Me vs. We Culture Clash

Unlike Anfisa and Jorge, this 90 Day Fiance couple seem genuinely in love, but are not without their problems.

Chantel and Pedro started out on shaky ground because Chantel kept their engagement a secret from her family, announcing just days before the wedding that there was an engagement and upcoming marriage. Despite their reservations, her family attended the wedding.

American Chantel and Dominican Republic Pedro underscore just how much culture matters and that “assimilation” is a complex thing. Just because someone moves to another country doesn’t mean they should erase their cultural roots.

The problem with assimilation

The idea of assimilation is a strong one in North America where there is an expectation and pressure on outsiders to assimilate to American culture.

How much did European colonists assimilate to Native American culture when they came (uninvited) to Native land? In fact, the Europeans arrogantly demanded the Natives assimilate to their culture, and used savage, genocidal violence to get their way.

Pedro’s Dominican roots are more “we” than the “me” roots of Chantel’s mainstream American-ism. This creates all sorts of problems for the couple.

Chantel’s family is bothered by – and influence her to also be bothered by –  how much and how often Pedro sends money and gifts to his mother and sister. This interdependent family dynamic has Chantel thinking she comes last in Pedro’s life, as though there is a hierarchy of value in a family, and as though there is a competition.

Chantel dislikes the fact that her and Pedro could live in a bigger, better home if it weren’t for his spending on his family. If Chantel was less materialistic and had a more tribal understanding of family, she would support Pedro in his supporting his family, and they would be more of a team.

Pedro’s lack of English and Chantel’s family’s rush to judgment and assuming the worst about Pedro did not make for a good foundation.

Chantel’s family’s insistence that Pedro sign a prenup only added tension to matters, especially for Pedro’s family who took great offense to this.

Pedro’s family concluded that there was something psychologically wrong with Chantel’s parents and they were “stupid Americans”, which of course only fanned the flames between the family’s already tense relations.

But it was true. Chantel’s family, while seen to usually speak with smiles and low tones, behave with cold, closed hearts and some pretty major and steady (unwarranted) paranoia and general cultural disrespect towards Pedro and his family.

Chantel’s brother, River, was especially cold and unwelcoming of Pedro. River can be seen giving Pedro a hard time almost any chance he gets. Chantel wanted them to bond and get along without realizing just how mean and bullying River was being to her new husband.

River Chantels brother

There is a lot to this couple and their family dynamics that go unmentioned and undiscussed. Much of the time, all parties in a relationship tend to contribute their share of dysfunction. But sometimes the dysfunction is one-sided, or rests with one or two people who make a lot of noise and cause a lot of mess.

In this case, Pedro brings nothing dysfunctional to the table. He clearly loves Chantel very much, wants his marriage to work and for everyone to get along. His only possible mistake is perhaps not setting a budget on how much he spends on his family back home, which can easily be resolved.

Chantel and her family’s culture and values create all sorts of problems for the couple. It’s hard to see things clearly sometimes when you’re in the middle of an emotionally heated storm.

I hope this couple manages to better understand eachother and their families, that more respect is developed on Chantel’s side of the family, and that the newlyweds’ lives settle down and improve with time.

This couple may very well require a therapist to help mediate the way – the therapist better be a culturally competent one, otherwise, s/he will just create more layers of confusion for everyone involved.

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