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Love in Any Language

Love in Any Language

Eight tips for launching a healthy, happy intercultural marriage
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The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, "The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished." Intercultural couples know this like no one else!
You may already be committed to an intercultural marriage, or you may be considering marrying a person from a different country, culture, or ethnicity. If so, these eight tips will empower you and your significant other to build a healthy, happy marriage on the firm foundation of Christ.

1. Communicate with grace. In Colossians 4:6, the apostle Paul wrote, "Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone." Be proactive about discussing your expectations, needs, and wants with each other. My husband, David, and I have discovered that it's always best to ask questions first, especially regarding important decisions, family matters, and emotionally charged issues. Don't assume that you know what your loved one will say or do in a particular situation. And keep in mind that important events and holidays can stir up trouble due to conflicting expectations and worldviews. One Korean woman, who is married to an American man, says, "Sometimes we have conflicting ideas about holidays, and I've learned to tell my husband what I expect ahead of time so that I'm not disappointed when he doesn't read my mind."

2. Discuss your finances and your goals for giving, spending, and saving. Be clear about your expectations regarding providing support for one or both families, as this is a common practice for intercultural couples. David and I have made many sacrifices in order to provide financially for his family, including waiting seven years to purchase a home and start our own family. But we've also gained blessings and rejoiced because we were able to help them with their needs. Pray together about your finances. Most important, establish a budget and stick to it. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have." Christian financial planning books like Your Money Map by Howard Dayton and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey will help you navigate the budgeting process and create a practical plan for achieving financial freedom.

3. Ask yourself honestly if you love the person for who he or she is right now, not for who you hope he or she will become in the future. Don't simply marry someone because you think he or she has the potential to be a great person (or a committed Christian). You may have heard the saying, "Men get married thinking that their wives will never change, but they do. And women get married thinking that their husbands will change, but they don't." Both you and your loved one will put your best foot forward before marriage, but afterward, you will find that (surprise!) that person is not perfect, as you once thought. And you're not perfect, either! Both of you will change throughout your relationship. Every couple experiences heartbreaks, disappointments, setbacks, illnesses and deaths of family members, job losses, and financial struggles during their married life. Ask yourself whether your love is deep enough—and your commitment strong enough—to stand up to the lifelong vows of "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, 'til death do us part?" When in doubt, don't.

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Kathleen Manning

September 26, 2012  1:50pm

As a former missionary, and a cross-cultural trainer, I've got several friends in this boat. The cultural issues I teach people about are compounded BIG TIME in a marriage relationship. Sometimes, my heart hurts for them... thanks for this article! It's very timely.

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