Posts Tagged ‘country’

The Family Ties that Bind

admin | Monday, July 20th, 2009 | No Comments »

Julia with her Dutch in laws and family

Julia and Maarten with his family in Lochem, The Netherlands

You know so many of my clients struggle with their in-laws or other family members.

I think one of the main reasons is fear.

They (your partners family) are afraid you are going to steal them away by requesting you and your love move back to your home country.  A “foreigner” daughter or son in law poses a bigger threat of unknown values and expectations.

Another reason is they are annoyed that they have to stop being what they perceive as “normal”.  Weddings, special occasions etc. require that they often make accommodations to ensure you feel included or at least acknowledged.  So now they have transitional issues too.

The worst problem is the family members who actually don’t care if you feel like an outsider and make little to no effort to understand your transitional struggle let alone do anything to make it easier for all concerned.

In Holland I heard over and over again from female clients and friends that their inlaws said something along the lines of “you live here now and must do what we do”.

They don’t seem to grasp that who you are is what makes you YOU!  No longer celebrating Christmas or Thanksgiving (whether in October or November depending on where you live in North America) isn’t something someone just gives up.

Nor should it be.

They also seem to overlook that the values, traditions and upbringing in your home country created the person their son or daughter fell in love with.

This all may sound dire.

I am here to tell you from both personal experience and from working with clients that those who stood true to themselves and their traditions built a stronger relationship with their partner. They found ways to continue their rituals and other events by either educating and including their family or with other expats and new friends.

The key here is that they acknowledged whether home or abroad, family ties often run deep and to ignore them can be detrimental to their love relationship.

They got over the hurdle of blame and anger and defensiveness based on their own cultural biases and looked for common ground.

And eventually over time they realized that the ties that bind their partners family together now included them too.

What can you do differently to include your new family in rituals or holidays important to you?

Perhaps it’s better to find ways to celebrate with people that understand and benefit from celebrating with you.

If so, how will you organize that next time? What is your first step?

Remove the fear of losing yourself and stop trying to be someone you aren’t. There are ways to be both multiculturally open minded and true to your culture. Make the effort. The growth along the way may be surprisingly joyful.