A Guide For Family Unity: 9 Ways To Address Cultural Conflicts With In-Laws

When dealing with cultural differences, ensure you stay patient and respectful in understanding each other’s culture. Educate each other’s family, discuss points of conflict, enjoy common things, cross the language barrier, and address miscommunications to cross the cultural bridge. Most importantly, please don’t force your culture on your in-laws or let them do the same. Mistakes are bound to happen, so take it slowly and give things time to adapt.

A marriage with two people from different cultural backgrounds will indeed have some interesting stories to tell.

Married couples with cultural differences have more to deal with as they try to get used to each other’s culture and deal with their respective in-laws.

It can be even more difficult than couples from a similar cultural background because now they have to deal with more than just different upbringing.

A culture tends to have more influence on a person than they realize. We immediately realize how we are influenced by our growing up when we end up with a partner with a different culture.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to deal with cultural differences. While there are more issues to deal with, it will bring couples closer as they learn to enjoy each other’s cultures.

How to deal with your partner’s different culture?

Our culture has more influence on us than we realize. We might not be as typical as our parents and believe we’re more globalized.

But the reality could be far away when it comes to accepting different cultures.

A large amount of what we say, how we behave, and what we believe, think, and feel is influenced by our culture.

And when we marry our partner from a different cultural background, we find so many things are different. What we perceive as acceptable might not be the same to them.

While we learn to love our partner and appreciate their culture, the same could be ten times more difficult for our parents to get used to.

Parents often oppose cross-cultural marriages since they don’t think our significant other could truly understand and respect our culture as we do.

For example, your family could be more individualistic driven, but your spouse’s family might have a more close-knitted extended family and believe in a collectivist culture.

Most cross-cultural families face identity struggles and cultural conflicts over fundamental beliefs.

There are fights over raising children, and it’s not easy to deal with unsupportive in-laws who constantly tell you it will end badly.

How to handle cultural differences with in-laws?

1. Educate each other’s family

A sincere attempt at understanding a different culture is to consciously do the teaching and learning of each other’s culture.

Instead of finding it offensive that your in-laws don’t know about your culture or are trying to know it themselves, you should teach them.

A young married couple with their 2 daughters are happily bonding in the living room

There’s no better way to familiarize them with things than doing it yourself. You can talk about anything you wish, from the food you ate growing up, your religious practices, the way you dress, or how you address or respect your elders.

Teaching them what’s right from wrong is educating them in the best possible way than them finding misinformation on the internet.

In learning each other’s culture, your spouse’s support is crucial.

2. Find points where there could be conflict

Teaching and not reflecting isn’t the best way to handle cultural differences.

Some things might be okay according to your culture but might not be in your partner’s culture or even offensive.

This could include some vocabulary, how you address your elders, etc. So when talking about each other’s culture, also talk about the differences and what you can do to deal with such tricky situations.

You don’t want to be offensive, so ask your partner’s help and find common ground to avoid conflicts.

3. Be respectful and patient

Learning about a different culture is a journey you take and might take time to get used to. You cannot study it over a fortnight and expect to be good at it.

A young married woman is talking to her parents about being patient and respectful towards their son-in-law

You’ll always end up making mistakes that might upset your in-laws. But what can end up avoiding a situation from becoming bad is being respectful and loving.

By being respectful and not losing patience, you’ll be able to overcome multiple issues. Losing your patience and becoming irritated when your culture isn’t understood isn’t how you should handle things.

Remember, you had your whole life to get used to your culture, but your in-laws are only just learning about how your culture functions.

4. Enjoy the common things together

Even though you and your spouse come from different backgrounds, there could be some common things only if you look hard enough to find them.

It could be how you address your parents, drink, or eat certain things with only a slight difference.

Or it could also be family values, including how you were both taught to be respectful and be in a loving relationship.

When you find these things, make sure that your in-laws get to be a part of them. Actively try to indulge them and let them know that you and your family share the same values as their family.

5. Celebrate each other’s festivals

Festivals such as major holidays are an essential part of our culture. Be it Diwali, Christmas, Dia de los Muertos, Oktoberfest, or other festivals celebrated only amongst your culture or family, make your in-laws part of it.

A young family is bonding at breakfast during their Christmas festivities

They might be hesitant at first or could feel weird about it. But unless and until you celebrate your culture confidently with them, they won’t feel the need to be a part of it.

