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Religion, Culture, and Relationships

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I was recently speaking to a couple of my friends in regards to relationships. When it comes to the generalities, there are many issues that need to be dealt with prior to the development of any relationship. But speaking of culture and religion- when two people come from two different worlds- everything else seems to become a blur. Being Iranian, Arab or any other ethnicity that’s got Islam tagged to its name doesn't help things either.

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Let’s say the couple is Lebanese. Here’s a fun fact: the Lebanese are composed of many Christians- just like the beautiful and very famous singer/performer Nancy Ajram. Let’s also say that the couple is a Christian couple. This doesn't mean anything. All this means is that the parents will be ecstatic because no one has to change religions to please anyone else’s family.

Often times, the family wins and religion rules the relationship even though the couple’s only practice of the religion is attending church-- if at all. The rule of thumb would be for the two people to figure out if they mesh together. But all of these “extra” bits get lost in the bigger pictures of culture and religion. If one is Muslim and the other Christian, then the goal is always to convert one to the other. If not, most of the time they are doomed.

In the 21st century America, specifically Las Vegas, Nevada, nothing seems to be changing in regards to these Middle Eastern aspects. My conversation with friends of the same culture seem to always be the same. It’s always a struggle to think around the ingrained concepts of these topics, however one expects this of anyone who’s made America home. But of course it’s not as simple as that.

For the one who is born here with parents from the Middle Eastern descent, things might be a bit easier if family expectations are geared toward a higher education and finding someone to love and share a life with. But as far as those who are born elsewhere and end up here, it is a completely different ball game. They carry their culture with them and find it hard to integrate for fear of losing their ideals.

It is easy to expect everyone to act the same, but in a place called “the Melting Pot” it is the most ridiculous presumption. With all due respect, the goal was never to become one thing as in every other culture-- rather to be intertwined into another by still preserving a sense of identity all your own. The assumption that everyone would suddenly be born again in the New World, forgetting their past, culture, religion, family… in the pursuit of a life completely their own is only a journey some take- those who are disconnected from the world or see those close to them as crutches that slow them down.

In reality, those that keep some aspects of their culture and change some that don’t seem to work, appear to be more successful and well-rounded than those who practice one culture over another. Tolerance can only be built where there is a need for the behavior. If everyone is the same—especially in culture and religion, there is no need for open-mindedness and no one can boast of forbearing another.

Even though more experienced individuals are harder to change, everyone has to take on the task for themselves or they will have a hard time living in the United States, especially among people of diverse backgrounds. The questions of culture and religion are more intricate than to be discussed in a blog of 500 words, even so they are what Middle Eastern individuals have to deal with when it comes to living in this country. Somehow these two play major roles in relationships these days, but not for those of the same background. The rationale for this phenomena isn't on the grounds that there are far more paramount concerns at hand in any given interconnection, but rather far less major issues to deal with.

So when it comes to two diverse backgrounds in any sense of the word, whether it be one phenomenon or other, the couple has to resolve the colossal problems before analyzing the particulars. Once religion and culture somehow take a backseat, the scrutinizing begins. The nitpicker cannot move forward unless the hot topics have been brought up and dealt with. The only problem then is that this couple usually will see itself as to have reached some sort of a closure pre-nitpicking. Thus mistakenly, this is where it stops and everyone is in a euphoric state until they’re not.

With the cultural and religious backgrounds investigated, considered, and set aside, what remains for the Middle Eastern is nothing but a lifetime of trial and error. This is why many start off relationships the improper way. It’s not that the relationships are wrong all the time, rather the process did not achieve what it is always meant to: individuals that are in sync more than they are not.

Until there is a mutual understanding and total respect in regards to individual freedom- the bounds and limits included- the two may never truly get along. And maybe the end result should not be getting along, instead it should be a journey of individual preservation, growth through mutual respect, patience and love. The lack of these three elements can be seen in many failed relationships and the religion and culture dissimilarities are the biggest nonsensical excuses for them.

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