Marrying Someone from Your Culture Is No Guarantee of Happiness

The other night, I received a frantic message from one of my closest friends back home. “I’m getting divorced,” she typed to me in an online chat.

It was the culmination of years of troubles brewing between her and her husband. They had fought over their beliefs. She was fed up with how almost all the domestic and child-rearing responsibilities were on her shoulders, despite the fact that she too had a full-time job. She also had it with her husband, who was turning out to be another child to manage instead of a source of support. Therapy had failed to resolve a single thing.

Did I mention she and her soon-to-be-ex-husband are both white Americans, with similar cultural backgrounds?

I wasn’t surprised she filed for divorce. So many of our recent conversations had revolved around the growing rift between her and her husband. There was always a tension lurking in the background, the feeling that things were slowly unraveling between the two of them with every confession of how he just didn’t get it…and probably never would.

So much is written about the vulnerability of intercultural and international couples, that we’re supposedly more likely to divorce. While new studies suggest this just isn’t true, a lot of people still believe you’re better off marrying someone from your own culture/country.

Or rather, that marrying someone from your culture/country will guarantee happiness and stability.

My friend’s story, however, doesn’t fit that narrative.

International and intercultural marriages can be fraught with unique challenges, such as navigating cultural differences or social norms you’re unaccustomed to. But that doesn’t necessarily doom us to divorce.

If anything, I’ve discovered so many intercultural/international couples, blissfully in love, to know the truth of the matter. That love can happen anywhere in the world, across borders and cultures. And that happiness – and a happily ever after – is always possible, no matter who you marry.

15 Replies to “Marrying Someone from Your Culture Is No Guarantee of Happiness”

  1. So true, considering divorce rates in the U.S. are among the highest in the world….And in second place, I think, is South Korea….Incidentally, I do recall a cover piece in Time magazine from years ago, noting the rising divorce rates in Asia….I’m not surprised, at all, because oftentimes, I find cultures have their own particular characteristics that are not conducive to relationship stability….I think, for example, of Korea and Japan’s drinking culture….It’s pretty bad in the Philippines, as well, and over there, as in other places, marital infidelity among men is widely tolerated, sometimes even encouraged…..Ultimately, the long-term prospects will largely depend on the presence of character/personality traits that are compatible with relationship success…..

      1. You’re welcome, Jocelyn. I find that while there is also a tendency by some to ignore the fact that while individuals might be identified by a particular culture (e.g. nationality, race, ethnicity, etc.), we should not necessarily expect them to conform or be defined by associated thoughts and behaviors.

  2. Married within my own culture the first time around. He cheated on me with a girl young enough to be our daughter when he was in his 50s after more than 20 years of marriage. Married a wonderful Shanghaiese man the second time around and am totally happy.

  3. Interracial marriages can be some of the most secure and solid marriages, with both partners truly being in love. Not really sure of why but sometimes difference is what really bonds people together, whether it be skin color or whatever.

    I know one other Chinese man in my area who is married to a girl from the Dominican Republic and they are in the truest sense, soul mates. He says that if he ever have to sacrifice his life for her, he would do it in a heartbeat. The reason why I know him is because he is a lot like me. Gun owner, shooter, hunter, motorcyclist and NASCAR fanatic. We actually met at the same outdoor shooting range and I saw him sighting in a massive 4-bore English sporting rifle. His wife on the other hand, not only is she different from him ethnically, but she is a bleeding-heart city girl who does not even like to be outside after dark. Yet, they fell in love and they are the happiest together.

    And here within this blog circle, we have Ranier and Olivia, and also Logan Lo and Allison McCarthy. Both are spectacular examples of how love transcends ethnic and cultural barriers (if there are any to begin with, because in these two examples, the partners seem to be made for each other).

    Me personally, I think that love is not affected by any ethnic or cultural differences. The definition of love is how far someone is willing to go to make a relationship work. People who have will and determination can achieve great things.

  4. Too many people marry because of color and not because of culture. Rep Mark Sanford cheated on his wife after nearly twenty five years when he was the governor of South Carolina here in the US. He is a Baptist and she is a Roman Catholic. They came from different cultures, literally. Southern Baptists never considered Catholics as Christian. The only thing Governor Sanford and his ex-wife had in common was the color of their skin and the shape of their eyes and nose. Actually Sanford may have had more in common with a Chinese Baptist in his church. But, such marriages were a strong NO in the US South and in many cases it still is! Most white (and black) Americans especially outside the west coast, choose their mates based on skin color, and more so white women than white men.

  5. Strangely enough, I find myself often wondering if my marriage is strong because of the dual culture. Of course, that is just one factor, but my husband and I have an unusual blend of culture that works very well for us. We don’t have to fit one norm. We have two cultures to choose from to truly customize our marriage to who we are as a couple. After talking so so much about American versus Chinese culture, I can’t imagine myself in a solid marriage with a man from my country of birth. In painful truth, Kong and I both bear the scars of failed relationships within our cultures. Many of my core values that result from myself and not my environment simply don’t fit the majority of men in my culture. I have felt unusual or strange many different occasions when expressing my marital ideas to other Americans. My hu also felt misunderstood when he didn’t feel like the characteristics he wanted in a marriage were met by the majority of Chinese women. It’s not about which culture is right or wrong, it is about who we are and what we want from a marriage. We are fortunate that we found each other. I have never and know I never will meet someone as like minded as me as my husband who grew up across the world in a different type of life all together. We are a rare happiness and I never forget that. Kong knows me with a purity no one else ever will. He knows me exactly as I am, without cultural borders to influence. Kong and Julie are truly Kong and Julie. No outside influences or cultural expectations, just two people who find that they are truly each other’s favorites.

  6. marriages don’t fail because they are between people of the same culture or different cultures.
    primary causes for failure include the following:
    poor communication, lack of emotional intimacy, selfishness, leading separate lives, marrying for the wrong reasons (parental pressure), I could go on.

    If you and your partner don’t work every day on your marriage, it is going to fail, quickly or slowly.

    It doesn’t matter if you are from different cultures or the same culture, work from both partners has to go into it.

  7. Marriage is hard work, period. I haven’t had any negative comments, but my husband certainly has. He’s Chinese and in the military, and has been an American citizen for years. We know we can get through issues together because of our personalities and values. It’s sad that some people can’t see past race and it makes me angry that other military men question my husband’s citizenship and ability to assimilate to American culture. We won’t let ignorant or hateful people affect our relationship.

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