6 Benefits of “Inter-” Relationships

What are “inter-” relationships? To me they are interracial, intercultural, international, interfaith, and interesting. I am an advocate for these relationships.

There are very many types of relationships out there, but I’m just going to write about seven benefits I see in being in an “inter-” one.

Background Info:

B and I are from different countries, we have different skin tones, we grew up speaking different languages, we have a significant age gap, and we grew up with different faith traditions. There are more differences between us, but let’s just go with these for now. With so many obvious differences, how do we make it work? That is probably a question many of our family members and friends want to ask us, but don’t feel comfortable enough to ask (at least not yet… ).

Benefit #1: The Food

If you know me, you know how much I enjoy food. It wasn’t really hard for me to choose this benefit as the number one, honestly. I hope that’s not a bad thing… For me, a flavorful, hearty meal with good company can make any bad day better.

If you are in an “inter-” relationship, you probably already know what I’m talking about. You have the food from your specific family, region, country, etc., and your significant other has his. We get to pick the very best, cream of the crop recipes to cook at home and enjoy. We get to introduce new ingredients, spices, and techniques to each other anytime. It keeps things interesting in the kitchen. This may only apply to couples that enjoy cooking and eating together, but I absolutely see the food as a benefit.

Benefit #2: Personal Growth

This may seem vague, but I see personal growth as a major benefit of being in an “inter-” relationship. When I am forced to look at my culture, habits, and ideals from an objective point of view, like when I am explaining them to someone unfamiliar with them, I can see them much more clearly. I can look at some of the things I do automatically without really considering them and see that they need to be evaluated. I can finally start to realize the reasons why I am the person I am. I can look outside myself and see the areas that I need to improve on as a human being. I can see that some of my American/western habits and mindsets need to be re-thought. (And that some of them are perfectly fine, thank you very much…)

Benefit #3: Always Things to Talk About

When B and I are together, there is rarely a dull moment. We come from such different backgrounds that there are many many topics of conversation where we can compare and contrast our experiences. For example, our childhoods were very different. The demographics of the areas we grew up in have drastic differences. We enjoy listening to each others random stories about growing up. It’s fun to try and imagine what it would be like for me if I was in the environment he grew up in.

No offense to all of you people who are married to people just like you, but I think your conversation topics have got to be more limited than ours. Yeah, I said it. I think if a couple grew up in similar areas, with similar lifestyles, it must get super boring eventually. I think that those couple run out of things to talk about way way sooner than couples in “inter-” relationships. Maybe that’s why so many of those couples always feel the need to be out “doing” something, visiting places, or rushing to have kids. Maybe they ran out of things to talk about and didn’t know what to do next… Sorry, not sorry.

Benefit #4: More Holidays and Festivals

When you are in an “inter-” relationship, you have some amazing options in life. Every culture has its holidays and festivals that help make it unique. B and I can choose to celebrate the holidays and festivals that actually mean something to us. We have the opportunity to bring the best traditions from our individual lives, leave the ones that don’t mean anything to us personally, and create new combinations that mean the most to us. This freedom surprisingly has helped us connect more to our respective cultures and traditions.

Benefit #5: Interesting Wardrobe Additions

Since I am an American married to an Indian, I’ve gotten to know the world’s most multifunctional garment, the sari. B has been introduced to the world of camouflage and cowboy boots, interestingly enough. Being with someone from a different part of the world allows you to embrace some ethnic objects that you would not have been exposed to otherwise. I wear saris every now and then and B always appreciates my efforts to help remind him of home. Wearing saris helps me to be mindful of B’s mother and other family members and I try my best to send good thoughts their way. I feel like I’m a little more connected with them when I wear my saris. Last time B and I were with my parents, my dad half jokingly mentioned wanting to get B in a pair of overalls.

Benefit #6: Much Bigger Comfort Zones

This probably is the most valuable benefit for me. (It’s hard to choose though.) As a direct result of being in a “inter-” relationship, I am a much more comfortable person. I have become much more comfortable with myself and who I am as an individual. This is because in order to clearly communicate my wants, feelings, etc. with my partner who is very different from me, I have to really get in touch with the real core of myself. I have to also become comfortable with B’s culture and where his thoughts and feelings come from. I’m not saying that I’m perfect at it, but I’m at least much more inclined, when faced with a conflict, to try and understand where it comes from rather than feel frustrated or run from it.

Also, being in an “inter-” marriage has lovingly nudged our respective family members to increase the size of their comfort zones, in varying degrees. My family has embraced B and understands that our life as a couple is and will always be different from what my life was “pre-B”. B’s family embraced me when I was visiting them and continues to embrace me as their daughter-in-law when we talk.

