Updated: Aug 27, 2018
For too long, the richness of ethnicity, nationality, race, identity, culture and heritage has been narrowly defined into race and/or culture. But I have found this can be injurious and dismissive of the complexity of us as individuals.
At first blush, a focus on ethnicity, nationality, race, identity, culture and heritage seems to target a specific group, a niche.
You may say:
This is not really my issue; this is not applicable to me.
I do not have that problem, we are both ________.” (fill in the blanks)
But as relationships get more intimate…as they evolve, the presence of the aforementioned diversities becomes more real. In the following scenarios, I will give you a glimpse into the many, many ways I have seen ethnicity, nationality, race, identity, culture and heritage impact many relationships - outside of the obvious.
The Young Couple
Mark and Anna have been in a relationship for the last eight years, and have been married for five. Mark a white male, American born; Anna was born in South Korea immigrating to the US with her family at age 3. Anna’s family was very invested in having their family “blend in,” and so adopted many of the social and cultural values and norms of their adopted home. As a result, Anna and her three siblings adjusted seamlessly, and never experienced any significant problems fitting in. Mark always embraced every facet of Anna’s diversity, and so taking the relationship to the next step seemed natural and uncomplicated. After all they have known and seen each other through a variety of experiences. Their relationship worked beautifully for the last six years. They transitioned through, moving in, married life; it all worked beautifully.
Well, that was until Anna became pregnant with their second child and her mother moved in with them to “assist Anna and Mark with the baby.” Initially it worked well; she helped with child-care and other demands on Anna and Mark. Suddenly problems started popping up in their relationship because Mark, for the first time had to deal with conflicts and expectations around culture, heritage, ethnicity, etc.
Mark felt Anna and her mother were overly focused on certain Korean customs and Anna felt Mark trivialized her culture.
The importance of identity, culture, heritage and race almost always takes on new meaning when children are part of the equation. Suddenly the traditions and customs that were considered an embarrassment or a nuisance become a custom to be passed on. The evolution of the relationship can spark conflicts where they never existed.
Can you relate? Let me know...