As singer Haddaway put it, ‘What is Love?’ We know for sure that love comes in a variety of forms, whether it is platonic, romantic, familial or devotion of religion it all boils down to affection. But today I want to focus on romantic love, more specifically the culture that surrounds it.
As the reader of The Rock, would it be wrong to assume that you all understand romantic love, whatever gender, to be between two people. Our western culture typically set out our love lives following the rules of serial monogamy – the practice of only having one partner at a time until the next person comes along or you’ve found someone you plan on sticking around for.
Without thinking about it for most this is common sense, it’s something you’re taught from such a long time ago, it is difficult to imagine a different way of thinking. Deviance from serial monogamy, labelled as cheating or being a ‘player’ isn’t generally acceptable. Even the law is on side of those who do not become grifters of the love world – with bigamy, to be married multiple people, as legal offence.
We all know this; however we are all perfectly aware that in other countries and cultures they don’t play by the same rules. With polyandry and polygyny being legal across many parts of the world, we accept that other cultures are different.
But what happens when two people from other cultures cross paths, and find love despite their lifestyle differences.
I have a friend who fell into this situation. We shall call Jane.
Jane was taking a gap year in Tanzania, and during this time worked closely with members of the Massai tribesmen. After over a year of working with one man in particular, let’s call him John, Jane and John became very close and fell for each other. For most, this should be a time of celebration. But with both of them risking their jobs to be with each other, only if they were deadly serious, and marriage was on the cards, would this be acceptable.
This is where the cracks began to show.
As a Massai tribesman, who had already married once, he would have taken Jane on as an additional wife. If Jane committed to John then she would already be committing herself to the entire family. This includes the first wife and their children, John’s old mother, the potential for another wife to join in the fun, and last, but not least, the chance of John having more children with new wives.
This proposes the life changing situation where cultural sides are taken, or a compromise is made. Unfortunately this is problem situation leaves almost only black and white options, so a middle ground is going to be difficult to find.
What would you do?
Jane chose her culture. The differences between love, marriage and sex were very different concepts for John, whereas for Jane, and most westernised people, they are far too intertwined to separate. This begs the question, can cross a cultural relationship ever exist without someone having to give up part of themselves? And is it too much to ask?
It would take a very strong person to be able to do that, and it is a life changing question to be put forward to anyone. Of course, circumstances are vital, but I couldn’t do it – and now I’ve said that I am destined to fall for a smart handsome tribesman myself.