When it comes to relationships, some feel it is best to date someone who has the same morals, taste, traditions, and beliefs as them, but rest assured it is quite okay to step outside of your comfort zone and explore someone from a different background as a potential partner.
As someone whose very existence is owed to two people of different cultures coming together and hooking up—I’m multiracial—I can’t help but to be an advocate for dating outside one’s culture, and in certain cases, race for that matter. For those willing to take on the challenge, the rewards can be huge.
In his book, Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom, anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor defines culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
Dating within your culture does not guarantee a slam dunk in compatibility. Two people can come from the same background and still be total opposites. Dating outside of your socioeconomic status,education level, or religion can present a different set of challenges, but there are ways to make a relationship work regardless of the inevitable culture clash.
The cool part about blending two different backgrounds is the ability to create and share new traditions. For example, one person in the relationship might have relatives who drink and party at family functions, while the other’s family comes from a more traditional, religious background. This scenario presents a unique opportunity for the couple to combine elements from both upbringings. They may provide drinks and a party type atmosphere, but also ensure the party has a set end time, and a prayer prior to the start of festivities. In combining the best of both worlds, the couple can ensure they have fun together, but within reason.
When you combine two cultures, it’s important to know when you must adapt to the traditions of your significant other. For example, if you are dating someone who is a Muslim, you have to honor the fact that they aren’t going to have breakfast or lunch with you during Ramadan. If your partner values church on Sundays, you might have to actively start attending service out of respect for your mate.
The most important thing not to do in a relationship where two people come from different backgrounds is to use your cultural values as the standard for what is “right” or to your advantage in a way that diminishes your partners lived experiences. It isn’t fair to compete with your mate in a way that they aren’t cut out for, especially when you know you are wrong. If your partner was raised with working women, it isn’t fair to expect her to keep up a home in the same fashion as your female relatives who were stay-at-home mothers, knowing she may not have the time, energy, or training, to do so. In these types of situations, it’s best to be patient with one another, clearly express lifestyle goals, and work together to get there. A little emotional maturity goes a long way, and throwing a fit when things are not going how you would like is the worst way to resolve cultural differences.
When you love somebody, there should always be a clear channel of communication, a level of understanding, and a desire to make things work. In relationships where people come from different backgrounds, more compromise is often needed to maintain the highest level of compatibility. If two people truly are in love, they will go above and beyond what is necessary to transcend their culture and make things work, often by creating a new and improved lifestyle in the process.
Elizabeth Aguirre is a Digital Writer and Retail Design Project Manager living and working in Chicago, Il. When she’s not tweeting about social justice issues, she can be found meditating or blogging at cultureofthechi.com.