You’ve to be proud of your festivals and what they mean. Any celebration is appreciated and only brings family members closer to each other.

Celebrating festivals and teaching their significance to your in-laws, you’re helping them get used to your culture. And with two different cultures, there will be double the celebration!

6. Cross the language barrier

Languages are a vital part of how we think and express ourselves. Different languages could create barriers with in-laws when they aren’t fluent in it or don’t know it.

Conscious efforts would be needed on your part and theirs to make things work.

Teaching your in-laws your language could be more challenging than teaching your own child, but it’s another way for you to make them understand your culture.

A young woman and her sister-in-law are bonding and having a good time during a coffee date

With different languages, the way you communicate can change instantly. Each language has its own accent, which sometimes could sound cute but harsh for others and become an issue with itself.

When we can’t understand someone’s language, we feel left out and might even feel they’re talking bad about us right in front of us. It can be a very alienated experience.

In a family, when you don’t speak the same language, you are almost never able to convey how you feel, which creates misunderstandings.

So start off by teaching each other’s family your language. Communicating in broken sentences or words is even better than not talking at all.

With time your in-laws might be able to understand the essential words and at least have an understanding of small or common phrases.

7. Address any miscommunication

Miscommunications can arise pretty fast when you belong to different cultures. It could be that you said a word that’s okay for your culture but offensive for your spouse.

This is just a small example because there could be plenty of misunderstandings to develop. If you don’t address them, they’ll cause issues in the future.

Over time small issues become bigger and create gaps in relationships. So, always try to solve any misunderstandings or clear the miscommunications as soon as you see them.

8. Compromise

It might not always be favorable, and sometimes you might have to compromise on some issues.

It takes a lot of courage to compromise, but if it keeps conflicts away and as long as it’s not hurting you in a big way, then you should.

Letting go of some things could actually be healthy.

Constantly correcting each other or teaching what’s right or wrong about each other’s culture could be mentally taxing and irritate the other person.

It takes time to get used to new things because the human tendency is such that we gravitate towards familiarity. So compromise where you can and give things time.

9. Don’t force things if it’s uncomfortable

In the end, don’t force things on your in-laws or let your in-laws do the same to you if it’s uncomfortable for you both.

Respect each other’s culture and boundaries as much as possible. But going out of your way to make things uncomfortable for each other won’t bring you any closer but create more gaps in the relationship.

A daughter is trying to comfort her mom after having a heated discussion about moms relationship with her son-in-law

We can only try our best, but if things aren’t working out or if your in-laws aren’t eager to learn about your culture, leave things as they’re.

They might become comfortable with time and want to learn more about your culture in the future.

Or if they aren’t willing at all, then even you don’t have to put much effort into understanding their culture. Maybe mutually agree not to understand each other’s culture and do the bare minimum.


Can cultural differences break a relationship?

Cultural differences tend to impact any romantic relationship greatly, and they could make us feel alienated and pressure us to act a certain way.

It could also be stressful for our partner to understand where we are coming from because our culture so hugely influences us.

The stress of keeping up with each other could be too much if not handled correctly and end up breaking a couple up.

Before deciding to get married, it is essential to talk about how you will lead your life as a married couple.

Discuss how you will handle each other’s family and raise your children if you decide to have them. Couples need a lot of patience to understand each other when culture is a significant difference.

What is the main problem with cultural differences?

It could be anything that one culture finds offensive but is pretty typical in another culture. Anything from behavior, personality, body language, gestures, mindset, manners, and norms could be offensive.

It’s important to avoid getting offended immediately and try to understand the differences in cultures. Give time and have patience when learning about each other’s cultural background.


  • https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/cross-cultural-relationships#:~:text=Dealing%20with%20language%20issues%20in%20cross%2Dcultural%20relationships&text=Make%20sure%20you%3A,become%20a%20part%20of%20yours.
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-after-50/202010/are-you-dealing-cultural-diversity-home
  • https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/when-in-laws-dont-accept-you
  • https://www.seattletimes.com/life/in-laws-demands-complicate-a-cross-cultural-marriage/
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Hi! I’m Saumya, writer and editor at Marriage & Bliss. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow—this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” —Elizabeth Gilbert. Every marriage faces pitfalls, be they internal or external, and with my words, I hope to help couples find possible solutions and mend their broken relationships. After all, a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
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