Advice for new brides, cross cultural and otherwise

<p>One of the ESL students I've hosted over the years is marrying the conversation partner she met while living in my city. The visa issues are resolved, they've had the civil ceremony and the wedding with family from Asia is coming up soon. While helping her figure out wedding cake and flowers, she asked what advice I'd have for someone going into a marriage of this nature. </p>

<p>Being divorced and long term single, I don't feel I have great wisdom to impart, aside from avoiding my mistakes. In addition, the intermingling of cultures creates special challenges, as I've observed from my parents and siblings. </p>

<p>I thought I'd turn to the font of wisdom, CC and see what all of you might have to say. Thanks!</p>

<p>My advice would be "assume good intentions." Try to be laid back about differences and try to find them interesting, not annoying. Think Pollyanna. </p>

<p>If there are conflicts, the partners should act like partners. If your parents snipe at your spouse, let your parents know you love them but you won't accept it. In my experience, women are more likely to stand up to their families than men. Many men will let their mother ride roughshod over their wife. (And it has always puzzled me that the popular stereotype is that the guy's mother-in-law is the problem, if there is one. In every couple I've known, it has been the man's mother. As the mother of a son, I vow not to be that woman--if he ever marries! :) )</p>

<p>I would advise your friend to talk to a woman from that specific Asian culture to ask for advice about how to treat the MIL. I believe in many Asian cultures the DIL is expected to be very deferential to the MIL.</p>

<p>My advice would be to always be pleasant, polite, and thankful. That goes a long way. </p>

<p>I have two DILs. (Actually, step-dauthers-in-law.) They are a complete contrast in their behavior. One is Japanese, very sweet to everyone, and yes--pleasant, polite, and thankful. Whenever they are here visiting, my H buys her something really nice and useful, such as new glasses or winter boots. When we took her and my stepson to Las Vegas, they both thanked us for every single thing we did, and she made us a lovely small photo album of the trip as our thank-you gift. She is just a delightful additition to the family.</p>

<p>The other DIL...completely full of herself, never asks after anyone else in the family, offers the bare minimum of thanks, if that. Never thanks me for annual birthday card + check. Does not help with dishes. When we took them to Las Vegas, they thanked us briefly at the very end of the trip, no thank-you card or note. We are not anxious to spend time with her. </p>

<p>When my mother married into a family of another religion from hers, and she really was not welcome as a DIL, her own mother gave her this advice: don't give them any reason to criticize you. No one can be perfect, but you can try your best to be a pleasant and positive addition to the family.</p>

<p>Save your greatest kindness, your best self for your family (spouse and chldren), and let it radiate outward from there. Speak well of your spouse, and be proud of him or her.</p>

<p>I agree. From my own mixed culture marriage, I'd say to keep in mind that different is not synonymous with wrong. And all differences aren't necessarily cultural. It took me a long time to figure out that some of the differences I attributed to culture, were really just family differences (his family and not his culture), and some were just individual differences, not even family differences. But we have the common thread of religion, which makes it a lot easier to deal with some of the cultural differences. Some things change over time, but many do not. As our children are getting older, I find some differences in raising them. Also, my husband was an adult when he moved here, and was less apt to change than someone who may have been raised here, but within his/her own culture. Or less apt to change than someone who came here at a younger age. Sorry this is so long, but I could write a book on it!</p>

<p>Try not to keep anyone guessing. If you want something, say so--nicely.</p>

<p>I guess many people have trouble with in laws, and not just cross culturally. I would say keep an open mind, try to get along, but in the event that they really turn out to be crazy, difficult, whatever, just tune the radio way down, nod and smile, and don't take it seriously. It is often the case that the man's mother is tough on the wife, and I can think of lots of reasons that this happens through no fault of the bride. Just remember that it does not come from a good place, and that the bride can do little to fix it if the inlaws don't want it fixed. </p>

<p>In any relationship of love and respect, you should be able to say what is on your mind, and ask for an improvement if something goes wrong. With the spouse, hopefully he or she usually will work to improve. However, if the inlaws are the ones who could care less about improving, just move on in your own mind.</p>