CULTURAL MISCOMMUNICATION: WEEK 5 5/26/2018

Being in a multicultural marriage has been such an amazing experience. It has had its challenges and will continue to bring more, but we have been enjoying a beautiful life. There have been so many miscommunications that we have had. Some come because the culture of a man and the culture of a women are very different. Our family dynamics are different. Though we both spoke English in the beginning, it wasn’t until I learned Spanish and we then had two bilinguals in the house did things get better when it came to language. The biggest cultural challenge that we have had is what in insulting and unacceptable in one culture and is just fine, even funny, in the other.

One event in particular comes to mind. One night when we were dating, we went on a walk and talked while we ate guavas. We decided to sit on a bench and Jose said in a cute voice, “oh mi gordita”. This translates as “my little fatty”. I thought I misheard and astonished said, “what?” “You are my gordita,” he stated. Oh no he did not! He did not just call me fat on one of our first dates. To me this was highly offensive, especially because I had worked 5 years in an Eating Disorder Treatment Center trying to combat negative body image. Well, while this was a bad thing to say in my culture, in Jose’s culture is was considered a very cute compliment. He was accepting me as I was and doing so in a loving way because he added “ita” at the end. We laugh at this now, but truth be told, this is a part of the cultural miscommunication that I’m still getting used to.

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HSBC Bank has set a great example for businesses and people all around the world to get to know the cultural differences between different parts of the world. If we are traveling, teaching, or working internationally it is so important to know the culture and respect it. The are many things that are normal to one, but to someone in a neighboring country it it offensive. Research before you travel or interact so that you are prepared for things you may encounter. If you are still unsure, ask a guide or a friend as you travel. This will save you a lot of embarrassment and awkward moments.

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Having Harmony with your In-Laws

When I first told my parents that I was moving to Mexico to get married to Jose, my mom was excited, but my dad wasn’t as much. Mexico was far away, a dangerous place, and there was not much money or opportunity. These are the things that we all have been told about Mexico. These things are not necessarily true, though. There are safe places and prosperous areas. The best part of Mexico is the people. My in-laws taught me that. When my parents went to Aguascalientes for my wedding, they had the opportunity to meet Jose’s parents. Even though there was a language barrier, there was immediate kinship between the two sets of parents. My parents, especially my dad, were able to see the love that Jose’s family had. They were so kind and giving. Jose’s grandfather told my parents at the dinner table that even though they don’t have a lot of money, they have a lot of love and that is what they will give me. There were tears all around and my dad felt great about leaving his daughter with this sweet family. He knew that I would be taken care of. And he was right. My in-laws are one of the reasons why my transition to Mexico living was smoother than I expected. My mother in-law taught me to cook Mexican food and she taught me Spanish. My father in-law taught me that you can live off the land with hardly any money. The land always provides.

These blessings don’t always come when you combine two families. There are certain “family rules” and traditions that are so different that it could cause clashing moments in a family. It is important for a newly married husband and wife to build their relationship together rather than having the parents of the married couple involved. Advice should be taken with prayer. In Genesis 2:24 it says “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Decisions about family matters should be between the two spouses.

Jose and I are no longer in the “honeymoon phase” so I feel like our personalities and traditions are shining through more now than they were the first while of our marriage. I would never bring up how my family did something when we first got married because “I was in Mexico now and needed to do things the Mexican way”. But the problem is, I’m not Mexican. I had to figure out a way to honor my in-laws and their traditions while still being true to myself and how I was raised. It is very important to me to find that balance. This is something that is ongoing, but it gets easier every day.

James M. Harper and Susanne Frost Olsen said in their article “Creating Healthy Ties with In-laws and Extended Families, “Marrying into a family that is different from yours or has different values can be a challenge. Demonstrating humor, exercising patience, overlooking small irritations, and looking for the positive can help in dealing with differences. One woman said: “When I met [his] parents … I didn’t agree with them on religion, politics, or even on how to cook a pot roast. I really wasn’t even sure if I liked them. But then l had to remember they had raised [my husband] and I loved him, so there must be something good about them. At that point, I began to enjoy their differences, and to love them, too.””

