Marital/parenting troubles due to culture? - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-03-2008, 06:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My family and my DH have a long history of conflict. I think it stems from the fact that DH's family is very...anglophone (we'd say they're "blokes"). The few family members of DH that I've met seemed very stiff and difficult to get to know; I felt like I was trying to warm up some ice cubes! Also, his family is blended and never really talks about anything beyond surface issues, while my family--on both the French and the Viet side, is very involved with each other (I'm still in touch with my 20 or so cousins). His family history reads like a soap opera and he barely speaks to his sibblings...in the past he's shut them out completely of his life for many years, so he's comfortable with the idea of telling off family. I, on the other hand, am not. Family is everything to me.

My family is very...different from DH's (I'm reluctant to say that it's very "French"...it's just very passionate and involved). I'm an only child and my parents spoiled me lots when I was younger. They were also very involved in my life until I left Montreal to go live in Toronto. After that, our relationship was long distance and rather touch and go.

My father is Viet and his notion of family is very different from DH's notion. He sees no problem dropping by our place unannounced and getting involved in things DH considers very private. He thinks that one should do things for one's family, even if it's uncomfortable, because it's one's duty. My mother, though she sometimes disagrees with my father, is very French and is quite emotional about a lot of things.

Since we moved back to Montreal so I could be closer to my family (my dad recently had a heart attack), DH and I have had numerous conflicts which I think could be attributed to culture. Here are just a few:
- Respect to the elders: this is totally an Asian thing and DH *really* disagrees with it. He thinks that respect shouldn't blindly be attributed to someone just because they are older than you.
- Disciplining someone else's child: in the Viet culture, if a child misbehaves, it isn't unheard of for an older sibbling or cousin (or aunt/uncle) to step in and discipline the child. DH, being very proud of having raised DSS on his own and having passed down his own values to him, finds this inacceptable. On one of our visits to Montreal, DSS (in jest) told his father to f*** off. My father immediately reprimanded him and said that it wasn't acceptable to speak that way to one's father. DH was very insulted and told my father never to discipline his child again...ugh. My father now gets DH's parenting style and holds his tongue whenever DSS steps out of line.
- Family involvement: DH used to get really frustrated whenever my family and I would organize activities and simply include him in them. He's quite a loner and wants to be able to opt out of activities which my family and I think everyone wants to partake in! I guess we were so used to doing everything as one big happy family and we didn't think about DH's likes and dislikes. Nowadays, I pass everything by him to prevent conflict.
- Talking about something you said wouldn't be talked about: I think this is either a French thing, or it's just my family. DH likes to be able to set limits on the topics of conversation, mostly because my folks just stick their noses in everything. They mean well but it causes a lot of drama. Once my folks promised not to broach a particular subject and then they turned around and just talked about it because they felt like "they couldn't hold it in any longer". Oi...that turned into quite a disaster.

Anyhow, I was wondering if anyone else has experienced these culturally-related conflicts with their partners?
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:26 PM
 
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i'm not totally convinced that these issues are completely cultural. My dh is filipino american and I am caucasian (just so you have a point of reference). But I hear stories like this from many friends who are the same culture & ethnicity as their dh. Families just raise their kids differently and kids are all individuals.

In your case, I would say, you may think that elders don't deserve respect but need to earn it, but I had a wonderful childhood and was very cherished by my parents, so I do respect them. They have earned my respect because they were great parents to me. Dh similarly is very deferential to his parents (more than I think is necessary) but while I also don't think that EVERY parent deserves respect (some are just bad parents) I can understand that dh had a happy childhood and was cherished by his parents and that is something to respect.

About not wanting to do family activities - my dh IS the way your dh is. I think some men are just like that. : Why wouldn't he want to go to the zoo (or whatever) with everyone? But I too have learned that it is better to ask him before committing him. Definitely better if he feels like he has some say in the matter.

