Ana Morante, LMFT
How Latino couples deal with cultural differences
For many couples who are here in the United States from a different country, there are a lot of challenges you go through. You have to recognize that just the immigration experience is a very difficult, challenging, and sometimes even a traumatic experience. You have a lot of losses when you come here. Your country, your families, your customs, and even your language are left behind. You lose a lot of things.
New challenges will arise in your couple relationship. You have to keep in mind that the roles that you once played in our country of origin and the roles that you have to play in the new country may change. In your country of origin, it’s very common that the wives concentrate more on the house and the children. Even if they have outside jobs, their number one priority is to make sure that they provide love, attention, and care for the children. For the husbands, their number one role is to be a provider and to be a protector of the family. So, for husbands, their main sense of identity comes from, “How can I provide for my family? How can I protect them?”
Now, when you go to a new country, especially in this difficult time of economical crisis, when many are losing their jobs, husbands don’t have that ability to provide. This creates an enormous amount of stress for the husbands, because they feel like, “If I don’t have a job, if I don’t have the ability to provide for my family, how can I take care of them? How can I be the man of the house?” That puts them in a very vulnerable position. What then happens is that these men are going either to alcohol, drugs, and sometimes even domestic violence, because they feel so powerless themselves that they turn to violence. Sometimes they suffer depression, and it’s very important to recognize those signs.
On the other hand, the wife, when she goes to a new country, goes from being a stay-at-home mom and focusing mainly on the children to having to look for another job and look for ways to help the husband sustain the family. That creates a lot of stress for the couple, because now the wife has to work (sometimes two or three jobs) and then come home and still do everything at home, like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. The enormity of those responsibilities creates a lot of stress.
Many times, what happens then is that the wives expect more help from the husbands. If the husband is a very traditional man, they may not want to help out. That’s going to bring the level of stress and the conflict out between the two of them. So, what to do with that situation?
Number one, the wife needs to recognize that what she’s doing right now is more than what Superwoman can do. She needs help, and she needs support. Some of that help can come from her husband. Some of the help may come from friends.
Secondly, couples need to have lower expectations. They cannot expect to be working outside the home and to be providing care inside of the home, while doing a perfect job everywhere. Mistakes are going to be made, and they’ll need to not be so critical of themselves and each other. Wives, when you ask your husband for help, do it in a way that still keeps the respect and the love intact. When the husbands are going through this challenging time and they’re feeling bad because they cannot provide, the last thing they need to hear from you is, “What have you done all day? You’re good for nothing! You don’t help me with anything!” That’s the last thing they need. So, what you can do is acknowledge the love you have for them and appreciate whatever help that you can get from them. Provide that encouragement saying, “Thank you for your help; it’s really important to me. Maybe you can help me with the kids tonight. Would you put them to bed or give them a bath?”
Whatever it is, ask them in a way that still gives them their sense of respect and their place in the family.
For the husbands, you have to very flexible with the roles that you play right now. In your old country, she was with you not doing anything in the house or not helping with the kids. There were plenty of other people to help there. But now, in the new country, there is a lot of isolation and both of you do not have that extended family support, that friendly neighbor, or friends to help out. So, it’s very important that you recognize that helping your wife is going to be a number one thing that is going to help you to stay connected, to stay together, and to enjoy each other. You have a wife that’s working extremely hard now. If you do not help her, she will not have the time and energy left for you when you want to be with her. It’s to your advantage to be flexible and to want to support your wife in the increasing demand that this new society puts on the both of you.
Copyright – 2013-14 – Tunomi Unlimited Incorporated (Twoology)