10/29/2014 04:50 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

The Culture of Love

Photography by Bobi via Getty Images

My husband, Gene, doesn't wear pajamas. I asked him about it once, and he told me that he never had pajamas as a child. He also took care of his five younger siblings at a very young age and rarely went to the dentist. In contrast, I walked to my grandmother's house every day after school, even in high school, had a dresser drawer designated for pajamas and began orthodontic work starting at age 7. When I hear my husband's childhood stories sometimes it tugs at my heart strings and I feel sad for little Gene, at other times, these things create a tension in our relationship.

A few years ago I took a workshop on culturally responsive teaching, and we examined the meaning of culture. We were assigned the reading, "Elements of Culture" by Throughout our 12 years of marriage nothing, aside from marriage counseling, has helped our relationship more than this three page document. It has helped me understand that culture is much more than beliefs and traditions of far away groups. In one section, the article states "the age at which children are seen to be mature enough to handle adult responsibilities varies significantly across cultural groups." In the workshop we shared what this meant for us and one participant talked about how in the state where she grew up, she could drive legally at age 14. I was shocked, I would have never considered myself responsible enough to drive at 14! Another very interesting part of the article is called "Attitudes Towards Time." It says, "For some, schedules and appointments are priority; for others, what is happening at the moment matters more than future events. Likewise, some cultures stress punctuality; lateness is a sign of disrespect. Other cultures don't mind when people are late, and the norm is that a set meeting time is only an approximation." So this explains why I have to remind Gene to make all his health appointments and often I get so sick of reminding him that I schedule his appointments for him. It also explains why he always arrives 20 minutes early and becomes irritated with me when I jump in the shower a few minutes before the time stated on an invitation. Just as I can't change that I don't really care about being punctual, he cannot change that he was taught being on time was an important way to show respect.

After reading the whole document, I suddenly had a whole new understanding of my husband. I began to see my husband's childhood in a whole new light. He didn't have to change into pajamas to be comfortable at night. His family did what they thought was the best for him with the knowledge and resources they had. He had parents that fought over custody of him and a large extended family that were always around to support each other. Each year we grow closer and we argue less(although we still bicker the same amount). One reason I love to talk to him about his childhood because it helps me understand who he is. It also serves as a reminder to be careful about how I view the lives of others. There are many perspectives on what is right and what is wrong, and one correct answer does not exist. As Ziggy Marley says, "Love is the answer".

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