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One way that I have found that I am able to build relationships with my in-laws is by cooking for them. My mother in-law still walks into the kitchen and tells me how to cook, but I politely tell her that I’m making something that I learned from my mom. She knows then to let me be and she’ll try the food after. We have different religions, but I like to show interest in their religion. I feel it is respectful to honor what they believe. This doesn’t mean that I believe it, but I respect and love them so I have interest in what they do.

By doing these things with our in-laws we not only build our relationship with them, we strengthen our own marriage. We are showing love to the ones who raised our sweethearts. We are showing respect to the grandparents of our children. Contention is lessened. This also can strengthen the relationship that our children have with their grandparents. There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home, even in our in-law’s home.

Unity in Marriage

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Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. This is important to remember because men and women are different but complement each other. In a marriage, they are equal. There are roles that the Lord has set out for us in marriage and family, but these roles work together to raise a righteous family. In the Family Proclamation to the World it says…

“by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, father and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”1

It is so important that one spouse doesn’t exercise unrighteous dominion over the other. This does not promote unity and love in a marriage. This also does not set a good example for our children to follow in their own marriages. Our duty as parents is to teach and guide our children how to be kind, responsible adults. President David O. McKay has said “The most important thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother”.2 We teach our children more by how we treat our spouse and more by our actions, than the words that we speak.

Respect is something that is key to a marriage. Each person is an individual and needs to be seen as such. The woman in the marriage should not be silent because “her husband is the head of the family”. Like the proclamation says, they are equal partners. The best example of this is shown in the marriages of the apostles and prophets and their wives. President Gordon B Hinckley and his sweet wife were in an interview and Sister Hinckley stated that President Hinckley never tells her what to do. In response, President Hinckley said…

“I’ve tried to recognize my wife’s individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does…If there is anything that concerns me, it is that some men might try to run their wife’s lives and tell her everything she ought to do. It will not work. There will not be happiness in the lives of the children nor of the parents where the man tries to run everything and control his wife. They are partners. They are companions in this great venture that we call marriage and family life”.3

I got married a little later in life, so when I got married I was so independent. I had lived on my own for a long time, paid my own bills, made my own decisions, and worked. I took care of myself. Then, although I was thrilled to get married, I had a hard transition. All of a sudden, I had someone else telling me what to do. Jose had the same experience. We really struggled to find balance between being independent and depending on each other for support. It is still hard, but something that has helped us Is having our own hobbies. We still have most of our lives together, but there is one part that we try not to interfere with in the other person’s life. Sure, we’ll share and talk about what we are doing, but no suggestions are made. This has been a big help for us in our marriage. It may not work for everyone, but for us, it has been working wonders.

I encourage all couples to find unity in marriage through the teachings of the gospel. The true unifier is our Savior, Jesus Christ. If there are struggles, He can help to dissolve them. We need to go to Him, together.

 

  1. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true, LDS Church
  2. “Love Her Mother”, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/love-her-mother?lang=eng, Elaine S. Dalton.
  3. Marjorie Pay and Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, October 2003, pp. 22, 27

The Importance of Charity in Marriage

We all have dreams. We all have certain desires that we want to see unfold in our lives. Sometimes in a marriage, the couple has the same dreams and desires, sometimes they don’t. Jose and I both have the same dream to have a Christ-centered home. I have a dream to have a musical family. He has a dream to have a hardworking family. All of our dreams, when based on righteous principles are good. The key is to be able to help each realize those dreams in a marriage and family. Most of the time this comes with compromise. We must talk about our dreams and be humble and open so that both in the partnership feel fulfilled. At times we may not be able or even willing to express what is driving a dream. When this happens is creates conflict in our marriage.

