pre-marital counselling in NYC for Chinese-American/white couples?
August 13, 2017 1:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking seriously of marrying someone of a different culture (second-generation Chinese-American vs white and been here longer than the country). I'm looking for non-religious pre-martial counselling to help us figure out whether this is a good idea and how to make it work. I'm especially looking for someone with experience with this particular combination of cultures, who can guide us toward discussions of things where we might not realize we have very different assumptions. Personal recommendations would be great. Must be in NYC.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total)
I am a white woman married to a second-generation Chinese-American man and I have to say, I'm somewhat baffled by your question. That's because from my perspective, there are just so, so many more differences between individuals within those two groups about what they think marriage should be, how to make it work, etc., than between those two groups as a whole.

That said, couples counseling is great and I think it's always a good thing for couples to talk through communication styles, assumptions about marriage, etc before tying the knot. We went to Joshua Nelson a few years ago and we liked him, though we had friends who went and HATED him, so YMMV.
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:06 AM on August 13, 2017 [17 favorites]

You may also want to go through some of those lists for couples getting married generally. For example, perhaps you have different expectations for financially supporting aging parents? Some of that gets hashed out in those questionnaires.
posted by k8t at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2017

I'm somewhat dismayed by the responses here, to be frank, as the child of an immigrant parent. Pre-marital counseling is something loads of couples find helpful and it is incredibly important that my partner and anyone we were to see for counseling understand that, while I grew up in the this country, there are some aspects of my experience that are fundamentally impacted by a different culture and no, they're not dismissible with "people are individuals" (this sort of attitude is literally a dealbreaker for me in a romantic relationship). I'm assuming the OP has, you know, discussed this idea with their partner and is now seeking recommendations for someone competent to handle the specifics of their situation.
posted by hoyland at 9:05 AM on August 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think I get what you are talking about. While I think pre-marital counseling is excellent and that you should definitely participate in it if you are considering getting engaged (as opposed to after getting engaged), I read your question as you may be looking for help specifically to navigate cultural differences.

You may find that it really comes down to differences in communication style (for example, learning about the concept of Ask vs Guess improved communication in our marriage a lot), which any good counselor should be able to help you with.

You (if you are the white SO) may need to devote some of your time to really learning about your SO's culture. Even if they have been here for years, they and their family probably retain some traditions / habits / perspectives of the country they came from. While your SO has had no choice but to learn about your culture, it's our responsibility as the person from the local culture to recognize our privilege and make a strong effort to learn about SO's culture.

We've seen many therapists over the years, white, asian, male, female; they all brought different perspectives that we ruminated over and talked about. Don't be afraid to try different ones until you find a good fit.

Here in LA there a couple of Asian Pacific counseling / mental health associations; you might see if there is a similar organization in your area to ask for a referral. Feel free to memail me if you want the link to the associations here, maybe they have colleagues in your area that they can recommend.
posted by vignettist at 10:31 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my experience some issues that seem to not only have individual differences but where cultural norms may play a role include:

- Preferences/beliefs/expectations about financially or otherwise supporting aging relatives.
- Preferences/beliefs/expectations about frequency of spending time with extended family.
- Do either or you now or in the future have strong feelings about how close you want to live to your families? For example, if one of you got an incredible job offer that would move you far from family would that be problematic for the other?
- Preferences/beliefs/expectations about what what and how much information is shared with people outside of the marriage.
- With regard to childrearing, there are an infinite number of things where couples may disagree or have different ideas and some of these might really matter. Some may relate to gender roles, discipline, etc. It would be impossible to hash these all out but an initial discussion may be helpful. I'd also suggest spending some time with friends/relatives with small children to give you opportunities to discuss ideas about raising kids and what may be normative for you. For example, you hang out with some cousins and see that the baby is always held and not allowed to explore and then you discover that this is typical in their family/culture. This doesn't jibe with your experience. Or perhaps it is culturally normative for young girls to be trained to be modest and quiet and you don't dig that. Talk about it and where you two sit on this. Maybe some of this matters.
- With childrearing in particular but household management overall too, what are your expectations about dividing work? Would you split all the chores evenly? How will you negotiate this?
- Money. Of course all couples are different but hashing out beliefs about how money will be managed (do you have your own accounts? Are household bills split by income? What if someone is not working for awhile? What about retirement?).
- Religion. Do either of you have strong views on engaging in religious activities?

Even without the cultural element these are good things to discuss.
posted by k8t at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

[A couple deleted. Folks, please just answer the question if you have helpful suggestions. The question is not if you and your spouse used/needed premarital counseling, or if you personally think the OP and their partner should get premarital counseling. If confused, just read over the question again, it's not long.]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:09 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some other questions to add to k8t's list:

- What are your expectations around what languages the child will speak, and their relationship to both of your cultures?

- How will you feel if one parent and the child will communicate with Chinese, while the white parent can not? Will the white parent be expected to learn Chinese?

- What kind of discussions will you have with your child about racism, considering that both of you have different lived experiences concerning racism?

- Neither of you are Hapa, which comes with its own (very different) set of experiences and challenges. (For example: your child may be treated like they're white by the Asian kids; Asian by the white kids.) How will you support your child and communicate about their racial identity and experiences that will be very new to both of you?

- Will your parents/extended family have a part in raising the child? If so, how will you work with different or potentially clashing childrearing norms from both sides of the family? How will you work with the fact that they may be much less conscious of all of the factors/questions you've been thinking about?

- What are the cultural/familial norms with your parents/extended family? What are your relationship to those norms going to be? (Such as: 'we agree that when we visit your parents, we will both try to match their norms and be polite, even if it's really not the norm for us')

- What aspect of your partner's culture/background do you think is least visible/a blind spot to you?

- What aspect of your own culture/background do you feel is least visible to to your partner?
posted by suedehead at 1:57 AM on August 17, 2017

Prepare/Enrich is a structured and proven program, and has trained counselors pretty much everywhere. Go through the list in your area and call around to find out who has some multicultural experience, and uses the program as a foundation, adding to it based on their experience.
posted by dancing leaves at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2017

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