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Being open-minded after I do – A discussion and tips on the blending of an intercultural relationship

blogIn six months, I will be getting married and one of the Pastor’s requirements was to meet with him and discuss how we plan to handle certain topics such as money, parenting, and marital expectations. The meeting was fairly easy as my fiancé and I share similar views and values on most of the topics covered. The other day at school, I was speaking to a friend who is also getting married around the same time as me, to a man from a completely different religious background. My friend is Catholic and her fiancé is Hindu. She will be blending two different religions into one household; I couldn’t help but think to myself how challenging that must be for a couple. Religion is one of those dinner party topics you are supposed to avoid because of the conflicts that often arise when they are discussed. However, a couple that is about to get married does not have the luxury of avoiding such topics. I began to research the challenges intercultural marriages face, and the majority of the information I found discussed the ability to learn, understand, accept, and adjust to one another’s cultures.

In an article found on Marriage Missions International, initially written in Steve and Mary Prokopchak’s book, Called Together, they first caution intercultural couples to “Know each other’s culture.” Intercultural couples must have an understanding of one another’s culture, beliefs and values, as these are part of what makes up a person’s identity. A lack of understanding has the potential to raise fierce conflicts later on in marriage.

Herbert G. Lingren, an Extension Family Life Specialist, warns a value conflict may occur if, “two people have different attitudes, beliefs, and expectations. These differences may interfere in making decisions if we are inflexible and hold rigid, dogmatic beliefs about the ‘right way’ to do things.” Communicating, understanding, keeping an open mind, and respecting one another’s beliefs and customs can alleviate a lot of the disagreements an intercultural couple faces.

In an article originally published in the Washington Post, Rebecca R. Kahlenberg, a freelance writer, suggests “Negotiate and renegotiate dicey issues. Ideally, the time to discuss and make agreements about intercultural topics is before the wedding. What are each of your commitment levels to your culture?” Prior to getting married it is imperative that an intercultural couple discusses in detail what cultural expectations each has and how they will address differences as they arise.

Lastly, Steve and Mary Prokopchak encourage “Accepting and appreciating as many of the differences as you can will serve to enhance the marriage relationship. This experience is not to be viewed as all negative. The differences are something to embrace and value in one another.” While the blending of two different cultures may seem challenging at times, the positive outweighs the negative when looking at the big picture. An intercultural couple learns to be more open-minded and tolerant towards other people’s values and beliefs. If the couple then chooses to have kids, their kids will also grow to be more tolerant and open minded, which in today’s society is absolutely needed to make the world a better place.

My aforementioned friend said that despite the challenges she and her fiancé have and will face, she has come to love and appreciate Hindu customs. She said she looks most forward to kids and sharing with them all of the wonderful elements that both religions have to offer.

 

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Church Turbulence – Resolving Conflict with Communication, Conversation and Community

church-split-5Conflicts are a substantial part of everyone’s life. Whether you are driving to work or walking your dog, conflict can be sparked by any simple situation. Not only is conflict unavoidable, but it also has no barriers. It is present in small group meetings and even in large classrooms. From town hall meetings to church communities, conflict remains a key characteristic of human interaction. However, one might wonder how it could even be possible for conflicts to arise in a peaceful setting such as a church. Disagreements and misunderstandings are realistic possibilities for potential conflicts in church communities. Differences about religious strictness and practices, as well as other secular disputes between members are common conflicts in the church as well. Variances in beliefs as well as the willingness to modify views also create many disagreements.

This week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program featured Joey Cope, the Executive Director of the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution. Their website provides resources for resolving conflicts in the church. One page, Resolving Church Conflicts, provided by the Center, states that in order to be successful in resolving church related conflicts, one “must seek a commitment to peace — for you personally, for your church leaders, and eventually for your entire church membership”. Their strategies for peace-making rely on what they call “the 3 C’s”.

The first strategy is Communication. The article stresses the importance of actively dealing with conflicts in the church rather than avoiding them. Communication is a key aspect when attempting to reach a resolution between parties. The second strategy draws upon communication, and takes it a step further. Conversation is an enrichment of communication and deals more directly with interpersonal exchanges of ideas between parties. Conversation allows individuals to establish basic relationships, while building the skills necessary to express their perspectives. The final strategy deals with the importance of Community. Possibly the most important aspect of “the 3 C’s”, a committed community is essential for conflict resolution to take place. Additionally, it is important for church leaders to be dedicated to their beliefs. This devotion to the church makes getting to a resolution more significant and conceivable. The article stresses the importance of community by stating that “if we have no commitment to community, we will never see peace in our churches.”

Churches and church communities might be hesitant to seek a neutral third party to help resolve disputes because of the belief that conflicts should not occur in the first place. According to Joey Cope, “Peace is not the absence of conflict.” Conflicts do arise in a peaceful environment and can be resolved through religious principles and practice. Realistically, some conflicts in the church will require a third party neutral to facilitate conversations in order to find a mutual resolution. Check out another previous radio program, Mediating with True Believers, to learn more about how church members use neutral mediators and how religious communities respond to conflict, in general.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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