Every Marriage is a Mixed Marriage

 

William and Kate will be a prominent mixed marriage (all that royal vs. commoner hype), so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to write about the “mix”.  I’ve worked with couples for almost 30 years.  I have treated people before they marry, early in the marriage, many years into marriage, gay couples, straight couples, people who seem wonderful together and others who made me wonder how they ever got together.  One lesson that I have learned is that every marriage is a “mixed” marriage.

 When I was a kid, the term “mixed marriage” referred to people of different religions or races getting together, the implication being that these two people would have significant differences to work out because of their obvious differences.   Well, every couple has significant differences to work out!   The advantage of people who are coming from different religions and races is that they already know this bit of wisdom and are conscious of making choices.  Differences in education and socio-economic advantages also play a huge role and people talk about that less often. Differences in upbringing is rarely talked about and yet that permeates daily life more than many other factors.  I’ll illustrate what I am talking about with a fictitious couple,  Marge and Fred.

 Marge works with her family in their accounting business.  She gets along with them pretty well and, in the evenings after work, they may continue some of their conversations by phone.  On the weekends, her family invites them to go to movies or come for dinner.  Sometimes, she and Fred go, sometimes they don’t.  Fred’s family lives in another state.  He considers himself close to them but may only talk to on the phone to his parents or brother every couple of weeks.  They e-mail often and visit twice a year and have a fine time.  Fred says that Marge is “crazy close” to her family.  Marge says that Fred is “estranged” from his.  Each likes the arrangement they have with their own family and each thinks that their partner has a very peculiar arrangement with their family of origin.

The solution wasn’t dragging Fred’s parents to Chicago more often or ditching Marge’s family.  The answer was: 

1. raising awareness of the differences in “close to family” and the implications on Fred and Marge’s marriage;

2. understanding what those differences mean today and what will happen with Fred and Marge’s chldren;

 3. encouraging compassion and tolerance for the way that each partner defined family relationships;

 4. figuring out some basic techniques that could be used to negotiate conflict and solve problems.

Disclaimer:  Again, these are not real people.  I have enough experience to create scenarios that illustrate relationship dynamics without ever compromising personal or professional confidentiality.

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