Some potential spouses face opposition from friends and family, or have to overcome stereotypes to see the good in each other and their family culture.
Once in the marriage it’s not easy either.
There are cultural challenges like food, family, language barriers, and even differences about how to rear children. These can all create difficult situations that need to be overcome as a couple.
But along with all the challenges of intercultural marriages also come innumerable blessings.
The long-term ramifications of an intercultural marriage extend far beyond the life of a couple and their children, and off into the world around them.
Here are a few of the hidden, and not so hidden, blessings and bonuses of intercultural marriages.
Happy intercultural marriages break down stereotypes
Having a happy marriage is not something hidden inside the home, it shows! When a couple has a happy intercultural marriage it can help dispel stereotypes and break down barriers.
One sister writes that having a happy marriage “is a good thing for the kids […] to see.” But it’s also something that family, friends, and the wider community can see as well.
Another sister explains, “Breaking down those negative stereotypes and showing [everyone that] two people from different backgrounds can have a genuine relationship is always nice. It has also been good for our families to open their eyes a bit and learn about different cultures and the fact we are still good respecting people.”
Multicultural traditions in the home
When two different cultures come together, they bring the best features of their cultures with them. One sister writes, “The biggest blessing is the kindness and respect my husband shows me.”
Being able to experience a spouse’s culture, and vice versa, helps them each better understand people of both cultures and how they think. One sister adds, “I’d also say that we have both benefited from certain aspects of collectivism (closer-knit families and better support systems) and individualism (respect for privacy)” coming from their respective cultures.
Intercultural marriage helps us develop our Islam
The common bond of religion in Muslim intercultural marriages is often highlighted. Most count their Muslim spouses as a blessing. These spouses make each other better Muslims every day as they tackle common everyday challenges together.
The blending of two different cultures also highlights potential problems of adding culture to Islam, and helps couples distil the real religious teachings.
One converted brother writes, “My wife was raised with Islam so was able to give the children a richer cultural experience. I think that when cultures mix it [also] helps both sides reexamine their religious practices. It forces them to see and confront the cultural additions they are bringing to the religion.”
Language exposure and learning
Growing up in an intercultural marriage often means being exposed to many diverse languages as part of the home and outside environments.
Some families may speak one or more languages at home that are different from the prevailing outside language. In these cases, both the spouses and children may reap the rewards of multilingualism.
One American convert brother shares his experience: “My wife speaks three languages fluently, but English is her main language. The children have some exposure to Urdu and Punjabi. My son is [also] learning Urdu.”
And it’s no secret that bilinguality and multilinguality can change our lives in profound ways.
Knowing a second language, or being multilingual, can give intercultural spouses and their children a competitive edge in the job market. It can also open up additional educational and career opportunities.
Salary.com notes that bilingual employees can earn 5-20% more per hour than their monolingual counterparts. This can add up to a huge retirement savings over time.
New cultural and social opportunities also open up when one is bilingual. Those who speak multiple languages fluently can fit into different social gatherings and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.
Another sister explains, “It’s very exciting that if we have children one day they will be multilingual and inherit the ‘best of both worlds.’ They will benefit from the positives of both cultures that we pass down to them, inshaAllah.”
The benefit of larger families
For some, an intercultural marriage means adding a large extended family to their smaller one. This means new relationships and more exciting opportunities to travel, host visitors, and get to know others.
“It’s fantastic for me to reconnect with my Arab heritage and make friends with people from very different backgrounds to me through my husband and his family,” one sister writes.
All in all, intercultural marriages are an amazing opportunity to learn all about another culture. It’s an opportunity to understand how our spouses and their families think and speak. It’s also a great way to learn the ways and reasons for local and cultural traditions.
Spouses in an intercultural marriage have their mind opened and expanded. It’s a blessing to then be able to pass on those reflections to others around them as they break down stereotypes and teach people to see the world through a global lens.
And let’s not forget, the mixed cuisine is a bonus too!