Mahal kita (Tagalog). Ti yu bạn (Vietnamese). Aku mencintaimu (Indonesian). Ich liebe dich (German). Je t’aime beaucoup (French). I love you very much (English).
No matter how you say it, it’s the sweetest thing couples tell each other. It gives both the satisfaction of loving and being loved. It fulfills the human desire to hear what the action shows you and reaffirms the love and dedication you have for one another.
Most transplants marry while they are abroad and commonly, they marry a partner from another ethnic background or race. How do they get along, what adjustments need to be done, and who does which? These are few questions they sometimes overlook once they started falling in love. When you are in love you tend to overlook the crucial part of the relationship. Your judgment gets clouded by pheromone-induced euphoria, hence, your grasp of reality is obscured.
Further complicating matter is the fact that foreign visas come with expiration dates which creates an externally imposed time constraint that is absent with couples who have the luxury of time due to common citizenship. Thus, courtship may be shortened to the extent that the things that are usually sorted out while dating may be postponed until after the wedding. You do not have much time to really get to know each other well. And while most inter-racial marriages grow and flourish, there are some which are terminated due to incompatibility. Therefore, before you delve deeper and invest into a lifetime commitment, you might want to consider these things. Meanwhile, if you are already married, think of ways to work around these factors and make a more meaningful relationship together.
1. Common Interests. Do you have hobbies that you both share? Do you have the same preference when it comes to movies, music and activities for your leisure time? While you don’t need to share every thing together, it is a huge advantage to have a common ground because when the going gets tough, this could be your tool to reconnect and stay intact.
2. Education and Experience. The average individual wants to be able to freely associate with another gender intellectually and emotionally. If both partners have almost the same level of education and experience in life, they tend to be able to relate with each other better. The more educated and experienced the individual is, the more chances there are for that person to be welcoming of others’ opinions. Likewise, this individual tends to be better at problem-solving, hence would bolster the strength of a union. Moreover, you can both have more things to talk about that are common to both of you.
3. Family Upbringing and Dynamics. Your past tells you how you are or will be in a relationship. The past, being your childhood experiences and your upbringing could help make or break your relationship depending on how well you work around your ‘unfinished business’ or baggage. ‘We are drawn to people whose issues fit perfectly with our own in a way that guarantees a reenactment of the old, familiar struggles we grew up with’ (The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work by Terrence Real). Moreover, we subconsciously crave for the familiar dynamics we grew up with and eventually we realize we married our father or mother – we become them. It is wise to practice awareness on this aspect if a relationship has to succeed for a lifetime. You can use this awareness to avoid pushing the buttons that don’t work for both of you and do something differently to address the root-cause of the issue at hand.
4. Personality and Preference. Which is more important: character or chemistry? When a woman is attracted and made excited by a man, she assumes that the man is “the one”. Further, she expects it to last forever and that is a good recipe to failure.This is the reason why it is best to know each other first before sleeping together.
Introvert vs. Extrovert – which one are you? There is no such thing as absolute introvert or extrovert. There is a little bit of both and it is during trying and stressful occasions that the predominant style comes out. Why do you need to know your partner’s style? It is crucial to learn your partner’s preference for you to be able to interact better. It also gives you a heads up whether you can deal with his/her quirks or not.
5. Language and Culture. Are you willing to learn your partner’s language or some of his or her culture’s nuances? If he or she is not fluent in speaking English, how would you provide accommodations so that good communication for both parties is guaranteed? You don’t have to bend over backwards but it is sweet that the partner who speaks English takes initiative to learn the other partner’s language or at least learn more about the culture. Failure to do any of these could hinder you in resolving simple misunderstandings in the future (i.e. why he or she does not look at you in the eye; why he or she cannot call your mom by her first name; why he or she needs to send money back home even if you’re married; why he or she likes fish paste, etc.).
