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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The "Mixed" Marriage Survey Results

Photo by Mr. Mike TZ

I asked my social media friends who are married to someone from a different ethnic group—not necessarily a different skin tone—to answer ten questions. Forty-four people answered this survey A huge THANK YOU to all of my participants!

First, we’ll share the questions and responses, and then, we’ll analyze the results. Are you ready?

Q Is your spouse from: (Check all that are true for you.)

A A different ethnic group  73%
    Another home country  89%
    A different language or cultural tradition  82%
    The same country  5%

Q Does your spouse have a different skin tone from you?

A Yes.  80%
    No.  20%

Q Before you married, did you experience any opposition from your families?

A Yes.  39%
    No.  61%

Q Does your family support your marriage now?

A Yes.  91%
    No.  9%

Q Do people who don’t know you look at you funny or think you’re an odd couple?

A Yes.  16%
    No.  55%
    Only sometimes.  29%

Q What was your most difficult adjustment in marriage? (Check all that apply.)

A Cultural  72%
    Language difference—communication  33%
    Values  31%
    Opposition from family and others  18%

Q Honestly, do you think you as a couple had more to deal with in marriage than other couples? (If so, you may explain in the “Comments.")

A Yes.  11%
    No, not more than anyone else.  27%

“We have had to overcome different ways of thinking and cultural values. We were raised very differently.”

 “A differing imprint during childhood makes it harder to understand and appreciate some of the differences and hard or nearly impossible to overcome.”

“Expectations from both sides. He thought that I should adjust quicker to his country. I thought he should be more understanding. He had studied in college in my home country. I had never even visited his country, and we moved there two weeks after marriage. After a couple of years, he came to appreciate the sacrifices that I had made to move to his country: climate, languages, food, family, etc. He came to realize that it is easier to go from less to more than to go from more to less, and he began to appreciate how much I adjusted to his culture. Now, more than thirty years later, we are rarely out of sync.”

“We were dating long distance for several years. After marriage, many of the traits you learn about someone you date in person, we found out in the first few months of marriage. I had to pray hard during the first few months. Oh, and his parents were asking every single day if we are pregnant!”

“Yes, because we have to deal with different cultural expectations, and I am not living in my home country. The main difficulties are from the cultural expectations of the community, though.”

“Language and cultural barriers are a huge deal. We are still overcoming them after several years of marriage. Your native culture shapes who you are and how you think, and if it's a different culture than how your spouse grew up, you need to be able to talk about the differences and similarities. If it's difficult for you to express those things due to a language barrier, it can cause problems and create an environment of frustration because of misunderstandings. Also, when it comes to parenting, two cultures can clash quickly if you don't talk about what you'll do in a certain situation before the situation arises. There are just certain things the West handles differently than the East and I feel like it's important for us as a cross-cultural couple to create a ‘third culture’ in our home—one that works for our unique family.”

“Only to some extent. Culture does play a role, but we are very different personalities, so that can be an issue even with a spouse from your own culture.”

“Yes, we were brought up so differently. We had to find our own way in terms of parenting and finding our role as a husband and wife.”

“Yes, starting from speaking to each other in our second language to dealing with so many cultural differences, which we don't realize until they actually happen.”

“Even though we are both fluent in English as our first language, our cultural ways of communicating and resolving conflict are very different.”

“Yes! Having his family in a different country and having to travel many hours by plane to get there is a lot. Not having them with us is the most difficult. Culture for his father, who is now in our country, is very difficult, and this makes it difficult for us as well. Taking care of his needs has been a struggle. He thinks differently, and therefore, it is challenging. These types of things can be very hard, but we trust fully on the Lord to guide us.”

“I feel we faced a lot of things before we were married, so that has made our marriage stronger than many between those of the same race/ethnic background.”

“I think it's more of the culture rather than the skin color. Many people of the same skin color have different upbringings. My husband and I may have different skin colors, but we were both raised in good, solid Christian homes, so we had many similarities. Our parents and pastor looked at the character and work ethic of the potential spouse rather than the color of his/her skin. Why should a brown-skinned Mexican marrying a white-skinned American looked at as "not okay" but a white-skinned Norwegian and white-skinned American looked at as "okay." Don't both examples have a mix of cultures?”

