps relationships flourish and succeed, so feel free to get in touch.
“My friends here do not struggle as much as we do. But then again, they don’t have to synchronize two different sets of cultural and religious backgrounds. We often clash over specific issues, like food. It drives me crazy that she doesn’t even let me cook pork. I think our arguments have gotten worse since the birth of our daughter. We weren’t sure how to raise our kid. Whose traditions do we pass on?”
Here are some of the most persistent questions that I am asked each during my coaching sessions for mixed marriages regarding how to make their intermarriage work, esp. regarding the problem around the raising their children:
- Is it important for young children to identify with one culture as opposed to two?
- Is it confusing or irresponsible to tell a young child that they can make up their own mind about which of their parents’ culture they should follow?
- Should major holidays of both cultures be celebrated or is it overwhelming for children to be exposed to too many different practices and holidays?
In my experience with intermarriage families over the years I have learned the simple lesson that when parents are confused kids are confused and when parents are not confused kids are not confused. It is helpful for parents to agree upon the cultural identity of their children and to work together to reinforce that identity. At the same time every successful relationship, whether same-culture or inter-culture is a partnership. When parents make decisions together as partners then regardless of which specific decision they might make, their children will receive consistent messages and the emotional stability that such messages invariably create. Only when couples establish what is important to them together will they be able to successfully pass those values down to their children. When parents cannot agree upon how or what to celebrate in their home or even the religious identity of their children they are running the risk of communicating that same ambiguity and spiritual insecurity to their children as well.
MISUNDERSTANDING IN MIXED MARRIAGES
Mixed marriages – marriages between people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and geographic regions – often face additional struggles and challenges than people from the same cultural background, conflicts often multiply… Experts point to three issues that frequently cause misunderstandings and fights:
COMMUNICATION STYLE: People are so oriented to psychological interpretation that when a wife feels her husband isn’t paying attention to her, she doesn’t realize it’s because he has a different way of listening or of being involved in the conversation,” she says. Depending on what culture people are from, they will differ in how loudly and quickly they speak, and how they argue, tease and listen.
PARENTING: couples are often shocked when they become parents and realize that they have very different perceptions of how kids should act. Specifically, discipline, expectation of appropriate gender behavior, types of toys and the teaching of manners are very much culturally derived.
FAMILY: disharmony can result from differing cultural attitudes toward the extended family.
STRATEGIES FOR MAINTAINING A LOVING INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIP
How can intercultural couples cope and maintain a loving relationship when faced with multiple roadblocks? Here are some strategies:
- Learn all you can about your partner’s culture. Become familiar with his or her cultural and religion background with no obligation to change yourself or convert to the other’s style.
- Negotiate and renegotiate dicey issues. Ideally, the time to discuss and make agreements about intercultural topics is before the wedding.
- Communicate with in-laws. It is wrong to assume that older people are incapable of change or that they won’t talk about cultural issues.
- Be tolerant. You need to allow for more than one right way of doing things.
- As a parent, try to anticipate the knee-jerk reaction that you might have when your partner tries to promote his cultural ways or when your child adopts elements of your partner’s culture.
- Recognize differences in conversation styles, become intercultural competent.
- Be optimistic about your multicultural family – growing up in a bicultural family can offer children a rich background and lots of additional values.
While there seems an increase in mixed marriages, this requires a considerable amount of adjustment, tolerance and understanding as many factors are at play that may hinder the success of such marriages.
Ultimately intermarriage couples have both the opportunity and responsibility of creating their own unique cultural lifestyle together which requires patience, tolerance, flexibility and an openness to experiencing life in a different way from which they were raised. There is something wonderful about nurturing an attitude of experimentation and openness to new experiences and customs that can allow both parents and children to see themselves as partners on a lifelong journey of spiritual self-discovery. Ultimately one person in each couple will inevitably take the lead in creating the religious celebrations and experiences of the family, but the most successful intermarriage families are those in which both partners are willing to share the experiences together and find a way to create a stable and consistent sense of religious identity for their children.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
We would be happy to talk with you about your issues, needs and possible solutions. Please contact us for the first free consultancy.