6. Willingness to Compromise. When you are single, you don’t have to worry about anybody else but you. You do what you want, you eat when you wanted to, you go where you please and nobody could stop you – at least if you are of legal age. Until you have a special someone in your life, things are done according to what you want and that’s it, right? But when you decide to be with someone, be engaged or be married, you have to meet half-way. There is no way that “I am right, you’re wrong” attitude could get you somewhere either. Do not even think of getting a girlfriend or a boyfriend if you cannot compromise because once you are married, every waking moment is a compromise, and yes, even when you are sleeping (especially if your partner snores, and you just learned about it later in the relationship).
7. Distance. Maybe you met online or somewhere in the States but you live hours away from each other. Distance takes a crucial role in building a relationship. If he or she is living in another country and you are constantly communicating, you may rack up phone bills per month – little things add up, too. You may want to check out Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Facebook or check with your phone service provider about their lower long distance rates. It is very challenging to pursue a long distance relationship but it is not impossible. Trust, loyalty, honesty, respect and communication are needed for the seeds of love to grow and stay nourished.
If you are a man and still tend to check out that ‘hottie’ who just walked in to the bar where you are silently drinking your Fat Tire, then you shouldn’t even be thinking of pursuing a long distance relationship or marriage. You might think being a man, you can look and as long as you do not touch, you’re okay. Wrong. If this has been a habit you have cultivated in your bachelor days, you need to stop. Once you are with her – in flesh and blood, you cannot do this anymore. Let your away time be a practice in taming your urge to look at other ‘menus’. A woman has a good peripheral vision, she will notice you doing it. And while she might not tell you, she feels disrespected and less valued, and the worse thing that could happen is that her respect for you might diminish, much more her love and trust.
8. Financial Stability. Are you financially capable to support another person with your income right now? If not, can you find a second job or a different one that could pay more? Aside from communication costs you are incurring while staying miles apart, getting someone a fiance’s visa and/or green card, whether the person is in or out of the US costs so much money. The entire process may range from $3,000 to $3,500 with an immigration lawyer, excluding the costs of procuring the required documents for your application. Even if the individual you are sponsoring is currently in the US, worked for two years on a J-1 visa prior to your sponsorship, that person has yet to wait for a work permit before being able to apply for a job, notwithstanding the “under-the-table” jobs which is not encouraged in this site.
9. Time. If you want someone from the Asian region, someone who was raised there, you are most likely looking at a more traditional type of courtship you are not accustomed to in the West. This is not saying that women in those places are not going with the time, but they prefer to be courted and pursued and not the other way around.
Usually, they do not initiate phone calls or text messages, instead, they wait for the man to do it first. Giving gifts is welcomed, but it does not define you. The time you spend thinking of her, on how to please her counts a lot.
10. Effort. How much of you are you willing to extend? Would you do the laundry, wash the dishes sometimes, pick up the slack, massage her back (if you’re a man)? For most women, it is their default, but for a man, it is rare to find one who would be willing to do such things.
In some traditional (Asian) cultures, when a man is proposing marriage, the man has to stay with the girl’s family for a week or two to show the parents that he is capable of taking care of their daughter. If the girl lives in a more remote place where modern living is a holy grail (i.e. water system and faucets, hot and cold showers, gas or electric stoves), this entails a labor-intensive courtship to the tune of fetching water, chopping firewood, helping the family gather vegetables or helping in meal preparation. In other regions, bringing gifts for everybody in the family is also good when you visit, but again, it does not define you. You can scratch that off of your to-do list if you’d like. Effort involves all the things you do to show how special your loved one is to you and how much you appreciate her parents for raising her well.
Do you think you have what it takes? This is just a broad example of what you might face if you are planning to find someone with a different cultural background, especially the ones who are raised in their home country. While you are on your quest, it wouldn’t hurt to have these things in mind. Meanwhile, if you already have a better-half or special other you consider marrying, why not reevaluate things and do something different taking these points into consideration. This would positively add a new spark to your relationship, improve your understanding and cultivate a special appreciation for your partner’s exotic and endearing qualities.