“You’re always told that marriage, as much as it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t easy; and for a multicultural couple, it couldn’t be truer. I’ve always had a special affinity with Spain: a country where I spent so many teenage summers learning the language, falling in love and making friends. It felt completely natural when I met my husband there and lo and behold, 6 months after our first date, he was living in London.
Our relationship evolved at a steady pace, but as we became stronger and his career blossomed, we noticed behaviours alter towards us. I was often blamed for ‘changing’ him and manipulating him into becoming someone he was not.
They lamented the person they thought they knew and instead of celebrating his success and growth, used guilt and hurtful behaviour to try and bring him down. This was our first (rather surprising) taste of differences in our families and circle of friends. I am by no means generalising here: many people in my husband’s life welcomed me with so much warmth and love, and to them I am forever grateful. Sadly though, it was very hard for their love to outweigh the adversity that came from his southern, conservative circle.
Wedding preparations only amplified the issues we were facing. As opposed to my husband, I grew up in a very liberal, independent and unconventional household, where we chose the people we wanted around us, whether they were blood relations or not. But for him, if you were related, that was the most important, even if you didn’t like each other as people.
Unfortunately, this meant that his kind, dutiful nature was often taken advantage of and I would lambast him for it. The silver lining is that we learned a lot during this process, not just about others but about ourselves, both individually and as a couple. In the end, we chose to have two weddings to avoid any kind of argument: a 260 person black-tie affair in Seville and a romantic 60 person event on the Atlantic coast of France. There was still conflict however, mostly around our refusal to get married in a church, but also around dress code, guest list, you name it.
This obviously caused a lot of pain, inflicted by people who didn’t understand or even want to respect our wishes: we even got told that to them, our marriage was invalid and wrong as we weren’t married in front of God and in the way that they were used to doing things.
Despite all of this, we still managed to have the two most magical weddings and I’m so thankful for that. It was a tough process at times, but at the end of the day, we learned a great deal about people and still managed to make our dream happen. It’s definitely far from easy, but it’s worth every challenge.
What I Learned from our Experience
Difference in culture does not mean a difference in values
Despite being culturally different, you and your partner still share the same fundamental values and morals. If you’re having difficulty with your partner’s family, remember this and do your best to find even the smallest piece of common ground.
Be patient and compassionate
I know, it’s hard. It’s your big day and things should go how you want, with no fight. However, you will face issues, so be patient with your family-in-law.
Also, don’t forget to be kind to your partner: they’re probably suffering even more than you are. Things have a way of working themselves out over time, so be as proactive as you can and don’t panic.
Listen and explain
Nothing good comes from a refusal to listen. Make sure to not just hear what your partner’s family is saying but listen intently and see if you can draw anything from that that you can agree on.
You shouldn’t have to explain yourself at all, and it’s especially disheartening when you feel that you’re banging your head against a brick wall, but always be kind and at least you’ll know you’ve tried.
Make concessions but don’t lose yourself
Compromise! The word most associated to marriage. It’s hard, but you may need to make certain concessions throughout the process. As long as they don’t contradict your values or absolute must-haves, just think: would you rather be happy, or would you rather be right? Pick your battles and save your energy for the ones really worth fighting.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process and your big day
Despite the challenges, make sure to enjoy your wedding! It passes in the blink of an eye and you and your partner need to take it all in together. Don’t fall into the trap of tending to everyone and playing host: you’ll miss one of the biggest days of your life.