As for correcting the step son, that could be cultural but it could also be in part because it is a step son that your dh reacted so strongly. It is good that your dad backs off and holds his tongue now on that.

I really think that just talking about these things are good. I do have to tell dh sometimes to quit being such a turkey and he has to tell me sometimes 'no we CANNOT say that to my parents.' And I don't understand why???? really but they are his parents so I have to go with it. DH is very worried about offending his parents and I don't worry about that with mine at all. So I do see some cultural differences there (in your situation, and mine) but we just have to talk through them and he has to realize that he can't make your parents not be viet and french anymore than you can make him BE viet and french.

I don't know if I was helpful at all. Sorry!
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:28 PM
 
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Am I right in remembering that he doesn't speak french well and is having difficulties settling in? There is probably two issues here. He might be projecting his settling in issues on your family. He's probably very overwhelmed at this point and having a large open family when he comes from the opposite can be a bit of a shock.

Anyhow, as to the cultural/family issue, I think like in any relationship, boundaries are important. You guys have to have a talk about the cultural differences and involvement of families and what is okay to him and what is absolutely unbearable. Draw up a list together. He needs to give a little, but he can also take a little too. BTW, part of my mom's family is francophone, but very much will mind their own business if you ask politely. He needs to set some boundaries with you, and you need to set them with your family and enforce them. He probably feels overwhelmed and pretty outnumbered,

And then on the other side, he needs to be willing to relax a little around other things such as participating in family events or giving an elder a certain amount of respect.

As with any family, regardless of culture, there needs to be some give and take and a lot more dialogue and understanding of the issues.

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Old 03-03-2008, 08:27 PM
 
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In our case DH's family is Asian and mine is European. We happen to also have many similar issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Halfasianmomma View Post
- Respect to the elders: this is totally an Asian thing and DH *really* disagrees with it. He thinks that respect shouldn't blindly be attributed to someone just because they are older than you.
We have some similar issues going on, and I do think this is in large part cultural. I think a big part of the problem here is that the cultures define "respect" differently. Europeans also place a value on respecting elders, but it has more to do with being polite and recognizing wisdom than being obediant and placing rank.

Quote:
- Disciplining someone else's child: in the Viet culture, if a child misbehaves, it isn't unheard of for an older sibbling or cousin (or aunt/uncle) to step in and discipline the child. DH, being very proud of having raised DSS on his own and having passed down his own values to him, finds this inacceptable. On one of our visits to Montreal, DSS (in jest) told his father to f*** off. My father immediately reprimanded him and said that it wasn't acceptable to speak that way to one's father. DH was very insulted and told my father never to discipline his child again...ugh. My father now gets DH's parenting style and holds his tongue whenever DSS steps out of line.
I've seen this vary widely amongst individual families.

Quote:
- Family involvement: DH used to get really frustrated whenever my family and I would organize activities and simply include him in them. He's quite a loner and wants to be able to opt out of activities which my family and I think everyone wants to partake in! I guess we were so used to doing everything as one big happy family and we didn't think about DH's likes and dislikes. Nowadays, I pass everything by him to prevent conflict.
This one s totally about personality. My DH is also a loner and hates being roped into family stuff from either side.

Quote:
- Talking about something you said wouldn't be talked about: I think this is either a French thing, or it's just my family. DH likes to be able to set limits on the topics of conversation, mostly because my folks just stick their noses in everything. They mean well but it causes a lot of drama. Once my folks promised not to broach a particular subject and then they turned around and just talked about it because they felt like "they couldn't hold it in any longer". Oi...that turned into quite a disaster.
Both sides of our families feel they can make comments about things DH and I feel are none of there business. If your DH's family actually respects these bounderies, it is a very rare thing in any culture.



Quote:
Anyhow, I was wondering if anyone else has experienced these culturally-related conflicts with their partners?
In our family many things get blamed on culture that shouldn't be. My MIL will do something I find extremely rude and DH will say "it's b/c we're Chinese." I then point out that MIL's Chinese and Korean friends have also complained that these things are rude and she has lost many friends b/c of this, and I therefore just don't buy the culture excuse.

