International and multicultural couples must usually cope with a higher degree of stress. Many stress factors affect couples but multicultural and international couples undergo a decisively more stressful environment. Can you think of what are the stress factors for you and your couple? Interestingly enough, many of the stress factors you may come up with will be included in the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Does it ring a bell?
What are these factors and more importantly, how can they be mitigated?
We are a bilingual couple, will we truly understand each other?
Bilingual couples must have thought of that many times. Such couples either speak a third language or they try to learn each other’s tongues. The stress comes from knowing that until they master those languages there will always be something that they do not quite grasp completely. Feelings are complicated, relationships and real-life situations are complex therefore couples must be able to express their feelings thoroughly and in a proper manner.
Closely related to intra-couples communication is the communication that takes places among friends and with family members. A related stress factor shows when family members and friends stare at you as if they wanted to say: ’This is a joke, do you really understand each other?’.
In such cases only more language study can help. The best approach is to find out which language you are both more passionate about and concentrate on that in order to create a sort of couple-official language.
Will I have to relocate abroad?
Expat life is for all but not all are made to be expat. Some people simply cannot accept the idea to expatriate or to move to another country or area even for a short period of life. Is that an issue? Not necessarily. Should it be treated seriously as an issue? Absolutely yes! And since relocation can bring out the worst tendencies in us, it may well be able to sink our relationship. In case one in the couple is absolutely against moving, such cases should be treated with professional help. In fact, being in an international/multicultural relationship means that a sort of basic values and basic understanding of what such relationships mean, must be shared by the partners.
The stress of relocation can also be mitigated by a rational approach to the pros and cons that the process will involve. Many resources are available to the couples that are about to move. I reckon that the most precious advice one can give is to talk to similar couples that went through that already (Dealing with the stress of international Relocation). What are the symptoms that such changes can bring and the techniques to reduce the relocation stress? Take a look at what the military, very experienced relocators, suggest in ‘Overcoming the relocation stress’. (for more resources go to http://moving.about.com/).
Cultural differences and different faiths
Cultural differences may have a deeper impact than one thinks. It is not only the different cuisine or how we celebrate on holidays but the very mindset and approach to social situations that change. For example, take a look at this diagram to see how different can be the expectations about marital issues in Japanese and Western people.
How can cultural differences be mitigated? According to Marriage Success Training, these are the main 5 patterns for managing religious and cultural differences (for more hints on the topic read Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships by Joel Crohn, Ph.D.):
- Transcendent: Couple adopts beliefs, traditions and rituals from multiple sources, including ones outside the cultures, races and religions of origin. Spiritual practices may be nontraditional.
- Secular: Couple takes a nonreligious approach to life and is minimally involved in the practice of cultural and religious beliefs, rituals and traditions.
- Bi-cultural: Couple tries to balance the beliefs, traditions and rituals from each partner's cultural, religious and racial backgrounds. If there are two languages, the children will probably speak both.
- Modified Bi-cultural: Couple adopts a single religion - either from one partner's background or a mutually agreeable "compromise" religion - yet tries to honor the beliefs and traditions of both partners in a selective, but relatively balanced way. If there are two languages, the children may or may not speak both.
- Assimilated: One partner assimilates and converts to the beliefs, traditions and rituals of the other partner's cultural, religious and racial background.
Personally, I do not think that a unique scientific approach to accept and overcome cultural differences exist, but I do think that if two persons love each other, then they should do whatever it takes to overcome those and move on. After all, is the survival of the couple that matter, is it not?
The frequent traveler’s stress
Travelling itself is a real stress booster. The reasons are multiple. To start with, it is time that we waist and that we could spend with our family, partner or friends. Also, while we pack for the trip ahead, travel stress starts to rise and we end up into a sort of whirl, we lose our temper very easily and tend not to listen to the partner. Travelling very often, because we commute or because we are in a long-distance relationship, means that these moments will occur often. This, in turn, can destabilize the couple itself, the care and affection that must exist within a couple. Managing traveling stress means not only to manage your health but also the health of your relationship. Take a look at Stress Managing Strategies for Travel Mishaps for more practical tips or go to What are some ways I can calm down quickly when I'm feeling overwhelmed? or How To Reduce the Stress of Traveling for more suggestions on breathing exercises.