When a couple from two different cultures comes together in marriage, they need to form their own agreed – upon new culture based upon blending, adapting, acceptance and compromise. We know the chance of a happy marriage is based on good communication, genuine friendship, flexibility and commitment. We also know that the main challenge for multicultural couples is an inability to resolve cultural differences.
Not only does the young couple need to adjust culturally, but so do each set of parents! Parents of newly wed-couples are typically in Erickson’s middle-adulthood life stage, characterized by the psychosocial crisis of generativity versus stagnation. Key to their happiness is being a valuable part of their families and communities and achieving a sense of fulfillment as they watch their kids grow up. In their forties and fifties, parents are finally confident and secure in their sense of self. But can they be a bit too secure? Are these parents ready to accept that married adult kids will let go of a part of their cultural identity – an identity that took twenty odd years to instill?
According to Erickson parents are preoccupied with the task of guiding the future generation. But when “guiding them” clashes with accepting their decisions and choices, it can lead to a dilemma. What if one party in an intercultural union believes in autonomy and independence for a new couple, while the other side believes in a joint family system? What if there are differences in celebrating holidays? How will grandchildren be molded? Are the newly weds going to be pulled in different directions by their culturally bound parents? Parents may feel rejection, abandonment and insecurity if their ways are not followed, and the existential question “does my life count” suddenly leads to inadequacy. The normal task of relinquishing a central role in the lives of grown children is now complicated by the loss of cultural values that married kids may choose.
Rigid cultural expectations are an obstacle for multicultural marriages. Parents of married kids need to take it easy and let go, even if it means watching their kids bend old rules, change set patterns and discard family traditions. With flexibility and acceptance of cultural differences parents will move onto the next life phase with feelings of integrity, not despair. And they will also give their multiculturally marrying kids a much better chance of a happy, well adjusted marriage.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA