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Cross-cultural marriage can work

Dennis Brock went with AIM as a white missionary from Buffalo, NY to Swaziland in 2004. His job of finding ways to bridge the cultural gap was complicated by language and local attitudes toward Americans.   After befriending him, Swazis would often ask, “Are you interested in dating black …
By Seth Barnes
Dennis Brock went with AIM as a white missionary from Buffalo, NY to Swaziland in 2004. His job of finding ways to bridge the cultural gap was complicated by language and local attitudes toward Americans.
 
After befriending him, Swazis would often ask, “Are you interested in dating black women?”
 
Four years later Dennis and Zwakele are happily married. Dennis’ jovial nature is complimented well by Zwakele’s practical side. They have the relationship that some said couldn’t work, yet they are happier together than they were apart.
 
In a sense, all marriages are cross-cultural. Insofar as you come from a family that has evolved a certain way of doing things, you may be matching up with someone who seems to come from another world.
 
Think of the things that may be different:
vacations,
dinner time conversation,
values,
holiday celebrations,
attitudes,
conflict management skills,
and relational priorities,

just to name a few.

Compound these differences with the huge gap in culture that exists when you marry a person from another country, and you can count on an extended period of adapting your expectations of how the world should work. And if you’re not a person who adapts well, you can bet there will be rough sledding ahead in your marriage. With all the give and take that must occur to develop your own new family culture, the one constant in your marriage for the first several years will be friction and compromise.

Is it any wonder that older, wiser couples counsel caution to those contemplating a cross-cultural marriage? The odds are stacked heavily against their ever working. There is often more that’s different in the relationship than there is that’s common.

Dennis and Zwakele have a successful cross-cultural marriage because in many ways, they aren’t from a different culture at all. Their worldview and value system may have been developed on two sides of the world, but they are largely the same. On the stuff that matters most to them in life, they find themselves on common ground. They are followers of Jesus who see the world as he taught them to see it.  And all of us are richer in the world they are creating together.

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