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4 Tips for Managing Cultural Differences in Intimacy in Your Relationship

One of the many advantages of partners being a part of different cultures is that they get to explore each other’s customs in-depth and learn to appreciate them. Be it learning a new language or celebrating an additional festival, there is always so much to enjoy, especially with a potential post-lockdown festive holiday.

Being in a cross-cultural relationship is not always perfect. It comes with a variety of challenges unique to being in such a relationship. 

Cultural diversity and intimacy are some concepts that vary from each place and finding a middle ground regarding these topics is extremely important and can help take your relationship to the next level. 

Listed below are some tips that can help you manage cultural differences in your relationship. Some websites, like BetterHelp, give you additional information on how you can help you and your partner find balance in your relationship. These tips may especially help expats from Saudi Arabia.

Understand and explore

The link between cultural differences and intimacy may seem small, but delving deeper can cause some problems with respect to intimacy in relationships; this link is a part of a much bigger picture. 

The culture of a place is their characteristic feature of everyday life. Culture is how a person is brought up. Cultures are different in every city and country, and they are the basis of how a person perceives the world. 

Being in a relationship with someone from a different culture can be challenging, so it helps to be open and understanding of your partner’s customs and beliefs, especially regarding intimacy. 

Sex education

For example, in countries like the United States and Germany, sex education is taught as a part of the core curriculum in schools. Due to this, the United States is a fairly sex-positive country, which may result in better communication between parents and their children. 

Shying away from awkward sex-related conversations is uncommon. The culture of “sex is for pleasure” is implemented heavily by many people of the United States, depending on the region but on a whole compared to non-Western countries. 

In countries like India and Saudi Arabia, sex is often considered more taboo. This results in some children being uneducated or wrongly educated about the concept of sex. 

Sex is only considered to be a part of marriage, and not of pleasure. Due to the various taboos surrounding sex and pleasure, young adults from these countries can be wary and extra cautious with respect to this topic. 

Therefore, understanding and exploring what works for you before communicating with a partner can be a good first step to move forward with managing these cultural differences.

Respect each others’ differences

In cross-cultural relationships, it can be very easy to cross the line and make assumptions about your partner’s culture. It’s common to defend your own culture, as it is a part of who you are and where your beliefs stem from. 

Cultural stereotyping is not uncommon in such relationships, but working toward understanding each other’s culture and beliefs is as important as respecting the differences. 

One way to strengthen your bond is to figure out which part of your partner’s culture is most important to them and engage yourself with it. In many relationships, partners choose to live with rather than accept their significant other’s culture and the idea of intimacy in relationships. This often leads to being passive-aggressive towards each other, which hinders your growth as a couple. 

When conflicting opinions arise, especially while making important decisions, be patient and try to look at the problem from your partner’s perspective. Understanding one’s religious and cultural differences will aid in understanding why they struggle with some things, especially regarding the concept of intimacy.

Opportunities to teach and learn

In countries like Saudi Arabia, patriarchy is often at the center of a relationship/marriage. Customs and rules are stringent and favor men. This results in men believing that their needs are the most important, disregarding their significant other’s concerns. 

While this could lead to problems in a cross-cultural relationship, it does not necessarily mean that the woman needs to be docile or the man needs to be self-centered or the relationship will not work. Teaching people about equality and shared responsibilities can open them up to new ways of thinking, as you forge your own unique customs within your relationship however you want them to be.

 Be patient

Some families from different cultures experience friction. It is not uncommon, but a topic that must be approached delicately and with respect. 

In countries like Saudi Arabia that focus more on arranged marriages, finding a rhythm in your relationship is something that could take time. Sugarcoating negative remarks or steering clear from saying something negative about a culture is something that most partners do, but it isn’t a feasible or permanent solution. 

Being honest and open about what works and what doesn’t will do wonders for communication. Be patient and understand that what works for you, may not work for your partner. Try to find a middle ground and compromise in these situations.

 Especially with regards to intimacy, patience is key. Nothing changes overnight. Be open, communicative, and responsive to your partner and their needs. Patience and understanding are some of the key elements of a healthy relationship, both physically and emotionally.

Practice constructive criticism

Criticism is common in relationships, maybe more so in cross-cultural relationships. Often, criticizing one’s culture is like criticizing their identity, which makes them defensive and closed off. 

Responding negatively to your partner can result in them getting more defensive and escalating the situation. Try to sit down and ask your partner why they feel the way they do to create an opening for you both to discuss cultural and/or religious differences. By communicating maturely and effectively, you get to know your partner better too.

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