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Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.
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parents just wonít leave us alone. They drop by unexpectedly; his mother
rearranges my kitchen cupboards; they get angry if we donít visit them every
weekend. I want to have a life, alone with my husband! Meanwhile; She is so cold
and distant that her behaviour appears disrespectful and I am left defending her
to my family who doesnít understand why I married her. I wish she would get
along with my family.
cry for marital solidarity against family intrusion and alternately the plea for
peace and cooperation is more often seen in cross cultural marriages where one
party is from an Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian or East
Indian background and the other is from a Western background.
Western culture values independence and moving from oneís family of
origin to establish oneís own family as a separate unit. Many other cultures
value the growth of the primary family, where members do not move away to
establish independent entities, but rather grow and expand within their own
cultural style nor value is either good or bad, better or worse. But, they are
distinctly different and unless understood by the parties of the cross cultural
marriage, those differences can turn ugly when one partner claims the other to
be a mommaís boy who canít stand on his own two feet and the other partner
is castigated for being cold, uncaring and disrespectful.
social science jargon, these family differences are seen on a continuum where
one end is referred to as enmeshed and the other side referred to as disengaged.
Taken to their extremes, enmeshed families are so into each otherís business
that members cannot seem to function without the constant inputs and directions
from other family members. There is a co-dependency where persons cannot stand
on their own two feet and make independent decisions. On the other side, members
in overly disengaged family do not have any meaningful contact with each other
and have little to no tolerance for the inputs of other family members. These
persons will appear fiercely independent, like lone wolves.
the cross-cultural conundrum, both parties may have started off closer to the
middle, but as each takes offence with the other, their positions become more
and more polarized and behaviour appears more and more disproportionate and
challenge for the newly married couple is coming to an understanding of their
cross-cultural differences without either demeaning the other. To find balance,
both persons must make accommodations where in fact, they may each find some
degree of discomfort as they make concessions with a view to establishing their
own rules for managing the continuum.
may also be helpful to talk openly and frankly with extended kin about the
cross-cultural differences and what rules you are establishing for yourselves to
determine your boundaries as a newly married couple.
wasnít sure how the conversation would go and I was afraid that I was going to
offend my in-laws. So I told my mother-in-law that I am not used to someone else
arranging my cupboards and that in my family, we were expected to do those kind
of things on our own. I explained that when she did it for me, I felt she was
saying I didnít know what I was doing and that I wasnít good enough for her
son. She explained that she saw how hard I worked and thought it would be
helpful if when I came home at the end of the day, she had things in order for
me, ready to go. She said she only arranged the cupboard that way as it worked
well for her and thought is would for me too. I learned that her intentions had
nothing to do with her thinking that I was inadequate, but was her way of trying
to be supportive.
couldnít understand how parents could not show an interest in their family.
They never called or visited. It was just as if they couldnít care less. I
talked with her parents and explained how in my culture family is everything and
how we know we are loved by how people take interest, call and visit and yes,
even tell each other how to do things. I told them that they were welcome to
call and visit. They explained that they didnít want to intrude or appear
meddling for fear I would be upset. They said their distance was meant as
respect and not as disinterest. They were pleased to hear that they were welcome
in our home.
love may have brought you together, it will be a developing understanding and
then accommodation of differences that will keep you together. Including
extended family in the conversation may help in the process.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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