Courtship & Marriage

Questions: Should a person only date someone that they intend to marry? Why or why not?

What do you think about dating/marrying people from another culture? Good or bad? Why?Would your family accept (like/dislike) you dating or marrying someone who is NOT from your own nation or culture? Why or why not?

When is the best time in life to marry? Why? What do you think are the best reasons to get married? Explain.

Eight years ago this May 1, I introduced myself to a young lady on a beach in St. Vincent. Back then, she was just about to turn 16 and I had just turned 19 years old. And while today I often say that ours is a relationship that should not have worked in the face of all the challenges of youth and first relationships, we have been dating each other since. And, had I not been in Taiwan, we would have been married already, having gotten engaged three years ago. She is the only person that I have seriously dated in my life.

A decision to only date persons that one intends to marry has its advantages and its setbacks. My fiancée and I have been able to grow up together and share in each others successes and failures. Because of the length of time that we have been together, we better understand each other and can communicate in a very frank and open manner. We are better positioned to plan for our life together. We understand each other in a way that is very difficult to express in words.

These characteristics are not unique to relationships in which the parties have only dated each other. They can exist in relationships in which the parties are “checking out the possibilities”. However, dating persons whom one does not intend to marry, especially if one knows from the outset that he or she has no hopes of marrying such a person (a “fling”), can have a negative impact on more serious relationships in the future. Experience is the greatest teacher, they say. And, our experiences almost always affect our attitude to situations that are similar to ones that we had encountered before.

Therefore, a person who has had a negative experience in a previous relationship might ruin a potentially happy marriage because of the emotional and other “baggage” that he or she brings to the current relationship. The honest individual who has dated more than one person will admit to having responded to his or her partners with the thought or given voice to the expression such as, “He/she also said that”, “I just don’t know if I can trust you. He/or she also did these nice things at first”. And while the party on the receiving end of the cynicism might deserve it, sometimes a very promising relationship can be destroyed or seriously damaged by such attitudes. On the other hand, the experiences that one garners from previous relationship can help prevent pitfalls in current or future relationships and might make for a stronger marriage.

Cross-Cultural Marriages: Budding Happiness or Brewing Disaster?

All marriages are both challenging and rewarding. And cross-cultural marriages have their own rewards and hurdles. Further, they all require hard work, commitment, open communication and ample doses of love and friendship. Dealing with a partner at the interpersonal level can be challenging. However, when one brings in his/her partner’s collective identity (culture), the equations become even more complicated.

Most people, for a range of reasons, do not opt for inter-racial or cross-cultural relationships. Even for those who might get into one, there are chances that the interaction at the level of collective identities (the impact of socialization – culture) might sometimes get misunderstood for shortcomings at the interpersonal level. This may result in a greater strain on that understanding quotient.

Whether a cross-cultural marriage works depends first and foremost on the individual personalities of the people in the relationship, their communication skills, and not on their culture or country. However, if someone from a particular culture has a certain perspective or expectation of a marriage relationship (which expectations come from the way they have brought up and what they have been led to expect from such a relationship) then that will be bound to affect the cross-cultural relationship, however slightly. On the whole though, relationships depend upon the people in them, not where those people live or the country or culture they come from. (Cross Cultural Marriage and Relationships by Vince Appleby)

I know of cross-cultural relationships in which the parties are just as happy as persons who marry another from their race or culture. That is very much the case with Vincentian Calbert Latham, his Taiwanese wife Shelecia and children Menissa and “CJ” (left). The opposite is also true, in that many cross-cultural marriages end in disaster.

In many cases, friends and family who never graduated beyond their narrow worldviews make it half their career to tell the persons involved that they should find someone like themselves. And, even those who are not friend or family often show their disapproval of inter-racial marriages through stares and other nonverbals. This only goes to show that even in this age of globalization when the characteristics of what defines a particular race are being stretched to the breaking point, society finds itself having to deal with the diversity it is inescapably composed of, and it does not always seem to do so with a smiling face.

Leo Tolstoy – another of those “great” men who had lousy marriages – said, “All happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

To the extent that each relationship is unique as is each individual, it can be self-defeating to look for some formula, but, even so, the same stuff that makes into happy marriages between people of shared backgrounds also makes into marriages between people of different cultural backgrounds. After all, a marriage is (or should be) an arrangement between two individuals, and not two groups of people. And, while my family will have some reservations about a member of our household marrying someone from another culture as far as the differences may affect the possibility of their having a happy marriage, they will not oppose such a union.

Persons who are considering a cross-cultural marriage should keep the following in mind:

  • The interpersonal interaction should not crowd out the collective identities of the partners
  • Keep the communication channels open and vibrant becomes even more important
  • Don’t shoot for homogeneity, celebrate the differences
  • If the kids can have the best of both worlds, they will end up that much the richer

(The Unique Challenges Of Multi-Cultural Relationships And Marriages)

Timing & Tying the Knot

There is no ideal age for one to get married. However there are some things that persons who want to get married should consider before walking down the isle. Stresses from situations not directly related to a marriage can affect the marriage and cause it to disintegrate. It is important that the parties are mature enough to understand the significance of marriage and what they are committing themselves to, especially if they consider it a life-long commitment. There is not a particular age at which one attains this level of maturity. Some persons reach it early in their 20s while other attains it in mid-life or later. Some persons may have attained this level of maturity but are not yet ready for such commitment.

Some things to consider before getting married include one’s ability and willingness to compromise, financial considerations, how many children if any, how they will be disciplined, religion, communication, infidelity, heath and past illnesses, etc. On the surface, these may seem like things that couples who are considering tying the knot will have considered. However, in many instances this is not the case.

Personally, I feel completed when I am around my fiancée. Not that I don’t feel that way when I am not around her. However, when I am around her I experience a feeling of completeness that shows how incomplete I am without her. And that is one of the main reasons why I intend to marry her. People should get married because they want to share their lives: accomplishments, failures, hopes, dreams, fear, bodies, etc. with another person for the rest of their lives. One must try to visualize his or her partner in the next ten, 20, 30, 30, 40, 50 years and ask him/herself if he or she really wants to spend his or her life with this person.

As a Christian, I think that a man is incomplete without a woman in the institution called marriage – as God intended it to be. And that should be the main reason to get married: to find completeness.


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