"What we've got here is a failure to communicate," from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, was a line not directed to inter-ethnic couples. But, it could have been. Professional counselors agree that communication failures are among the most common reasons couples seek help.
All couples struggle to integrate their personality differences, competing interests, varying emotional needs and divergent conflict resolution styles into one healthy marriage. For couples who layer distinct cultural backgrounds onto this mix, effective communication is even more critical.
Our ethnic cultures constitute part of the package that socializes us into what is "acceptable communication" in marriage. Understanding in the inter-ethnic marriage in particular requires grasping cultural nuances in both the content (what is said) and structure (how it is said) of communication. Communication content and structure are guided by cultural assumptions about power sharing, gender roles and acceptable conflict resolution styles.
Grace, modeled by Christ's death on the cross, must be the bridge for the inter-ethnic couple. Couples often miss each other in their efforts to cross the chasms of their differences. Graceful acts redeem their interaction – giving it purpose beyond their personal and cultural expectations.
I would like to offer G-R-A-C-E as a practical acrostic to help the inter-ethnic couple surmount communication challenges. This five-step process emphasizes a mutual pursuit of grace in the form of God-inspired human action:
God calls your inter-ethnic marriage to something transcendent – a purpose that extends beyond personal satisfaction and cultural assumptions. Rather than accepting communication failures and conflicted impasses as inevitable, couples from differing cultural backgrounds have an opportunity to gain a unique glimpse into God's character. It is God's grace to them that in turn enables them to navigate their own communication and conflict challenges with a spirit of grace.