Throughout our dating and so far in our marriage, we have addressed many of these differences and will likely do so forever. The different cultures we grew up in have helped make us who we are and will always be significant parts of us as individuals. We’ve matured enough in life to accept our pasts and not try and run from them or hide them.

Together, B and I have grown so so much over the last 2.5-3 years of knowing each other. I personally am very interested to see where our “inter-” life takes us.

Cheers, ya’ll!


Women Wear Suits of Armor: Part 2

Here’s Part Two of Women Wear Suits of Armor!

Quickly, here’s what I’m talking about in case you missed Part 1:

A suit of armor can be worn literally or figuratively. In this case, I am obviously talking about the figurative sense… Recently I have been thinking about women and their similarities/differences from culture to culture. I am of the opinion that women in many cultures are very very similar. I think the inner nature of women is relatively universal but the way this inner nature presents itself outwardly is what varies from house to house, city to city, state to state, country to country, etc.  Much like a vanilla flavored cake is still a vanilla flavored cake whether the frosting is red or blue, thin or thick, simple or fancy.

Example 3: Muslim Women and Hijab

This may be a controversial topic to some, but not to me. There are many different/opposing/negative views floating around the interwebs today about Islam, especially here in the US,  but I am not getting into that. The Muslim women who are my friends wear hijab because they are convicted by their beliefs to do so.  They believe in only sharing their beauty with their husbands and families instead of with the entire outside world. They believe in being modest when it comes to how much of their bodies should be shown in public.  My point about the hijab being similar to a suit of armor is that the women who wear hijab feel it protects them from outside forces, whatever they may be. A Muslim lady who wears hijab puts on her armor every day to protect herself from being ogled by random men, to protect her dignity and honor, and to boldly live her religion.

Honestly, I admire the people who choose to boldly live out their beliefs openly, no matter the religion they practice (providing they aren’t harming anyone else). Here in the “Bible Belt” where church culture seems to sometimes be more prevalent than living out real Christianity, it is becoming more and more rare to come across people who talk the talk and walk the walk to back it up. There are a tremendously large number of “Christian” people I know who say they believe in something but do not boldly live their lives as a reflection of it.

Over the last few months, I’ve been inspired to dress more modestly. I’ve been inspired by, yes, some of my Muslim women friends, and by other cultures where modesty is more important than it seems to be to girls and women here these days. I cringed many times when I saw that crop tops were coming into style again this Spring and Summer and that shorts and dresses are getting even shorter. My modesty resolution is that I am not wearing short shorts or dresses unless I’m wearing leggings underneath, I’m not wearing anything that is tight-fitting, and I am covering my shoulders and cleavage. I want to keep the attention on me and my ideas instead of my body. I’m focusing on dressing for respect instead of for attention, and I’m hoping more young girls and women here start to do the same.

Example 4: Overweight Women + New Moms and Dark, Baggy Clothes

Sorry to all overweight women (or even just women with body image issues) and new moms, I’m going to call you/us out! Those of us who are not happy with our bodies, and that is a lot of us unfortunately, like to hide our bodies in dark, baggy clothing. If you are a woman reading this, you are thinking,”Yeah, duh… Why are you telling our secrets to the world?”. If you are a man, this may be news to you!

I’m not looking to offend anyone by grouping overweight women with new moms, I’m just trying to show that both of these groups of women tend to have a high level of insecurity when it comes to body image. Overweight ladies tend to be insecure about their weight, their proportionality, and various other things that deal with appearance and health. New moms tend to be insecure about the changes in their bodies along with other things as well. The most common way of dealing with an insecurity is to hide it. Here, I’ve always been told that black is the most slimming color. I’m not sure if any other cultures have a color that magically slims you down, but women who wish to appear thinner here wear black. Apparently black is the magical, hide-all-the-bad-things-you-don’t-want-people-to-notice color. Black, baggy clothes are a great substitute for a suit of armor because they hide the flaws you don’t want your enemies to see.

I will admit that I have this slightly long black cardigan I throw on when I’m not feeling good about my stomach/hip area on any given day. It does hide that area from onlookers and makes me feel that I don’t have to worry about a stranger judging me for not having a flat tummy and slimmer hips. I’m not saying that this type of hiding inside armor is good or bad. It can be good when you need a boost in confidence and putting on your black cardigan gives that to you. It can be bad when you are so accustomed to hiding behind your black cardigan that you forget to make healthier choices for yourself.

Final Thoughts

All this about armor and insecurities just brings up more questions for me. I expected that by writing about how different women wear different suits of armor I would feel more closure of the topic, but I don’t. Usually writing about a topic helps me process my thoughts more clearly and helps me decide what parts of an idea are most important and relative to me. Writing about this topic though has made me think that maybe there will be no closure because women and people are always going to need some armor to protect themselves. One question I still have is “Is there a relationship between the amount/intensity of insecurities and the amount of armor one wears?” If a person has few insecurities, does she wear less armor? Do women who have many insecurities wear armor so often that it becomes a kind of permanent skin/second nature? Do men wear armor in the same ways that women do? I don’t know. We’ll see I guess.