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Old 03-04-2008, 06:49 AM
 
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A mixed marriage is definitely a challenge at times, but I'm not sure that what you're describing is only due to cultural differences. French and Vietnamese cultures are pretty different from each other as well, so some of the things you address sound more like they're really a personal/family difference. I find my anglophone American family to be extremely warm and welcoming, for example

I guess the most important thing is dialog- I think it's perfectly ok for your husband to tell your Dad he doesn't want him to meddle with his sons' education (if I understood correctly, he's not your biological son?) if that's really a big issue for him. Ideally, the conversation wouldn't stop there I guess, but I know it isn't easy to not get too emotional in things like these.

I must admit that I can sympathize with the idea that the other culture/family is overwhelming. IN our case it isn't really my in-laws (who I really like, but don't know very well because they live on the other side of the world ), but some people of the African community where we live. I felt I had no control over what was happening (visits, phone calls, discussing my lifestyle endlessly, etc) and I was completely overwhelmed. Is it possible that your husband is feeling something similar? If that's the case, he might just need some time to figure out how he can determine a part of the relationship. When you're not used to that kind of intense interaction it's easy to feel like the others determine the whole relationship, and that your needs are being ignored completely. Maybe if your husband feels that he is more in control, and can influence his relationship to your family better, he will be more comfortable around them?

Just my thoughts, not even sure if they make sense
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Old 03-04-2008, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I definitely agree that a lot of our issues aren't exclusively cultural; some of them are simply based on personal preferences. I know my mother had to contend with a lot of frustration when she met up with my father's Viet family in the beginning of their relationship, and it took many many years for things to get smoothed over and for her to feel at ease with them. It's just that DH's reactions to things I find "natural" has made me realize how different we are culturally.

Thankfully, we've been able to talk some things through but it took quite some doing with DH being so volatile about family. Just as an example, DH has had a very serious conflict with his brother and has said numerous times that he'd kill him on sight if he ever saw him again; I personally can't imagine having such a bad relationship with a family member while DH sees no problem shutting them out of his life if ever they step out of line. I know that on the Viet side of things, it's unthinkable to abandon a family member, no matter what happens...

Anyhow, thanks for all the great input mamas. I found it very enlightening!
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:18 PM
 
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I don't know. I am sure that every family is different. When we first got married, my current husband's family on his dad's side hated me and tried to talk him into ditching me all the time. When I would visit they were very rude to me. Now, we are not in touch with any of his aunts or uncles anymore except for one, and she is very open and welcoming. His grandmother died and his grandfather has dimentia and doesn't remember how much he used to hate me. We visited this summer (I was so nervous) and he totally didn't know who I was and I was grateful because it was no fun when I was the antichrist!

On my other side my uncle tried to blockade us from my grandmother's house when she was on death's doorstep. Any which way, family can just suck.

My husband sometimes jokes with me with racial slurs. I try to be lighthearted about it. I don't think he knows how deep they can hurt. But he doesn't know, really.
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Old 03-08-2008, 03:14 PM
 
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We have had very similar problems. I think it is a combination of national culture, family culture, and personality.

We have been learning with this as with every area of marriage that we each need to give a little, be understanding, and try not to assign bad motives to the other if some family issue goes in a way that we think is wrong.
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Old 03-08-2008, 03:58 PM
 
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I don't know. DH and I definitely have parenting difference but I don't know if that's just personality or culture. For instance, I am absolutely exhausted b/c I do 99% of the parenting and 100% of night time parenting b/c if it were DH doing it he would let babes cry it out! As far as cultural things for sure there are some, but come mostly from his mother not him. Like telling me my kids would be bow legged b/c I held them on my hip! Wouldn't you knw my DD did turn out bow legged? I felt so guilty!
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