There are many different factors that influence relationships, but of all the contributing factors, I would like to say that cultural diversity is the most impactful. Before we are born, we are affected by our culture. Down to what a mother eats, the music she listens to, where she lives, if she is married or single, and even what she thinks, feels, and believes. Culture is what shapes us. We wouldn't be who we are without culture. Some things in our culture are biologically rooted in our DNA and can't be changed or controlled. This includes things like your birthdate, your race, and place of birth. On the bright side, some things within a person's culture are within a person's control and may have a significant impact on their relationships, who they choose to mate and marry, and include things like a person's religion, language, food, music, and clothing preferences. It doesn't matter whether or not these factors can be controlled or changed, what matters is the hidden interrelationship these factors have among the people who we choose to make a part of our everyday lives.
When looking at the impact of cultural diversity on relationships, it is important to note that not all cultures are the same, but all cultures share in their ability to change the way we live, love, and relate to other people.
In dating relationships, the cultural and social construct of race plays a major role. Despite common trends of interracial dating, people still usually tend to date within their race. Not surprisingly, people gravitate towards people who look, sound, and act like them. A Jewish woman may be seen as making a disrespectful act if she dates a Muslim or someone of a different faith – much like a European American young woman may receive huge criticism from her father if she brings home a Black Haitian man. Although the grass is greener on the other side soliloquy may apply to comparison between a person's property versus someone else's; it doesn't seem to translate when it comes to preference in choosing a mate. That's not to say that individuals aren't curious as to what it's like to date someone from a different racial background than their own – because it happens. But when it comes to general marriage and mating behavior, eagles usually mate other eagles, and pigeons with other pigeons.
Can the same be said for the culture of religion, language, food, and fashion? Most certainly. If race determines who we choose to marry, so does religion, language, food, fashion, and most other cultural factors within or outside our control. Minus the few exceptions of those of us who like to venture out and try something different, for the most part, we choose our mate the same way we choose our friends – it's because they are a mirror reflection of who we are. A pairing of a couple based on similar cultural characteristics would seemingly be the necessary ingredients for a long-lasting care-free relationship, but unfortunately, with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, that's not the case. The reality is shameful. Although we are afforded the freedom to choose who we marry, we forfeit the ability to choose who we fall in love with. Chances are, it is the little thing we call culture that chooses our mate for us. Though we are directly impacted by cultural factors like race, gender, language, and religion, the main outside driving force that influences the immediate factors is the predominate influence of society – which itself can also be viewed as a form of culture.
Society is the part of culture that has the most impact on an individual's behavior because it is the most powerful. Society is made up of systems that influence and control human behavior on a larger scale. These systems are as follows: education, government/politics, media, healthcare, and even religion. It's impossible to look at an individual and not be able to tell what facets of society he is being controlled by. If you are a good observer, you can peel off the cultural layers that make every person who they are.
Communication and Problem-Solving in Relationships
The interesting thing about communication is that it is learned behavior. The way in which we speak to one another is what we over time have been taught. Before a baby is born, he is able to learn language. When he hears his mother's voice from inside the womb, connections are being made in his brain. So whatever language a baby's caretaker speaks is the language he will naturally adopt and begin to speak. The phonetic sounds, he will eventually become accustomed to and say with ease. The style in which he speaks, slow vs fast, with high or low pitch, will all be influenced by what he hears through the voices of the people around him. Understanding communication, as a learned behavior can be a rewarding thing, but also discouraging. If we can learn positive ways to speak, then that means we can also learn and adapt to negative forms of communicating.
When a young child is sitting and listening to his two parents argue by using elevated tones of speech and threatening gestures, on a consistent basis, he then learns that this type of communication is the norm. The same is true for when adults watch expressions of violence and maladaptive forms of communication via television and movie programs. Embedded in their subconscious mind is a set of rules for expressing oneself, so this is what becomes the standard procedure for how they resolve relationship and marital conflicts.
Relationships in the Past vs the Present
Relationships in the past were much different than they are today. Over 60-70 years ago, Blacks were not marrying Whites. Blacks were not even allowed to congregate with Whites, let alone drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table, or marry. But times have changed, as people are doing away with their racial prejudices. Whites and Blacks, Asians and Blacks, Mexicans and Whites, and Jews and Christians are joining hands and allowing their hearts to guide them versus a set of brainwashed beliefs.
Not only has who a person marries changed, but also how they get married. Before when I was growing up, I was always taught that a woman should wait until marriage to have a baby and that having a baby out of wedlock was considered a sin. Growing up Christian, it has always been shunned upon for a woman to conceive and have children unmarried. Nowadays, women have no shame. They flaunt their pregnancies and brag to other women about who got them pregnant, then run down to the court to put their child's father on child support. Before, men had a greater responsibility – not only to himself as a man, but also to his family and whole community to be an upright man and take care of his home (i.e. wife and kids). This is not expected today. Few women hold men to this standard anymore. Just as few women hold a man to the standard of waiting til marriage to engage in unprotected sex, open doors, or simply take control in the relationship and be a man.
Personal Relationship Values
In a relationship, I value trust, honesty, commitment, longevity, interdependence, and intimacy. Usually, if I'm in a relationship and it's lacking one of my main values, there is a problem. To avoid any problems, I usually am very vocal about my expectations, beliefs, and value system at the start of a relationship. I make it clear the things that I accept and the things that will most certainly turn me off and cause me to end the relationship. I've ended past relationships because my partner wasn't willing to understand or respect my values. I've always believed and held true to the statement that if a person doesn't respect what you value, then they don't respect you. I've never tried to force my values onto anyone. It's not my job. Once a person shows me that they can accept, appreciate, and respect my values, it lets me know that they care about me and are worth my time and commitment. I don't see how any relationship could function well without a mutual respect of each other's values. Because we all have very different values based on differences in our culture, it's what makes finding the right partner a special experience.
Copyright 2015 Danielle Leach All Rights Reserved