Broaden Your Horizons: Why You Shouldn't Allow Cultural Restraints To Affect Your Relationships

by Safeera Sarjoo

Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, “Nothing in this world was more difficult than love," and boy, was he right.

Relationships go through all types of turbulence. You'd be surprised at the curveballs life throws. However, the one thing that our generation should be free from is having to cope with cultural discrimination just because our backgrounds differ from the person we're in a relationship with.

Even though this may sound more like obstacles our parents and grandparents had to face, shockingly enough, these archaic notions are still very much alive today within certain communities. As a result of this, cultural differences are a significant reason why some relationships don't ever get the chance to fully blossom.

The Pew Research Center previously released a report in 2012 which revealed that interracial marriages were on the rise, with one in 12 married couples in the US being interracial.

Even since anti-miscegenation laws were lifted in the US in 1967, there is still a reluctance within South Asian communities to embrace the idea of marrying someone outside of their cultural norms. As misplaced as these ideals are in society today, this kind of intolerance doesn't just stop at different religions or skin tones. Interethnic discrimination has taken this kind of treatment to a whole new level.

As you can imagine, it's a very hush-hush topic, with very few wishing to speak up about the unfair treatment and judgmental opinions that ultimately drive happy couples apart. Furthermore, for some, sharing the same religion and ethnicity isn't enough to make older generations content. If you don't hail from the same country as your partner and his or her family, this may not bode well for your relationship.

The sad reality is that these narrow-minded beliefs are instilled in generation after generation, despite evolving times. A huge failure on our part is the fear of questioning these notions and trying to understand where they stem from in order to combat them.

A reluctance to talk about issues and at the same time, change mindsets, is largely due to a sense of shame or "sharam" within a community where everyone knows each other and of course, where everyone hails from the same country.

In order to avoid drawing criticism from that social circle, anything that is deemed unacceptable within that particular society is strongly discouraged by a child's elders. This can range from lifestyle choices, to job selection to of course, choosing who you get married to.

A 2010 report carried out by Time to Change partner Rethink Mental Illness explains how South Asian communities often hide or suppress mental health issues. It explains that "part of the reason for this is the need to preserve the family’s reputation and status at all costs -- indeed, one group argued that all problems tended to be hidden, not just evidence of mental health problems."

Most members of older generations fear the loss of culture and tradition through interracial marriages. There are even people who believe that some cultures and nationalities have a certain inferiority to others, which forms a very clouded opinion. As a result, a perfectly decent and good-natured person is likely to be overlooked.

So how do we go about changing these beliefs? Easy. We educate ourselves on how enriching an interracial and/or interethnic relationship can be, and we have the courage to step out of that community bubble and set the tone and pace of our own lives.

Being fearful of making choices we see fit for ourselves prevents us from growing and using our own judgment. Essentially, that community bubble we are apart of dictates how our lives should be lived. It shouldn't be this way.

For years there have been obstacles that segregated people by gender and race. If it takes one person in your family history to alter the course of your lineage based on the courage to step into the unknown, what's stopping you from standing up and venturing towards a future you know is possible?

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