Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships

 






Mixed Blessings is for:

  • anyone in a multicultural relationship
  • their friends and family
  • helping professionals such as psychotherapists, teachers, medical professionals and attorneys


Read the Introduction at the bottom of this page.

Mixed Blessings was critiqued by Chanticleer Book Reviews and Kirkus Reviews.

N. Davis, Ph.D. wrote for Chanticleer saying: 

"Mixed Blessings is a fascinating and educational guide to understanding and healing couples’ relationships under pressure from ethnic, geographic, racial, social class and other cultural disparities. Not only do the authors provide incredibly lucid portraits of couples’ differences that make a difference, but they also indicate steps couples can take to minimize or eradicate apparent diversities.

I strongly recommend this book for its courageous leap forward to elucidate the “hidden culture” that separates and divides loving families and especially for the authors’ substantial skills in showing us the various ways of healing the breaches.

Travelers, educators and students going abroad, along with business people who want a better understanding of how to recognize and bridge cultural gaps would also benefit from reading Mixed Blessings." 

To read the entire review, go to: Chanticleer Book Reviews

The comments from Kirkus Reviews include:

"Is love really all you need? This book mines the complexity of romantic relationships that are a union of cultures as well as individuals, offering guidance and applied examples.

The material is enlightening, effectively outlining how varied cultural perspectives affect worldviews. The authors argue that many of us aren’t aware of how our cultural responses may differ from those of our loved ones, inspiring aha moments from readers who may not even think of their primary relationship as a multicultural one. The writing is intelligent but not academic, ensuring that the book will be as accessible to clients as therapists, and some of the narratives are riveting.

Required reading for anyone who counsels or is part of a multicultural relationship."  -- Kirkus Reviews

                                                                                                                          

Introduction 

It’s natural to judge by appearances. Humankind’s tendency to quickly determine whether someone is white, black, Asian, or Latino has pervaded daily living, seeping into the media, education, and entertainment industries. Nonetheless, as therapists we know people want to be understood and accepted for the many cultures, ethnicities, and regional experiences that make up the whole of their person. In today’s multicultural landscape, first impressions no longer suffice.

Our mission in Mixed Blessings is to delve into the heart of what it means to be a multicultural, multiethnic couple. We will look at educational self-help aspects of themes we have encountered in our collective fifty-plus years as counselors, and we will highlight these relationship issues using examples based on real life.

We are neither academics nor formal researchers, yet between the two of us we have lived and traveled across the globe and resided in several regions of the United States. We are conversational in multiple languages. We know what it means to live and work across cultures and ethnicities and to have the wherewithal it takes to thrive. Included are our own personal stories, which describe our separate paths and the drive that led us to write this book.

The structure of Mixed Blessings includes two parts and a resource section. Part 1 is what we in the counseling field call “psychoeducation.” That means we will look at the big picture of couple issues using developmental, sociocultural, and anthropological concepts. This is complex stuff. It might tangle your brain in knots. You may want to read it again after reading part 2, to put it all together in a way that works for you. In the end, we hope the psychoeducational information can be a validation, a welcome relief, a life raft, or a reference on your relationship journey.

Part 2 is a collection of twelve stories told in the voices of twelve fictionalized couples from a variety of cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, and educational and life experiences. All of the stories are inspired by actual relationship challenges couples have brought to our offices. In each of the couples’ stories we have added counselors’ perspectives that proved helpful and thoughts on ways to apply them in your own relationship.

Part 3 of Mixed Blessings is a nonexhaustive resource section. There is so much out there to discover in libraries and on the Internet that we can’t begin to include it all. These resources are a few of our favorites, and we have used them successfully over the years. We hope you find them helpful.

To get started, we introduce you to nine couples living Mixed Blessings. Each couple offers different perspectives on what it is to be a multicultural or multiethnic couple. Their diversity is precisely what we celebrate and explore throughout the book.

Keeping the Faith: Karen and Glen

Karen and Glen married in their early fifties, much to the chagrin of their grown children. The wedding was small, a celebration with friends with a potluck at home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Before their second anniversary, Glen’s employer went bankrupt. Glen’s brother offered him a job in Salt Lake City, Glen’s hometown. After the move, Karen was put off by Glen’s extended family’s aggressive attempts to convert her to the Mormon faith. Glen, never really devout, became cranky, saying, “I love you; why are you so defensive and threatened by Salt Lake and my family?”

Shadows of the Past: Valerie and Tim

Valerie immigrated to the United States from South Korea with her parents and siblings when she was four, settling in a large Korean émigré community in Southern California. Tim is a doctor’s son from Pennsylvania whose ethnic heritage is primarily Pennsylvania Dutch, German, and Scottish. Tim and Valerie met in college, originally drawn to each other by their many differences. As their relationship deepened they discovered that their similarities ran deeper than their differences. They reflect that comments and questions from friends and family focus on their differences, and it annoys them.

