Luma Simms, an immigrant from the Middle East, revealed a secret about her parents long and happy marriage.
Simms' family moved to the United States when she little. She grew up in two different cultures - Arab life and American life. Sometimes it was hard for her to understand the differences between American and Arab culture and bring them together in her personal life.
Americans are more individual-oriented while Middle Eastern culture "tends to downplay the individual for the sake of the entire family, household, and clan." After distinguishing these differences, it's easy to understand why it was hard for Simms to incorporate both cultures into her life.
Sometimes we reject cultural differences because they are not what we are used to or comfortable with. We might find ourselves feeling superior to others, but in reality the new culture might have meaningful and important quality. Simms feels that both cultures offer important qualities.
Simms explained that one of the qualities of the Arab culture is actually her parents' secret to a successful marriage.
"I witnessed the healing effects of hospitality in my parents' marriage. It was more than just having a temporary distraction from marital problems. Many times, when a hospitable act by one or the other came in the midst of a marital rift, my parents came toward each other later with a fresh perspective, a calmness, renewed openness, and a more controlled self-will."
Simms grew up seeing couples fight only to have neighbors and friends nudge them to reconcile. "The tangible healing effect of hospitality in my Arabic culture is imprinted upon my soul."
Simms clarified the definition of hospitality and how it affected her culture. She said it wasn't simply inviting a bunch of people over for a formal or even a semi-formal party with no children in earshot. Rather, "by hospitality, I mean a particular expression of love, an openness to other people, and a generosity of spirit. At the heart of hospitality is an orientation toward the other."
Simms believes it is the hospitable quality of the Arab culture that has healed her parents' and many others' marriages. "It's not that Arab people don't have hardships such as depression, marital problems, rebellious children, and so on. They do, but their response to these difficulties is more often eased by hospitality" rather than selfishness.
This cultural practice helps alleviate loneliness. Hospitality encourages men to build men, women to build women, but most importantly married couples to build married couples.
She concluded by saying, "Many times, when we experience marital or family problems in this contemporary culture, our first response is to turn in on ourselves and focus on our own needs and wants. In contrast, hospitality exercises the habit of coming out of ourselves; it forces us to turn toward others, to serve, to prefer others above ourselves, and to avoid the temptation to turn inward."
Simms taught us that in marriage it's best to serve your spouse. Sometimes we forget to do this as we focus on self-improvement. If you want your marriage to last forever, you need to make time for others.
Christa is a part time photographer, part time writer and full time lover of life. She loves eating chocolate chip cookies and singing (but not at the same time). She has her degree in political science.