Trying to navigate a culturally diverse relationship?

Words by: Lauren French, MSexol (Curtin) Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine

Our differences are what make us beautifully unique in the world. We all come from different homes, families and communities, yet we end up in very similar spaces.


When I hear the term ‘cultural inclusion’ I get a little bit excited! I’m excited that I might be walking into a safe, inviting space filled with understanding. However, there’s also some apprehension. I’ve walked into plenty of rooms that claim to be culturally inclusive, sensitive, diverse (and all the other buzzwords you can think of), that end up being nothing more than a sign on the door that culturally ignorant people walk past every day.

In Australia, we live in a western, colonised, patriarchal society; meaning the white, male, straight and wealthy are privileged in most spaces. Yet that only describes a fraction of our population! I’m not going to get into all the systemic, structural and legislative ways that work against true cultural inclusion (as that’s a different, very long, very frustrating article), but I can’t talk about this idea without acknowledging the huge barriers individuals face, that most individuals have no power to change.

I’m a First Nations woman. By simply existing in a space I can start a conversation of cultural inclusivity. But I’m also a sexologist, so I often see culture as a pain point in relationships. No one is exactly the same within a relationship, two or more people coming together is going to involve a hell of a lot of differences!

So if we’re in a culturally diverse relationship we need to stick to the three C’s; communicating, connecting and compromising. Every relationship needs great communication, but when we are having to cross cultural and even language barriers, we need even better communication.

We need to be able to openly talk about the differences. Don’t shy away from them or ignore the moments you butt heads, use those tension points as conversation starters! Then we need to find points of connection; how can you connect with your partner's culture, and how can they connect with yours? This is going to take some education. Take the time to learn about their culture, not just trivia knowledge, but the serious stuff. What does something represent, what’s the meaning behind the practice and why is it important to them? But don’t make your partner your sole educator, because that gets exhausting. Lastly, we need to remember to compromise! No two cultures are ever going to mesh together seamlessly, so you need to work out where you can both share culture, and where you can’t.

While you create a shared cultural space with a partner, don’t forget your individuality. It can be easy to lose ourselves in someone else’s culture, particularly if they have a strong cultural connection. We all need our own space, for our own identity.

Respecting cultures other than your own takes time and commitment. You alone can’t change the world, but how can your actions make a positive impact on your own space and the people within it.


Lauren French is a proud First Nations woman, a member of the Society of Australian Sexologists & a clinical Sexologist working with the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine. Lauren is also a sexuality educator with Body Safety Australia, a non for profit organisation specialising in childhood sexual abuse prevention.



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