We Are More than What You See: Janette and Raul

Janette’s French Canadian parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. Her husband, Raul, is Brazilian, with dark skin, and is often mistaken for a black American. Janette considers herself bicultural after growing up in the United States and visiting Montreal in the summers, speaking French at home and English outside the home. She says, “I am also multiethnic because I am a Jew in Seattle, Washington, where I am a minority. My husband and I consider ourselves multicultural. We think we know who we are, but trying to explain our couple identity to others is pretty crazy making.”

A Sense of Place Makes the Connection: Lucy and Robert

Robert is from Nebraska and Lucy is from Iowa. They met in the US Army. They identify as multiracial but not multicultural. Robert likes to say their “culture” brought them together. “We bonded as middle-class farmers from the Midwest. I found my comfort zone with Lucy. It didn’t matter that I was black and she was white. We could talk about moving back to Nebraska to farm and raise kids.” According to Lucy, “In our community everyone knows and respects us. Being a biracial couple has not been a problem. Outside our community can be a different thing altogether.”

First-Generation Immigrants: Gaurav and Roni

Gaurav and Roni married through a traditional family arrangement in New Delhi and immigrated to the United States in 1980. Both feel as though they belong in two places. They consider India their homeland and are committed to their children knowing extended family. Gaurev says this about the finances of traveling abroad: “Often the travel has been a financial sacrifice and meant we didn’t have other kinds of family vacations. We are comfortable in both countries and sometimes not comfortable in either. Today we switch easily between customs and languages.” Roni talks about feeling more comfortable with other couples who, according to her, “understand the experience of moving between two cultural worlds.”

Second-Generation Immigrants: Anil and Lena

Anil is Gaurev and Roni’s twenty-seven-year-old son. His fiancée is Lena, whose mother is Swedish American and whose father is from Calcutta, India, a different region altogether than the one in which Anil developed his understanding of Indian culture. Anil and Lena consider themselves multiethnic and multicultural. Anil’s view on being bicultural is different from that of his parents. “I consider myself an American first, and I have a greater comfort in the US culture than that of India. I have great love for some of my Indian heritage, yet there are philosophical and cultural differences between my parents and me—the big one being marrying for love.”

First- and Third-Generation Immigrants: Eric and Ling

Eric is third-generation American Chinese. Ling is a Chinese citizen and has lived in the United States for eight years. They started out as colleagues and friends at work. Their relationship became serious, and when they announced their engagement their families were thrilled. Ling says, “When we told my parents in Singapore and Eric’s parents in San Francisco, they were happy to discover our family roots are from the same region of China. Everyone thought this a fortuitous sign for a happy marriage.” Ling had thought she was acculturated, but in marrying an American Chinese she discovered that, in fact, she was Chinese and Eric was American. She says, “We are ethnically similar and culturally diverse.”

Cultural Identity, Appearance, and Loss: Jennifer, Anders, and Hana

When Jennifer Chou married Anders Sondheim in 1982, they hyphenated their last names, content their daughter, Hana, would carry both cultural surname legacies into the world. Last year Hana married a Spaniard, Javier Garcia de Costa. Hana couldn’t imagine introducing herself as Hana Chou-Sondheim-Garcia de Costa with a straight face, so she took Javier’s surname. Hana also told her mother, Jennifer, that a twenty-first-century woman doesn’t lose her identity by taking her husband’s surname. Next month Hana and Javier are expecting their first child. Jennifer is thrilled to be a grandmother but also a little sad, remarking, “There are no sons in my generation, so there is no one left to carry on my family’s surname. I also wonder if my grandbaby will look like me at all.”

Social Class: Anna Maria and Eduardo

Anna Maria is first-generation Mexican American, raised by migrant farm workers. Eduardo is from an upper-class Argentine family. Family politics were a big challenge for them as early as their wedding day, when the differences in their social classes created a scene. According to Anna Maria, they had talked about eloping, but as the youngest of four kids and the only girl, she knew it would break her mother’s heart. Of being shocked at the wedding, she says, “When Eduardo’s extended family arrived in their fancy cars, loaded with jewelry and an entourage of nannies to mind the grandchildren, my family and friends at our little community church were upset.” The couple relates that it helps when they talk about social class as being the way they are bicultural.

Join us and step back to explore the dynamics of culture, social class, social context, and family experiences that shape each partner in multicultural couples. If you are in a multicultural relationship of any kind, you are the child of parents in a mixed ethnic, multicultural relationship, or you are a teacher, counselor, physician, nurse, attorney, or other type of helping professional who works with multicultural couples today, this book is for you.