Looking to build a cross-cultural relationship that can weather any storm? Note these 5 tips from a relationship counsellor.
Nurturing a relationship is no easy feat. And if you and your other half come from different cultures, it becomes a whole new ball game. From bridging value differences to understanding unique communication styles, it can be a challenge sometimes. We speak to Ms Ho Shee Wai, director and registered psychologist of The Counselling Place, to find ways to overcome common cross-cultural challenges and foster stronger relationships. Read on for tips on cultivating a love strong enough to move mountains.
1. Communication is key
The golden rule for any relationship? Communication is key. And this rings truer for cross-cultural couples. “To improve your communication, make the effort to learn each other’s native languages,” Ms Ho says. Immerse yourself in your partner’s language, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to bridge those linguistic gaps. But it’s not just about words – even a simple head shake can mean different things in different cultures. And remember, when you inevitably make a cultural misstep (it happens!), your partner will appreciate you owning up and offering a sincere apology.
2. Embrace your differences
It’s no secret that growing up in different cultures can shape your worldviews differently. Ms Ho advises to have open conversations on what matters to each of you, your values, beliefs and life goals, and build a shared life that can integrate all these. A thriving relationship needs to support the values and needs that each of you hold close to your heart.
3. Be open to changes
It’s all about being flexible! It’s unhelpful to get defensive or stubborn when confronted with differences. Have an open mind and be genuinely curious about your partner’s viewpoint, and make compromises to pave the way for a healthy relationship.
4. Celebrate each other’s culture
Once you’ve laid a strong foundation of understanding each other’s cultures, go one step further to celebrate your diverse backgrounds! Mark out key cultural events; join in on important rituals; don traditional clothing and savour delicacies together. It’s all about showing respect and interest in your partner’s heritage.
5. Set boundaries with families
Family can be your biggest cheerleaders or your greatest challenge. For some couples, managing their involvement can be as tricky as a rubik’s cube! Ms Ho suggests sitting down with your partner and having an open discussion about the level and type of involvement each family can have in your relationship – or even with your future little ones. Thereafter, Ms Ho recommends establishing the agreed boundaries with your families, presenting them as mutual agreements as a couple. Pro tip: avoid phrases (such as “my partner wants…”) that may pit one side against the other.
Encountering challenges in your cross-cultural relationship? Overcome these hurdles with professional help from The Counselling Place. With an international team of therapists, counsellors and psychologists, The Counselling Place is well-versed in couple and marriage counselling for both locals and expatriates. No worries about language barriers here; services are available in multiple languages including French, German, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese. Other services like mental health care, life coaching and parenting coaching are also available, if you ever need a listening ear.
Make an appointment online and visit their conveniently located centre to build a stronger and more resilient bond with your beau!
This post is in partnership with The Counselling Place.