Guest Post: Transnational marriage: Could you handle being married to a foreigner?

I just found out what kind of marriage I’m in. I literally turned to my husband a few minutes ago and asked, “What sort of marriage is this?” He looked at me and I could tell he was wondering how best to ask me if I was mad. Of course, I had to explain and he says we’re in an international marriage but you know I can’t just take his word for it. I had to confirm with Google. And he’s right.

Apparently, we’d be referred to either as an “international” or a “transnational” couple because he’s Nigerian and I’m Ghanaian. A transnational marriage is basically a marriage between two people from different countries. Simple, I know, but I’ve never heard these terms before. Not because the national and cultural differences between my husband and I aren’t obvious because they often are. There are specific times when it’s most glaring:

  • During the holidays. When we’re surrounded by his family, my family or both our families. As is typical with West African families (and maybe other families too – I wouldn’t know), the older generation is more traditional and we’re faced with many cultural traditions that are often alien to either side and are sometimes quite difficult to understand. 
  • When we’re in a group of each others’ friends from back home. His friends will inevitably bring up things from their childhood or youth that I’ll have no clue about and vice versa.

Tips For Success

I can’t say if there are ways to know if you can have a successful transnational marriage but I know what makes it easier for me:

  1. Being able to speak the same language. Neither of us can speak the languages of our respective ethnic groups but English is the first language for both of us. Imagine if we had to muddle through language communication as well as everything else that married couples have to wade through! They say love has no language and all that but…I wouldn’t test that.
  2. Having the same or very similar religious beliefs (if you have any). I think that having two completely different religious values would make decision-making as a family generally quite difficult – from the choice of schools for your children to how to spend your Sunday mornings. 
  3. Being open-minded. You’ll be perfectly capable of this to be able to get to the point of dating someone with a different background from yourself in the first place. You’ll need to learn to be open-minded more frequently on things you never considered before though because you’ll be met with ideals and traditions that you may find ridiculous but that your partner places high value on. Being open-minded will stop you from instantly reacting by wrinkling up your face in confusion and saying, “HUH?!”
  4. And on that note, learning to be willing to compromise will be very useful. Be willing to compromise often. Very often. On big things. And also on little, niggly, seemingly non-issue things. You’d be doing that no matter who you marry anyway!
  5. Being willing to try (and hopefully like!) your partner’s favourite home dishes. Better yet, being able to cook them in the right way. Of course, if you can’t stand cooking or are a terrible cook, this isn’t an option; but if you, in the vein of point 3 above, like some of the cultural dishes that your partner grew up with and loves, you can have that to enjoy together. This was a bit easier for me because a few of our cultural dishes are fairly similar so I only had to figure out the different ways in which we make them. Unfortunately, I’m currently going through a phase of hating the act of cooking…
  6. Enjoying travel. You’ll need to visit each others’ families and friends back home. Especially if you have children as they’ll need to see and keep in touch with grandparents, for example. If you hate any specific forms of travelling, be happy to pay to have them come to you instead. Luckily for us, the majority of our family and friends live in the UK so it’s easy enough to avoid travel but also luckily for us, we both love travelling!

Honestly, my so-called transnational marriage has been one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. We’re so blessed to have found one another and we wouldn’t have it any other way! If you’ve been or are in a transnational or international relationship or marriage, please share your experience!

Abby is a daughter, sister, wife and mum of a little girl. Based in Surrey, England, she’s a writer and financial services professional and has an educational background in Gender & Politics, which makes for an interesting variety of topics on her blog

Follow her on twitter @ kinunplugged

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