How Cultural Differences Impact Marriage

It is a beautiful thing to watch when two people fall in love. Over the course of several months, our friend’s love interest becomes all they can talk about. Finally we meet them and see for the first time how much in love the two are. We love watching our friends begin their healthy, life long relationships!

At our last Life Together Forever Weekend, we enjoyed seeing couples from various cultures together in one huge conference room. Watching cultures interact was fun for us. Many couples in attendance were married across cultures. In fact, we believe there is rarely a couple who came from the same culture.  Even if you grew up in the same race, ethnicity, neighborhood, church, etc., as your spouse, there are things about your culture that are different from your spouse’s.

Cultural Differences Are Exciting Early In Relationships

“There was a time when everyone on the earth spoke the same language.” Genesis 11:1 (VOICE)

According to several decades of research, one of the reasons why we are attracted to someone is because they are different from us. Can you imagine how boring it would be to only meet people who are almost exactly like you? It is our differences that are the most exciting discoveries early in the relationship. “Birds of a feather flock together” is not the secret to early desire in our relationship, but instead what we see about them that we do not have that is most attractive.

Culture can be summed up pretty easily: “The way we always do it around here.” It incorporates our beliefs, behaviors, values, cultural identity, political affiliation, religion, gender, race, and socioeconomic class. There is wide variety across each of those areas in which “the way we always do it around here” is defined.

Cultural Differences Become What We Criticize Most

As we begin life together, frequently a couple of years or more into the relationship, the differences become less attractive. Most early disagreements in a relationship are sparked by cultural frustrations. Her “way we always do it around here” about how chores are divided up are quite different from his. His “way we always do it around here” about money management are different from hers. What was once cute and exciting is now irritating and annoying.

What To Do About Cultural Differences

Do the following to prevent cultural differences from becoming a lifelong frustration in your marriage:

  • Discover and explore. Dive in to your spouse’s family, cultural and religious traditions with curiosity. Willingness to understand and accept your spouse’s culture shows respect and love.
  • Share your culture. Be open about your family, cultural and religious traditions. Describe why specific pieces of your culture are so important to you.
  • Explore similarities. Where do you share values, preferences and interests should be highlighted and celebrated.
  • Create your new family culture. Together create new “ways we always do it around here” incorporating the most important things of each of your cultures. Develop rituals that include each of you enthusiastically participating in the other’s significant cultural activities.
  • Negotiate and compromise. Where you each individually engage in your cultural activities, make sure you are on the same page about how, when and where. Consider equity and fairness in making these tough decisions.

We always love to hear from readers. What advice would you add to our list about cultural differences? If you are in an intercultural marriage, how have these suggestions worked for you two?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at

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