The best way to overcome conflict in a marriage is charity. What is charity? We are told that charity is the pure love of Christ, but what does that actually entail? There are 3 aspects of charity that we must remember: Love FOR Christ, love FROM Christ, and love LIKE Christ. Each of these has different actions tied to it. As we grow our love for Christ, we study about Him and get to know Him and His Atonement more. As we get to know Him and have our love for Him strengthened, we realize how much He loves us. This is not only seeing His love for our own selves, but for those around us. This realization opens our eyes and helps us to love like Christ. We are able to see others as Christ sees them. Are attitude and actions towards others change and become softer and more understanding. When we learn to love like Christ, instead of getting upset with our husband that he came home and went straight to the TV rather than saying hello or helping with dinner, we think “he must have had a stressful day and needs to destress”. We could bring him a drink of water, sit with him, and ask him how his day went. We look for the strengths in our spouses rather than always digging and focusing on the weaknesses (which we all have might I add). I don’t like when my husband focuses on my weaknesses, so maybe I should stop worrying about his weaknesses.

Wendy Watson stated, “the best-kept secret in many marriages is the strengths spouses see in each other…An interesting fact about commending your spouse is that the more you do it, the more you see in him or her to commend.” In response to this quote, Brother Goddard states in his book Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, “What a wise design! Rather than re-working our partners to our liking, we are invited to cover their weaknesses with our charity! God is serious about cultivating our charity”.

How often do we hear women (and sometimes men) say that they changed their husbands or trained their husbands? Men are not dogs to be trained. A healthy relationship is a communion between two people willing to set aside their own desires and differences. Marriage is consecration at its best. A marriage is not just between two, however. A healthy relationship includes a 3rd party. This 3rd party comes from above. The following diagram shows a visual of how the couple comes closer together in their marriage as each of them humble themselves and turn towards Christ. I love the Spanish word for marriage: Matrimoni. It says it right in the word that marriage is between three people: MaTRImoni.

Marriage is not simple or easy by any means, but the formula is simple. Have charity and look towards Christ. I know that as we each apply those principles in our marriages, any marriage can work.

Being Submissive in Marriage

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit…”

          -3 Nephi 9:20

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In marriage, we should follow the example of our first parents. God has taught us how to strengthen our own marriages through Adam and Eve’s example. When they were cast out of the garden, they may have been sorrowful, but what was the first thing that they did? They offered sacrifice and called upon God for guidance. “The only remedy for our loneliness is to call upon God. When we feel hopeless, lost, and desperate, we should call upon the Father. In return, we, like Adam and Eve, will be shown the path for our journey Home.” (Goddard)

In our day, we no longer offer animal sacrifices, but we are asked to offer a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20). What is a broken heart and a contrite spirit? How can we obtain this? To obtain this we must be humble and submissive to the will of the Lord. We must be meek and willing to repent. As we apply this to marriage, we will be able to see the benefits of sacrifice. The cure for a troubled marriage is submission. Not the kind where the wife just listens to everything that the husband says, but submission to the Lord. A broken heart and contrite spirit is required to heal the broken marriage. Or even a working, healthy marriage. Some examples of doing this would be going to God for counsel as a couple and separately in prayer, accepting and repenting of mistakes, accepting the will of the Father, following the prophet, and using Christ’s Atonement for the power to forgive. No marriage is perfect. Arguments and differences surely arise, but humility and forgiveness allow for progression and healing. A perfect example of being submissive and sacrificing in a marriage is the allegory of a “man who had two friends in the manufactured -home business. When he wanted a new house, he asked each friend to send him half a house. He gave no plans. He provided no specifications on size or style. He left them to design as they would. So, each friend sent a lovely half-house. When the two halves arrived at the site, they were jarringly different. Rooms did not line up. Utilities did not match up. Roofs and walls between the two halves did not connect. This is a pretty good symbol for marriage. Each of us is created in a different “factory” or family. Two people come together assuming that they will readily connect. But we soon find that our traditions, expectations, assumptions, and ways of life do not line up. The more time that passes, the more clear the differences.” (Goddard, “Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage”) So what do we do with this uneven, mismatched home/marriage? We must draw near unto the Lord. He will guide us and mold us into a more unified couple as we have a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Pic: https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/category/gospel-living?lang=eng