How we are raised at home tells a lot about how we act in our relationships. We grow up with certain notions about how people interact, make plans and show affection. Everyone’s background is unique, which means one is bound to come into conflict with different perceptions of what a relationship looks like — especially when you bring ethnicity into the mix.
Being Latina, I was raised in a household where reactions are passionate and plans were never made in advance. I was taught that no one came before my family because blood is thicker than anything else. After all, they will always be here for me.
This environment and the values I grew up with in a Hispanic household have made it difficult for me to see another person’s point of view in a relationship. I couldn’t see why it mattered when I changed plans last minute or wouldn’t be responsive for hours when I was with my family.
Through all the arguments and misunderstandings of intention, I was so frustrated. I wondered if there was any way I could be in a healthy relationship with someone who had such different family values from mine.
Honestly, I thought the biggest issue I’d have to overcome dating someone of a different culture would be teaching them how to dance. By the way, this is still very much a challenge. I never realized that there were deeper differences between us that would take a lot more effort to work through than just some private language lessons.
So how do we make it through? How do we work with these differences instead of working against them?
I won’t say it’ll ever be easy.
I’ve had long conversations about how I was raised and why that has caused me to have the habits that I have. We’ve shared feelings on how each other’s behaviors in relationships can be difficult for us to understand. Just because we can’t comprehend why people need a certain thing done in a specific way, doesn’t mean it’s any less valid.
It’s hard to hear that the things you picked up from your environment and home life frustrate your partner or make them uncomfortable. It might make you upset and think you did something wrong. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and their validity.
You might be tempted to change all your habits cold turkey, but this is not sustainable and will only make you hold grudges in the future.
In a relationship, compromise is essential. This is basically common knowledge, but no one ever talks about how compromise is achieved. It is most certainly not the outcome of one short conversation where everything is solved. Compromise is the result of many difficult conversations — some with tears and some just lasting hours — because the entirety of your issues will not be resolved in one conversation.
Of course, when people flaunt their happy relationships, they’re not going to mention the frustrating talks they’ve had and might still be having. But in this situation, the reward is far greater in the long run.
Relationships are a learning curve, and you shouldn’t be expected to be a perfect partner from the start. You love your partner a lot, and your effort is the most meaningful.
The people I’ve dated didn’t grow up with the on-the-fly Latino attitude, but balance is everything. Once you find it, you’re golden. This is something we will constantly be working on and that’s okay because life is better when you have a mutual understanding with the one you love.