I recently saw a movie called “Sabah, A Love Story” it is a tale of a conservative Muslin Arab woman who falls in love with a non-Muslin Canadian. The relationship ignites culture clashes, frustration and many misunderstandings. It sounds wearying but the movie has a happy ending.
Sabah’s story reminds me that each person is shaped by their own culture. Which is not only defined by race or religion but rather the result of multiple factors that change and form customs and attitudes through contact and communication.
When we chose to love the “different” meaning different family backgrounds, different religion, and different country or culture our customs and attitudes are prone to change.
Now here is the catch: I can have two attitudes about loving my different partner: either I will require him or her to assimilate, which usually involves a gradual change in order to “shape up” and be just like me. Or I will allow her or him to “transculturate” which entails a contact zone where we can effect gradual exchange and coexist.
Sabah chose to change her type of contact therefore she exposed herself to inevitable change. The next time you encounter an apparent impossible cultural difference hurdle, stop and think: I chose to be with this person and new beforehand he or she was different; therefore I make a conscious decision to embrace this person I love and be curious about our cultural differences other than reject what this love of mine brings to our relationship. Think also: What do I need to tolerate in order to enter his or her culture so dissimilar from my own? How can I encourage his or her difference? How can I keep myself from criticizing hers or his way of thinking? What kind of support can I give to this idea even though it goes completely against my own way of thinking? How can we celebrate the new culture we are creating together?
Loving in a different culture entails changing our shape and it might present its challenges however there is an exciting opportunity to grow and experience new things. Maybe that is the reason why the traditional shape of love, the heart, is nor square nor round, just an interesting and different and new shape.