“I was raised in the same culture and language as my husband because I was a MK (missionary kid) here, so our adjustment was not as difficult.”

“We had a good premarital counsel and we were prepared for differences, so we were ready and able to work through them.”

“All marriages have issues that need to be worked through, but coming at marriage from two different cultures definitely added to the mix!”

“I am from one ethnic group, and my husband is from another ethnicity. Even though his family has lived in the U. S. for a couple of generations and his parents were saved during his childhood, they retained much of their culture and mindset. The expectations on us, from extended family involvement to food tastes to the definition of honoring your parents came from drastically different mindsets. I do think it posed extra hurdles, and it surprised us, since we hadn't realized how diverse our cultures had really been. We grew up in the same town and church. But, those differences and the skills we learning navigating them have served us well in the life calling God has given us.”

“Different traditions and upbringings mean different ways to view and analyze every situation in life. It is difficult to understand why one of us reacts a certain way to specific situations without understanding the cultural background behind the reaction and how culture influences our lives in drastically different ways.”

“I think the language barrier between my spouse and parents has been an added difficulty in our marriage. While both parties appreciate each other, they have not been able to bond and grow a relationship. I still have to interpret and the conversation feels impersonal and lacks flow. There are lots of awkward silence moments or the opposite. Sometimes I can barely finish translating because they have thought of the next thing to say, which is stressful for me as the interpreter.”

“It's a mixed bag really. We're were both saved and serving in the same denomination of churches before we met, so we had a lot in common where it was most important. We do have to deal with extended family being spread around the world. Language at family gatherings can be an issue.”

“Yes, as I went to live in his country and had to learn the language and customs of his country. Through the years we have learned to give and take, so that both of our languages, cultures, and customs can be entertained.”

Q Do you think the Bible indicates that people from different ethnic groups and skin tones may marry each other? If so, can you give any examples?

A Yes.  39%
    No.  9%
    Examples from the Bible:
Ruth and Boaz: 9 participants mentioned them.
Moses and his Ethiopian wife: 9 mentions
Rahab and her husband: 2 mentions
Esther and Xerxes: 1 mention
Joseph and Asenath: 1 mention

“I believe that as long as both parties are believers and aren't unequally yoked, then marrying into a different ethnic group is not wrong. The main thing is that both man and woman need to be believers.”

 “We are all the same ‘kind.’ God created Adam and Eve, and they were to multiply in the earth. Then, at the tower of Babel, He separated the people and that's when we got different languages. The skin tones/features are a result of the DNA and world climates, etc.”

“God defended Moses and his wife. We are all of ‘one blood.’”

“In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul exhorts believers to only marry believers. The line for God is a religious line, not a racial line. In Galatians 3 and Colossians 3, Paul establishes the equality of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or social background, since we are all under Christ. The Old Testament prohibitions for the Israelites (like Deuteronomy 7:1-6) are prohibitions against intermarrying between religions/faith, so skin tone is not the issue. Moses’ wife was another race than he, and Aaron and Miriam were punished by God for criticizing it (Numbers 12). The whole story of Ruth exemplifies a foreigner marrying into a Jewish family. (In fact, she is a part of Christ's lineage.) James 2:1-10 indicates that there is no place for favoritism or judgment based on race in the life of a Christian.”

“God said to people to go and multiply, and we are all coming from the same federal head, Adam. And then God said cover the earth, which has lead to all the differences.”

“In Scripture, it's never about different ethnicity in and of itself being a problem, but about the other beliefs, idols, and religions from foreign nations competing with God and turning hearts away from Him.”

“I believe that as saved we are one in Christ, regardless of skin color or cultural difference.”

“An intercultural marriage may have more need for flexibility and communication over ‘little things,’ but if both are children of God, there's a precedent for it being acceptable to God.”

“The human race is one race. Ruth married Boaz who was not from her country. Rahab married into the lineage of king David, but she was from Jericho. Who knows what the descendants of Noah looked like, but they married each other and had children.”

