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ERP 085: How To Deal With Cultural Issues In Relationship

By Posted in - Podcast November 10th, 2016 0 Comments

Listener’s Question:

“After searching the web for answers and finding nothing closely related to the situation at hand in our family, I thought perhaps you could provide some great insight on the issue.
I have four adult children, one son (32), 3 daughters (26, 25, 25). The issue is the following and involves only my daughters and their boyfriends;

Ever since my daughters have begun dating as young adult women, their relationships have become so complex and sometimes broken with the added element of having boyfriends in the picture. What happens is that the boyfriends tend to get involved in sister to sister conversations, events, disagreements, and it compounds the issue and affects the whole family dynamic, especially affects their sister to sister relationship, trust, and loyalty. When the girls were little or even teenagers, they were protective of each other, took care of each other, and had a lot of fun family times. Now, with the boyfriends in the picture, it is seemingly tearing their relationships apart with distrust and disrespect and creating distance between them as sisters.

My girls sometimes come to me individually with complaints and ask for my opinion/ insight but as hard as I try to be impartial and objective, my input has not been fruitful. I am hoping you could provide some suggestions.

As a Latino family, we tend to be very tight-knit versus individualistic. My daughters’ boyfriends are Caucasian AND their families tend to be more individualistic, where their family involvement in the relationship has not been that much of an issue. Not sure if the cultural element is actually that significant or not, just thought I would mention it.

It is hard for me to believe that I could not find any information on this topic on the web as I don’t think this dynamic is highly unusual. I am hoping that you can provide some suggestions on this topic as I highly respect the wise and insightful advice that you offer on your podcasts.
Please help!
Thank you,
Concerned mother”

(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear my stories and examples to describe these points.)

Given the recent U.S. presidential election, I find it so interesting that this topic was scheduled for today. It is fair to say, Americans are pretty divided and feeling a whole range of emotions this week. Cultural differences affect us nationally, globally, and personally.

Here are some tips to navigate cultural differences more skillfully:

1. Evaluate the approach

  • Sometimes, we need to evolve our systems. This happens when we need to incorporate new factors or the old system is no longer working.
  • One of the benefits of tradition is that it provides a sense of structure, stability, and consistency.
  • Differences or diversity often provide more dimension and fullness, yet it can take more intention and collaboration to work through the complexities to get there.
  • It can be helpful to evaluate what is currently working about the approach, and what is currently not working.
  • This evaluation and openness to questioning can bring up a lot of emotion (i.e. grief, fear of the unknown, etc.).
  • More diversity can be stressful. In Dana I. Nixon’s paper, “The Relationship Experience of Latina/o-White Couples,” she discusses how interenthic couples endure more stress due to the of lack of family and social support. She also notes how interenthic couples have to explain and justify their reasons for wanting to be together, whereas monoethnic couples do not.
  • When the traditional path does not work anymore, it requires us to take more ownership of a new path.

2. Engage in Collaboration

Intention:

  • Before engaging and addressing differences with loved ones, it is super important to be clear on your intention.
  • Are you coming from a place of love and wanting to cultivate connection or are you wanting to be right, by trying to influence, convince, and persuade?
  • Are you interested in understanding their perspective? Are you curious about their thinking, feelings, and experience?
  • Do you truly respect and honor their position? Are you willing to see value in their approach?
  • Are you open to being patient, understanding that the process make take more time than you would like?

Understanding:

  • Human developmental stages. Young adulthood is the stage of “intimacy versus isolation.”
  • Differentiation is a normal and important part of coming into adulthood (i.e. seeing yourself as different than your parents).
  • Racial identity development:
    Ferdman and Gallegos Model of Latino Identity Development
    1. White Identified – Individuals identify as white and the view, values and beliefs as such
    2. Undifferentiated/denial – Individuals claim a color-blind mentality and race is not important
    3. Latino as other – Individuals who hold no stake in a subgroup, often cause by the uncertainty of his or her heritage
    4. Subgroup-Indentified – Individuals have strong identification with specific subgroup within the Latino culture, belief that all other subgroups are subordinate
    5. Latino-Identified –Individuals believe race is fluid and society is a dualistic construction of race.
    6. Latino- Integrated –Individuals understands our society in terms of race and identified with the larger Latino community

    Helms’ White Racial Identity Development Model
    1. Contact Status–oblivious to and unaware of racism
    2. Disintegration Status–conflicted over irresolvable racial moral dilemmas
    3. Reintegration Status–regression to White superiority and minority inferiority
    4. Pseudoindependence Status–painful or insightful encounter or event that jars the person from the reintegration status
    5. Immerion/emersion Status–an increasing willingness to confront one’s own biases
    6. Autonomy Status–values diversity, is no longer fearful, intimidated, or uncomfortable with discussions of race, and is active in seeking interracial experiences.
  • How is their overall health? Are they thriving in their life (i.e. career, friendships, physical health, emotional health – seem happy)?

Dialogue:

  • With good intentions and desire to understand, you will be in a much better position to engage in a productive and collaborative dialogue.
  • You may want to meet with them each individually to learn more about their perspective on the issues.
  • You may want to meet with all three of your daughters to discuss how you all can work together to support each other.
  • If all is going well and the commitment is there, you may want to have a meeting with your daughters and their respective partners.

Support:

  • It can be helpful to ask how each person wants to be supported.
  • Each couple will have different boundaries and ways they want to engage in the larger family.
  • How can everyone support the larger extended family?

3. Create a new approach

Values:

  • Family vs independence
  • Gender roles
  • Power
  • Role of extended family

Developing a couple culture & Identity:

  • “Sharing cultures is viewed as having a culture that the couple has co-constructed, which becomes part of the everyday life of the couple. For example, an individual teaches their partner how to cook a traditional dish from their home country, now that dish becomes part of their tradition and co-constructed culture and no longer belongs to one partner (Nixon, 2015).”
  • “Think of themselves as coming from different backgrounds, as all couples do, that merged together in a positive way (Nixon, 2015).”
  • Coping strategies. “Bustamante and colleagues (2011) find that there are several coping strategies that interethnic couples use to deal with stressors relating to culture. These include: gender role flexibility, humor, taking the cultural perspective of one’s spouse, recognizing similarities, developing a combined culture, and having an overall appreciation for other cultures (Nixon, 2015).”

4. Believe in a good

  • Transformation often comes through challenge, struggle, and learning.
  • There is opportunity.
  • One of the hardest things to do is to believe in the process even though everything looks and feels like a mess.

Mentioned:

Transcript:

Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 085: How To Deal With Cultural Issues In Relationship [Transcript]

If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please contact me by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here.

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If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.

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