21 May is World Day of Cultural Diversity and to commemorate that, let’s look at the role cultural diversity plays in our relationships, families and communities especially when going through separation and divorce.
Diversity is a great thing. It enriches our relationships and widens our horizons. Opposites attract and it’s super exciting to get to know a new person with a different culture than our own. What is more romantic than being swept off your feet by someone from a faraway place and hearing sweet nothings whispered in your ears in a foreign language?
So we fall in love and decide to spend the rest of our lives together. At this stage, most of the cultural differences between us are adorable and even sexy but as time goes by and we start a family, those differences could turn into challenges. The expectations we have of each other are no longer easily met and our individual ways of doing things become an irritation.
In the unfortunate event that we end up in a divorce, the diversity in our cultures might very well be a huge point of contention and cause massive disruption in the relationship.
If we could transcend beyond the limits of an ethnocentric approach and develop cultural empathy, we’ll be much better equipped to manage marriage as well as divorce. Trying to see the big picture from each other’s cultural perspective, improves negotiation and the possibility of achieving a reasonable compromise in divorce.
Regardless of the challenges, it is paramount that children’s right to maintain a connection to the ethnic and cultural background of both their parents and extended families is respected.
Here are some examples of how cultural diversity plays a role in divorce:
1. In some cultures, husbands have a duty to go out in the world and provide their family with security and sustenance while wives have a duty to remain at home and take care of children and household responsibilities. These husbands would still have a duty to support & provide for the ex-wife after divorce, while she continues to take care of the children.
In other cultures where both husband and wife pursue their own careers and ambitions, both parents would have equal responsibility to provide for and take care of children. Cultures that place this responsibility on husbands alone, might regard both parents away from home working, as disruptive for the family or subversive to their culture.
In a divorce, it is important to consider the cultural expectations of both parties in terms of providing and caring for children and ensure that everyone’s needs are met as much as possible.
2. Some cultures put a high value on individual freedom, independence, and fulfillment, therefore the idea of sacrificing personal happiness or success for the family is regarded as weak or foolish. After divorce, parents would be able to continue their careers and personal pursuits while the needs of the children would be secondary and met by contracted individuals.
Conversely, in cultures where a high value is put on daily responsibilities of family care and child-rearing, being present at celebrations and special occasions and making personal sacrifices for the sake of a marriage and a family, both parents or at least one parent would be expected to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of the family (children) after divorce.