We have one son that is coming up on his first anniversary, and another son due to be married in a week. In both cases its been fun to listen to the situations that they anticipate that would be stressful. “My family always does this…”, “But my family always does that…”. “How will we ever please everyone?” is a question that can cause a lot of friction and heated discussion.
I once managed a global project team when I was at Whirlpool. In this capacity, we had thirty-five professionals from around the world all located in Evansville, IN for two years. As a team we underwent extensive cross-cultural training, which helped us to understand where each other was coming from. The Italians and the Brazilians on the team were very vocal and expressive. They loved to debate and get into heated discussions. The Asians avoided raised voices and public conflict at all cost. The reality was, with so many regions represented, trying to be sensitive to each culture in every situation proved to be impossible. So, we agreed to create our own, unique culture. It had established ground rules and forced everyone to be a bit out of their comfort zone. Since it was new to everyone, it became an accepted way to conduct business.
My advice to young marrieds would be to incorporate this type of thinking. If you try to incorporate either families exact culture into your marriage, the other partner is going to feel slighted. Take a look at where you’ve both come from. What are the attitudes, behaviors and practices (from each side) that you most appreciate and want to replicate? Which ones do you want to ensure you never repeat? And most importantly, what new practices do you want to incorporate into your relationship that neither family enjoyed?
Spending some time early on in a marriage having this discussion can lead to greatly reduced frustration. Creating your own culture is something that will distinguish you from either family, and give you a shared perspective that will draw you together. It will inevitably evolve over time, but by being deliberate about it, it will only get better.