Helping couples fight better is the #1 thing I work on during my therapy sessions.
Helping couples understand how their culture shows up in their relationship is the second.
Culture plays such a HUGE role in our relationship.
It plays out more than you can imagine.
Let me tell you how.
Culture shapes our beliefs - which make up the majority of thoughts that play out on repeat over and over in our head.
Culture affects whether we choose to raise our kids with an authoritative approach or a more permissive, flexible style.
Culture influences whether we are encouraged to marry within our own race or given the freedom to expand beyond it.
Culture impacts our communication style - whether we value direct, blunt expression or a more sideways, soft approach.
Culture can be arrogant and self-serving.
Culture can also be warm and embracing.
Usually, it is both.
So what can you do to start taking steps to know how your own culture affects you and your intimate relationships?
1-Take a lengthy amount of time and explore the ways in which your own culture shapes the different areas of your life.
And is NOT a bad thing.
And when they do, it just means that you get to discover some cultural part of you that may actually WANT to enter the relationship.
Or you may discover a part that is asking to be let go.
One that is no longer aligned with your deepest truth.
Your own exploration will help you become more compassionate and understanding of why your partner is so fixed on doing things the way they do - even when it is blatantly obvious to YOU that it doesn't serve them.
It will make it easier to bridge conflict when you have spent time reflecting when your brain is in a CALM state.
I am not saying to give up who you are - even though letting go of certain cultural beliefs go can feel quite painful at first.
Rather, I am inviting you to NOT take on beliefs that are not truly yours.
The ones that your life experience has shown can do more harm than good for you and your intimate relationships.
Be patient if you choose the latter, as it is not easy to walk away from a belief that has been a large part of your upbringing.
I am Armenian.
My culture has played a MASSIVE role in my upbringing and it affects the choices I make every single day.
I LOVE the parts of my culture that are so inviting and warm towards strangers in ways that make me feel so proud to be Armenian.
I LOVE the parts of my culture that celebrate the most mundane parts of life in the most loud and exuberant ways.
I LOVE the insane compassion that my culture can bring towards another human being in pain because of experiencing massive genocide.
I DON’T love the parts that don’t encourage marriage outside the culture.
I DON’T love the parts that are afraid to discuss sexuality because of the deep shame it is associated with (*even while I have compassion for it because I know why sexuality had to be repressed in any public discussion for safety reasons).
I DON’T love the parts that have rigid roles for men and women (*even though I have compassion for it knowing that they were created to rebuild a stable household in the most painful time in Armenian history).
There are always two sides to explore.
You have your versions of these.
It is such a beautiful journey to discover the many layers and layers of your unique culture.
Do not be afraid.
Keep your compassion nearby at all times in your exploration.
2-When we work on defining cultural boundaries - we ALL have an obligation to do our own work no matter what religion or culture we grew up in.
It takes deep courage to cultivate and choose unique and personal boundaries that work for us as individuals.
And it requires us to reshape them during every single STAGE OF OUR LIVES - so that we don’t get stuck playing out someone else’s life.
This is the way we can stay compassionate about it as we actively choose a new experience.
This is the way we can soften our judgments about opposing ideals.
This is the way we can challenge our righteousness in areas we may feel our culture is the better version.
I want you to imagine one part of your culture that you secretly don’t like.
Just for a moment.
I want you to bring it to the front of your mind.
Just notice that even without having actively CHOSEN this particular thing…can you identify how it plays out in your life…even in the tiniest way?
Maybe it’s that your culture believes that its not polite to ask for help from others.
Maybe it’s that your culture believes in only dating inside of your own culture.
Whatever your version is, just notice how it plays out for you in your mind.
Now write it down wherever you can.
You don’t have to do anything else with it for now…just allow the awareness to be enough for right now.
That in itself will help you be more aware of it in your day to day actions when it starts to show up for you.
And when it does.
It’s an opportunity for you to honor the presence and role of that particular cultural patterns.
And guess what that does?
You got it.
It helps you embrace more of the ones your partner brings to the table - that you secretly, but not so secretly dislike.
3-Here are 3 questions to help you begin the journey of exploring your own beautiful cultural map (*along with some examples and suggestions)
A: What are some boundaries that you can to create around your own cultural conditioning to serve your intimate relationship?
Perhaps it's taking some time alone every few months to explore what disagreements or inner conflicts keep coming up for you.
Perhaps it's befriending new people outside of your culture to expand your perspectives.
SUGGESTION: Having a conversation with a family member and asking them which part of their culture they consciously chose to maintain in their life (This can be with a mother, a father, a godparent)
B: What part/s of your culture truly serves you and your intimate relationship?
Perhaps, this is something you feel inspired by that you KNOW brings you a deep sense of joy.
Perhaps it's a weekly ritual that keeps you connected to your family.
SUGGESTION: Once you have clarified this one, it is SO important that you communicate these to your partner - these ones are crucial for YOU to prioritize in your relationship.
C: What part/s of your culture needs some re-shaping in order to make it work better for you in your life?
Perhaps it is a part of your own culture that you love, but can be less judgmental towards another's beliefs in the same area.
*What is one small way you can begin practicing this to support you in finding your balance?
SUGGESTIONS: Meditating - Journaling - Prayer
P.S. If you don’t identify with one specific culture, that's okay. You can choose the cultural environment that most impacted you growing up.
For example, you may resonate more with a particular religion, or you may have had 2 dominant cultures present growing up.
Whatever your version is, you can apply the questions to reflect what you identify most within the context of culture.