Principles that Work Cross-culturally in any Intimate Relationship

One of my objectives in this blog is to share ideas and strategies that have immensely helped me to take my marriage to the next level.

I am in an interracial marriage and this kind of relationship is particularly tricky and so I have made it a point to learn as much as I possibly could about my wife’s native language and culture.

But, because once I mastered my wife’s language, I realized that being able to speak Tagalog had nothing to do with being an effective husband and communicator, I shifted gears and I decided to read books, blogs and spiritual material about the psychology of intimate relationships in order to learn about principles that work cross-culturally.

By reading books and blogs about relationships I have stumbled upon a couple of very powerful ideas.

One is the idea that there are three As that, if practiced consistently, our partner can really feel heard, communication becomes smooth and most problems can easily be fixed.

Another idea I have stumbled upon, by reading various books and blogs, is that there are four Rs that can kill a relationship.

The three As that Work Wonders in a Relationship

One of the books that have immensely helped me to really boost my love life is a book I stumbled upon a couple of years ago written by an American psychologist by the name of Jonathan Robinson.

The book is entitled “Communication Miracles for Couples”.

The book stresses the importance of giving our spouse 3 absolutely critical things: Acknowledgment, Appreciation and Acceptance.

There is an interesting passage in chapter one that says:

“Even if your partner is very upset, the key to get him to be able to hear you is to give him plenty of acknowledgment, appreciation, and acceptance. The three As are like deposits for your partner’s self-esteem bank account. When you give your mate the three As, his self-esteem bank “balance” temporarily goes up. As his bank balance goes up, he will naturally become more loving, more giving, and better able to listen. Therefore, when your partner is feeling stressed, the best thing you can do is make a “deposit” into his selfesteem bank account. Almost like magic, he will become more agreeable toward you. As he is better able to listen to you with love, you’ll feel better too. The destructive cycle will be over”.

The reason why our partner is often reluctant to listen to what we have to say is because we fail to acknowledge his or her experience and feelings and we say things that don’t take into any account how our partner feels.

I have made this mistake way too many times: on many occasions I have said or done things that have upset my wife (my wife comes from a culture that is characterized by high emotionalism and, in fact, one of the traits of Filipinos is balat sibuyas, meaning that their metaphorical “skin” is as thin as the sibuyas or onion and, therefore, it is very easy to get under their thin skin and upset them) and I have dismissed her upsets with such expressions as “come on”, “give me a break”, “you get upset too easily” or something along these lines.

The point that Dr. Robinson makes is that if our spouse is upset, instead of dismissing or minimizing her (or his) upset, we must fully honor and acknowledge her or his right to feel upset.

Dr. Robinson offers a very powerful communication tool called the “acknowledgment formula”:

It sounds like (or, It seems) you . . . Paraphrase in a sentence or two what your partner’s experience seems to be. That must feel . . . Guess as to how such an experience must feel. I’m sorry you feel . . . Guess as to what they’re feeling.

In addition to Acknowledgment, the book talks about two more As being Appreciation (meaning specific appreciation, as vague and generic appreciation has very little power) and Acceptance.

I am in an interracial marriage and my wife’s culture has a lot of things that are difficult to accept for a Westerner but if I want my marriage to thrive I cannot bash the environment that I myself have chosen to inhabit. The Filipino culture is what it is and the only way I can expect to enjoy a great relationship is by accepting my partner’s culture the way it is, flaws and all.

The 3A formula has proved to be a great game changer indeed for my marriage and it does indeed work cross-culturally.

The Four Rs that Kill a Relationship

Another concept that I have learned is that there are four Rs that can destroy a relationship. I have heard this idea while listening to a Tony Robbins’ video on YouTube.

The idea is that if our partner feels a little Resistance (a mild irritation) toward what we have said or done to him or her, we have to handle that Resistance as soon as possible.

If we don’t take immediate action, Resistance will build and turn into a more serious feeling, which is Resentment.

And if your spouse is a Filipina that can easily happen, because tampo (the tendency to get easily offended) is one of the hallmark traits of many Filipinos.

And when Resentment builds and snowballs, because we ignore it and fail to deal with it, it becomes Rejection, which is the stage when our partner has no feelings for us and husband and wife become roommates.

Rejection eventually leads to Repression and, at that point, it might be too late to take action.

Success in an Interracial Marriage is not simply about Learning your Spouse’s Language and about His/her Culture

I have invested a lot of time and energy to learn about the Filipino culture and the Tagalog language and these things really help.

But, because my wife and I are not merely an Italian and a Filipina but rather two human beings who share the same underlying psychology, learning Tagalog and reading the “Culture Shock Philippines” book is just the tip of the iceberg of a much more complex work that must necessarily entail studying the psychology of effective relationships and master principles that work cross-culturally in any relationship.

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