One Love, Two Cultures: Making It Work

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One Love, Two Cultures: Making It Work
Cross-cultural love is easy to start but harder to maintain.

My unhappiness took the shape of an endless litany of small complaints—the showers were lousy, the television was a joke, the clothes all looked the same, the trains didn’t run late enough, you couldn’t get a good cup of coffee (or burger, or burrito, or spicy tuna handroll) anywhere.

But couples that can weather so many practical obstacles together often emerge with unshakeable lifelong bonds.

Take Laura Yasso, 32, and her husband, Fernando Ballester, 34. The couple met during Yasso’s college year abroad in Valencia, Spain; when she couldn’t find work there after graduation, he joined her in New York City. She supported both of them while he job-hunted … for six years.

“It put a strain on our relationship,” Yasso says. “We had to live with my family at first, because we couldn’t aff ord our own place on one income. I couldn’t switch jobs or pursue a lot of my own personal goals because I always had to make sure I had steady employment. I was the sole breadwinner, and then I would come home and have to do all the housework. I was living with someone who didn’t know how to do the laundry or make the bed.”

Ballester—now gainfully employed—wasn’t fazed by having to depend on his wife and her family. Yasso believes this is because Spain is more accepting of adults who are financially supported by their families. “I think a different man wouldn’t have been able to do it,” she says. “I’ve always supported myself, and when I couldn’t earn a living in Spain, I had to leave because I just couldn’t deal with that. But Fernando doesn’t have that machismo about money. He knew our relationship was the most important thing.”

Compromise is a part of every relationship, but it’s absolutely essential in a cross-cultural dynamic. “You have to be openminded, and be prepared to give a little all the time,” says Autumn Bangoura, 33, a French teacher who lives in Burlington, VT. She and her husband, Ismael, 32, a traditional drum instructor from West Africa, were raised with very diff erent notions about the division of labor in a marriage, especially when it comes to caring for their two children, Khadija, 7, and Gracie, 2.

“I’m a feminist at heart, and I always had this sort of white picket fence vision of a husband who does everything with the babies and isn’t grossed out by a changing a diaper,” Bangoura says.

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