Q How has your marriage enriched your life? (Check all that apply.)

A I have learned about my partner’s way of thinking.  80%
    I have learned to accept everyone as equals.  43%
    I love my partner’s culture and feel that the blend of cultures is positive.  73%
    I love my spouse, and my spouse loves me. It’s wonderful!  82%
    Food! I’ve learned to prepare/enjoy my spouse’s favorites.  68%
    Travel. We’ve visited both countries together.  64%
    Our children appreciate their roots.  48%

Q If you have children, have you found it necessary to explain your multi-ethnic marriage to them?

A Yes.  22%
    No.  78%

This is very interesting, isn’t it! Let’s sum up what we’ve learned from our participants. Remember, they’re all married to someone who’s not from the same ethnicity.
  • No one thinks it’s wrong to marry someone out of his ethnic group.
  • Four participants think it’s against the Bible to marry someone with a different skin tone.
  • The Bible says all men are equals, and it’s important to marry within the same faith—that believers should only marry believers.
  • Everyone seems to agree that marriage takes giving, taking, and an effort to communicate clearly.
  • It seems that cultural and language differences are the biggest hurdles couples had to overcome.
  • It’s interesting that those who’ve been married many years indicate they’ve overcome the barriers, and they actually embrace their differences.

So, what does the Bible say on this subject? Are my guests right, or are they a little bit softer on this subject, since they’re inter-ethnically married themselves?

As my participants said, God blesses the institution of marriage. He defended Moses’ marriage to a black woman from Ethiopia (Numbers 12:1-9) and all other marriages between believers. There are many inter-ethnic marriages in the Bible, including those mentioned by my guests. Some additional ones are: Solomon and the Shulamite (Song of Solomon 1:5-6 describes her as black.); Timothy, whose father was Greek and mother was a Jewish believer; and I’m probably missing someone. (If so, please feel free to comment and enlighten me!) God never seems to take into account any difference in skin color. As the participants said, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. By Noah’s time, his three sons might have had different skin tones—Ham means “dark” and Japheth means “fair”—and there are more variations today. The Bible says:
  • But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). 
  • For there is no respect of persons with God (Romans 2:11). 
  • But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors (James 2:9).

God’s Word says that marriage should only be for couples of the same faith. 
  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39).

Any good marriage requires teamwork. Spouses must make sure they’re communicating. When they don’t understand each other, they need to talk it out and ensure they’re on the same page. Then, they make decisions based on working together and compromise. This goes for any marriage, especially where spouses are from different cultures and backgrounds.
  • Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection (literally: “yielding”) to your own husbands . . . Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1, 3-5).
  • Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

There are also complications for children, when they are “mixed race.” (I personally believe in one race, the human race, though there are obvious differences in skin tone.) The challenges are real, and sadly, society doesn’t always judge people the way God does. I believe the key is for parents to be aware, explain when appropriate, and protect if needed. Unfortunately, many people only see skin color and prejudge others by color only. I asked a mother of a “mixed race” child what they had experienced with their child, and they have witnessed a difference in treatment and expectations. Another mom with darker-skinned children withdrew her children from school and decided to homeschool them, because the black kids were literally left behind scholastically. It’s important to have the necessary conversations with our children, school personnel, and sports coaches. Make sure you look out for your children!

Even back in the old days when I was a student, I never filled in the “race” boxes on standardized tests. I felt strongly that it was no one’s business what color my skin was. (It’s freckled, by the way, and my ancestors came from several diverse ethnic groups.) I was always tempted to check “other” and say something like green or purple . . . or Martian!

My husband is from a Northern, German family, and I’m from the South. Both of our children married spouses from a different country. Our kids grew up in Spain, and our daughter married a baseball playing American. Our son’s wife is a wonderful Mexican girl. I understand cross-cultural adjustments and the process of figuring out what we’re really saying to each other. It takes an open mind and a willing heart. It helps that we love our spouse!

Jesus explained marriage this way:

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:4-5).



Please share your thoughts.