Thanks for reading this two-part post! If you want to provide any answers to my remaining questions, please comment.

A Lifetime of Explanations, aka an Intercultural Marriage

Today I want to go into the topic of intercultural marriage. I prefer the term “intercultural” instead of “multicultural” in this case because I think that I represent my family culture and B represents his family culture. That equals two cultures, and I feel “inter-” makes more sense than “multi-” in this case.

I absolutely love my marriage. I could not think of a more appropriate person to be in a lifetime partnership with than my husband. But we are different from each other in a number of ways. Some of our differences include: age, skin color, fitness level, nationality, first language, enjoyment of cuddling, etc… Even with all of these differences, we have the most honest and secure relationship I could ask for.

Ok, enough with the mushiness. On to the facts:

There are plenty of pros and cons that come along with being married to a person who is from a place completely different than you. I want to just touch on what I believe to be the biggest pro and the biggest con of being in this type of relationship. I like to get the bad things out of the way first, so I’ll start with…

The Biggest Con:

Confusion. Confusion is the biggest con that directly relates to my marriage being an intercultural one. On the surface, every marriage (that I’ve seen) has its share of confusion simply because a marriage, by definition, consists of more than one person. When more than one person attempts to share a life, there will be things that come up that result in confusion.

However, in the intercultural type of marriage, I think the level of confusion is more on the fundamental level because we grew up in such different environments. When two Americans from Western North Carolina’s Small Town Friendly (shout out!) meet up and begin living a life together, they automatically have at least some ground in common. Logically speaking, the confusions that come up in their day-to-day life should (hopefully) not extend into the fundamental level of either person. They should (probably) have mostly “surface confusion”. Logically speaking, the same should be true for two Indians from a Kolkata suburb in West Bengal. In these types of marriages, there are plenty of common things that the individuals can take for granted, in a good way. These common things could make people in these types of marriages feel more secure because they feel they know their partner very well. (I am aware that this is not always the case, individual results will vary. 🙂 )

B and I however, “suffer” from “core confusions” in addition to these “surface confusions” because we have our typical married-people differences plus the fundamental differences that come from being born into two vastly different societies. These fundamental differences were bred into us and fostered over years of exposure to one specific flavor of life. These differences affect how we communicate, how we relate, and even how we love. This is where our core confusions come from.

They manifest themselves in various ways as well and can be difficult to comprehend and learn to work around. These core confusions are evident when one of us doesn’t grasp why the other reacts to something in a way that doesn’t make sense, when one of us notices something the other would never have, when one of us communicates differently than the other would prefer, and the list goes on.

I think the worst way these “core confusions” manifest themselves is when we are in the middle of a discussion/argument/heated explanation and the phrase “You just can’t understand” is uttered in an attempt to end the discussion out of tiredness or lack of motivation to continue until an understanding is reached. This type of statement inherently shifts the blame onto one person and isn’t really fair.

I believe that the failure of the one person to understand properly is simply a reflection of the other person’s failure to explain properly (again, individual results will vary…). This directly relates to what I think is

The Biggest Pro:

Self-knowledge. I know myself now better than I ever have before. This may not sound like a big deal to some people, but I believe it is one of the most important things one can do. I believe people live their daily lives with “rose-colored lenses”, especially when they look in the mirror. We like to only acknowledge the parts of our self that make sense and make us look good. We take how we grew up and make that our identity, not stopping to question why or if it is a beneficial point of view to adhere to. For example, where I grew up, children are expected to accept whatever their parents/elders say just “because I said so”. I think this works for young children up to a point. When children start to become grow into real life people, they should be encouraged to question things in the pursuit of knowledge. Young adults (and old ones, too) should know that they would benefit from being lifetime learners. And the more one can learn about oneself the better.

Being in an intercultural marriage forces me to get to know myself better so I can explain myself better. In our goal to have the most honest marriage we possibly can, this means I have to be as honest about my thoughts, feelings, and motivations as I can. This means I have to acknowledge the negative things along with the positive. I must be able to critically assess myself. This is a difficult thing to do alone, but I have the perfect person to do this with. He is honest with me about me. He does not sugar-coat things just to make me feel a temporary warm and fuzzy feeling. He is honest with me so I can have a long-term happiness.

Are people in intercultural relationships the only ones who have self-knowledge? Absolutely not. But I do think we are more apt to strive towards it earlier and more willingly because we need to explain ourselves a little more frequently than others because of our core confusions.

There are of course other pros and cons of being in an intercultural marriage. Look for more to come!