Welcome to Love Has No Borders!

Love Has No Borders is a project to help couples who come from different countries and cultures navigate the unexpected bumps encountered when different cultural expectations rub up against each other. My goal is to provide a resource to help individuals be intentional in thinking about and communicating what is important to them in the context of their relationships, and to offer some guidance along the way.

My belief is that identifying different expectations up-front and planning for them may help avoid future irreconcilable conflict in the relationship. Or, it may help you realize before the children come along that what you want in life isn’t going to match. You may really love each other, but are you compatible? It may be helpful before you get too far to talk about things like:

  • How do you feel about sending money to his family overseas or having her mother move in to provide childcare after the baby comes?
  • Can you eat rice every day for dinner? Can you live without it?
  • What, exactly, do you think a wife is supposed to do?

Love Has No Borders: Navigating Your Cross-Cultural Relationship© will be a book based on the experiences of couples who have both successfully and unsuccessfully: faced their partner’s cultural expectations that surprised, puzzled, or angered them; adapted to a partner’s culture; helped a partner adapt; learned what did and didn’t work for them.

You can be a part of this project, and be a resource for someone else. Whether you are in a relationship with someone from another country now, or you loved someone before and it didn’t work out,  please take our anonymous survey now.

  • If you are now in a relationship with someone from another country, please click here
  • If you were in a relationship with someone from another country and are no longer together, please click here

At the end of the survey you have the option to enter a drawing for a $100 gift card from Amazon. If you are willing to be interviewed by phone, please send an email to (lovehasnoborders@live.com). Interviews typically last about an hour.

We invite you to share your questions and experiences: your joys, your sorrows, your aggravations, your funny moments, what works and what didn’t work, about any and all aspects of your cross cultural relationship by posting a comment on our blog.  From immigration to communication, infidelity to family, this blog is for you.

Please note: All content posted on our blog site may be used later as content for the book. By posting your information you are giving permission for us to use it. You will not be personally identified in the book.

The time is now to help same sex couples have immigration rights

Gay and lesbian US citizens who fall in love with someone from another country do not have the same rights to having their partners immigrate as fiances or spouses that heterosexual couples have.  Love should not be illegal.  Where we were born should not keep us from a lifetime with a loving partner.

We have a historic opportunity to right this injustice. Congress is rewriting the rules on immigration now.  You know what it’s like to love someone from elsewhere.  You may yourself have had to jump through some immigration hoops to be with your partner.  Imagine if there was no hoop to jump through, only a wall of legislation and regulation keeping you apart. Whether you are gay or straight, please call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to include  protections for same sex partners in Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

I was recently reminded of how difficult the adjustment can be for both partners when one partner arrives in the country of his or her new partner, particularly if the partners are from very different areas of the world.  A friend of mine from West Africa who had been in the US for only a few weeks recently commented on feeling like a sack his girlfriend has to lug around. 

There is so much for a new arrival to contend with- new food, new people, a new language, a new geography to learn- where is the drug store? the grocery store? the bus stop? how do I get from here to there? How do I become employable and what do I do with myself in the meantime? The new arrival may be totally dependent on his or her partner for transportation, interpretation, income, assisting with logistics for creating  a new life, as well as emotional support.  For someone who has managed independently and competently at home, this can be a big adjustment.  If someone is linguistically isolated, hasn’t yet made new friends, and has no family in the new country, the emotional experience may include feelings of loneliness, isolation, homesickness for the familiar, anxiety, frustration or depression. S/he may be acutely aware of not wanting to burden their new partner with their internal struggles on top of the logistical struggles of daily life.  Staying in touch with friends and family from home may be helpful; modern technology such as skype, calling cards, and facebook make this easier and more practical than ever before.

Finding other ex-pats, especially those from your own country, in the community or nearby can also be quite helpful.  They can share their own experiences of what helped them adapt, show you some ropes, and also serve as a way to keep your old culture alive in your new setting.  An ex-pat community may share common language, food, holidays, music, religion, and celebratory customs.  They can go a long way in increasing comfort as you learn a new community. 

It’s also very important to keep lines of communication open with your partner.  You may not want to burden him or her with every little frustration, but if your dominant feeling is one of frustration or anxiety, it’s likely to come out sideways, and show up in uncontrolled ways if you don’t deal with it directly.

There are also many adjustments for the native partner as well.  Suddenly there is a new person to consider in every plan and new logistical arrangements to be made. Planning may take more time and lifestyle adjustments may need to be made.  I watched my girlfriend struggle with her perceived decreased efficiency and productivity as she found that time she had previously devoted to the multiple projects and jobs she managed had to be redirected to creating a life for her partner.  I remember when I first brought my partner to the US from Guinea we lived 35 minutes from where most of our work was, we had different schedules, and he didn’t speak the language or drive.  I ran around to meetings at different sites in the community throughout the day, and he taught dance and drum classes at different community locations in the afternoon and evening. I had to figure out how to manage the structure of our days and evenings.  When did each of us have to be where? Could I bring him into town with me when I left for work?  Where would he spend his time, doing what, while I was at work?  Could I get him to his commitments on time?  Would he be ready on time so I could get to my next commitment?

Things you may used to be doing, going to a movie, or a comedy club, or spending the evening laughing with friends, may be things your partner won’t be able to enjoy until they build up some language chops.  Be aware that you will likely need to make some considerable adjustments, many of them temporary, until your partner begins to acclimatize to life in your country.

Patience and communication are critical for getting through initial adjustment hurdles.  Share your feelings with each other honestly, and reassure each other of your commitment as you work through the process.  Talk with each other about what might make things easier as well.  “This is a little harder than I thought it would be. I’d really like it if I could stay home while you did X….” or “I didn’t realize it would be so hard to X…  But I’m so glad you’re here with me now.”

Patience and loving communication can carry you through.