...Continued from "A Voyager's Beginning"
Learning about a new culture can be very exciting. I don't just mean reading about a culture, or hearing things on the news here and there. I mean truly learning about a culture and the customs that surround it. Being almost fully immersed in that new culture is what makes it exciting; almost like losing yourself in the process, only to end up finding yourself again with a more opened mind. Not only have I become too familiar with this feeling, but I can say today I am also a mixed outcome of my past intercultural relationships that have allowed me to learn what it's like to feel disoriented within a completely different culture.
During and after college I started more seriously dating. I had boyfriends but also met and connected with many other guys here and there. I was able to learn a lot about the Jamaican culture, black-American culture, Hispanic, Arabic, Indian, Eastern European, and South-Asian cultures. [Click here to read about intercultural vs interracial dating] Some may even say I "made my way around the world without actually traveling." This is because when I started a relationship with someone, I usually went fully into it. I never believed in shallow connections. What's the point of trusting someone and becoming loyal to them only part of the time? What could I possibly have learned from depth-less relationships?
I understand different people have different opinions about love. Many may read this and think that dating is only necessary because the overarching goal is to find a partner for life. Others may think nowadays there is really no point in even trying their luck in dating because it never ends positively, and there is far too much of the "friends with benefits" situation happening without much commitment. Or some may even think that maybe being with someone unofficially makes things easier, allowing them to still be "free." No matter what you call it (or don't call it), when you get involved with another person, that is a relationship; you are relating yourself with another person. You may think there is nothing to gain from that. I believe, however, every person that comes into my life, every heartbreak, and every new relationship happens for a reason. No matter what it may be, there is always a lesson to be learned and personal growth to be done. And there is just something about intercultural dating that adds even more to this personal development. As everything that comes can go as it pleases, my most recent experiences with intercultural dating have come, went, and yet, have really resonated with me. There were lots of great lessons learned, many positive things and others not so much. So, without further ado, here are the 5 biggest lessons I have learned about intercultural dating:
1) Never give up your values or change yourself because your partner's society finds certain aspects of you wrong.
When you date someone from a different culture, there may be aspects of the other's culture and background that are highly visible in the way they live their life. Even though there may be more dominance in a culture than in others, when dating, we should never let ourselves become submissive to another culture. It is okay to open up to new customs and ideas, but don't sacrifice parts of yourself that make you who you are just to "fit in" with the ways your partner lives their life and sees the world. It gets tricky when it comes to clashing values, but there needs to be a lot of communication and clarity in expectations so that feelings aren't hurt and people aren't disappointed. More specifically, don't change the way you dress, the way you speak, the people you are friends with, or the way you care for others because of another's "culture." Many times these changes are only brought upon you supposedly as an expectation of their culture,. when in fact, can most often than not be actually coming from your partner's personal insecurities. If your partner asks you to do something and it hurts you to do that, you have to think if it is worth the sacrifice. At the end of the day, you should always listen to your gut and your heart. You know yourself better than anyone else.
2) Love is NOT the only ingredient when it comes to serious long-term relationships.
It is important to recognize that although love may seem like enough to get you through life with another person, in the long run, there will be other factors affecting your daily life with that person. These will make you think twice about everything so it is important to make sure you understand they exist. Things such as economic, religious, family and social values and beliefs really come into play when you start becoming seriously committed with another person. In a perfect world, it is easy to assume love can conquer all and surpass all differences. This is not the case. There are serious arguments that exist between couples regarding the way each other use money, the way each other live their day to days based on strong religious beliefs and even social and family values and opinions. Essentially, if there isn't a willingness to come together and collaborate and cooperate, there won't really be a future between partners. If you want to have kids in the future, think of how these differences can really come to life when trying to raise your children with a partner who lives their life in such a drastically different way.
3) What you perceive of a culture before really knowing it is probably wrong, and generalizing in any way is a terrible thing to do.
One of my favorite parts of dating someone from a completely different culture is probably the perception change I get after a while. I know there are so many stereotypes of different cultures in the world. No matter where you are, depending on the country, there is always a stereotype that is stronger against some cultures than others. But when you get to really know a person from within a certain place that was raised in the culture that is usually misinterpreted, these stereotypes seem so silly and caricature-like, you can't help but laugh at how ridiculous they are. If there is anything I have learned, is that no matter the place and culture, at the end of the day, humans are all humans and have basic similar needs and wants. Everyone is different from the other and nobody should be judged based on their looks or nationality.
4) You should always strive for happiness, but never put your own happiness second to someone else's.
I know when we care about someone so much, we start making sacrifices, modifying certain things so the other can fit well into our lives. Seeing your partner happy can bring you just as much happiness. And yes, being understanding of the other's needs and wants is very important. But NEVER forget about your own needs and wants. Don't forget that your relationships should be bringing you something to learn about and something to enhance your life with just as much as what you bring to them. There needs to be a push on both sides to help make each other stronger and better. If this does not happen in any relationship, even in friendships, what is the point? We all need support, happiness, mental creative stimulus, and healthy love.
5) You deserve respect, appreciation, and just as much loyalty from the other as you put in. A relationship in ANY country should always be a two-way street.
Finally, as strange and even wrong as intercultural dating may seem to many people, it is fundamentally beautiful. To know that two souls can come together and feel such amazing things for each other, putting aside their cultural differences makes the world an amazing place. This is proof that humanity can use love for the greater good, even if it is for some personal good. The world can't change if your own individual world doesn't change first. But, no matter what culture and background you and your partner may come from, there should never be a bigger give or take from one side than from the other. If both people want it equally, it will happen. If both are willing to make equally sizable sacrifices, it will move along, and if both are in it to stay, it will last. If another person wants to seriously be with you, they will do whatever it takes to be with you.
Thank you for reading. If you like this page, like, share, comment, and subscribe to emails down below!