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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
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.

Comments (7)

  • And I’m bummed they’re in the states while we’ll be in Swaziland. Would’ve been great to meet them! BTW, Dennis’ last blog about a red-alert, all hands on deck bathroom emergency had me in tears laughing so hard!

  • I couldn’t agree more! I am in a inter-racial cross-cultural marriage and know that she is the one that God gave me!
    I would rather have my kids marry out of their race/culture with someone who loves God and loves them rather than someone of their own race who didn’t.
    Their is beauty in diversity!

  • I had the pleasure of meeting Dennis and Zwakele last weekend and was overjoyed to have them stay in my home. What an incredible couple! They have such a love for God and for each other. That is so evident from the first second you meet them!

  • Loved this blog post, Seth, and loved getting to know Zwakele and Dennis last year in Swaziland. They are a such a blessing. I look forward to seeing what God will do with this Kingdom-minded couple in the future years.

  • Wow! It’s so funny that you would describe it as being in the same kingdom culture. I had the honor of being at Dennis’ bachelor party and that was the advice that Jumbo gave to Dennis, to ‘not focus on the individual citizenships, but rather the mutual citizenship, you both are citizens of heaven.’

  • I agree with this article. My soul partner is also from another country but must say that we are very much alike. After 6 years of being together more and more we understand why we found each other.
    Both of us are Roman Catholic and that helps a lot in putting on the same ground the everyday life.
    My point of view is that a huge level of maturity of the individuals is required to succeed in an intercultural marriage.

  • I agree that intercultural marriages can work because after all I’m married to an amazing carribean woman. It sometimes isn’t easy when family members or friends wonder why you love this person but if you are truly invested in the marriage, everybody will see the true love and eventually come around.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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