Interethnic Marriage: Five Tips for Meeting the In-laws
Interethnic marriage is a form of exogamy that involves a marriage between spouses who belong to different ethnic groups or races.
The top six largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, in order, are: Hausa, Yoruba, Igno, Ijaw, Kanuri, Fulani.
Inter ethnic marriages are still frowned upon in many areas in Nigeria, especially rural areas and traditional families. Reasons often include cultural pride, clashes over cultural perspectives (such as gender roles, money, etc), and challenges for families to adapt to new languages, food, and even hundreds of years of tribal history and racism against other ethnic groups.
However, stories of lovers unable to marry because they belong to different ethnic groups are less common in today’s Nigeria than they used to be. In fact, the thought of being confined to one’s own tribe when choosing a life partner may seem ludicrous to a younger Nigerian, yet it was the reality for many a few decades ago.
As we make progress towards detribalisation and authentic nationhood, we can expect to see more couples from across Nigeria’s 250 ethnic groups tying the knot. However, in-laws still play a huge role in successful unions, and they’re often more traditional.
Are you and your partner from different parts of the country? Consider these tips when meeting your partner’s relatives for the first time:
Make the first one count
First impressions go a long way. Work together with your partner to make the first meeting with the in-laws as pleasant as possible.
You don’t have to pretend to be who you are not just to win their approval. It is important that they accept the real you into this family. Be pleasant and charming, but be yourself and don’t start what you can’t or won’t keep up.
Be genuinely interested in their culture. A person’s ethnic heritage is part of who they are. Knowing a good deal about someone’s language, traditional foods or cultural history can be a great way to win their hearts if they hold these things dear. It also shows you tried, something that people appreciate, whether they’re prospective employers or prospective in-laws.
Don’t leave your partner in the dark about things that matter. If there are aspects of your culture that your family holds dear, your partner should know about it. For instance, it is crucial for a Yoruba man’s fiancée to know about the custom of kneeling before his older relatives, especially if her people don’t kneel to greet.
Be a rock for the one you love. No matter how much you prepare, interethnic marriages will test your patience at some point. Regardless of how well-meaning the in-laws are, language and cultural barriers have a way of making an outsider feel like, well, an outsider. Be sensitive, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and help make bonding easier.