Did you know that intercultural couples are on the rise? The reason for this is globalisation and increased mobility of people around the world. Therefore, more and more individuals who come from different cultures, ethnicities or races are dating or even get married.
When we talk about intercultural couples, we refer to a relationship between people who are of different races, ethnicities, nationalities or even religions. And there are more of them than you think! For instance, just between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of intercultural marriages grew from 7.4% to 10.2% in the United States.
So, what do you think? Are intercultural couples unhappy than same-culture couples?
Studies tend to say ‘yes’ to this question. For example, some research found that intercultural relationships seem to have higher chances of divorce, but also lower rates of marital satisfaction. This might be explained by the difficulties that couples of this type face, like adapting to a different culture, language barriers and religious differences.
Discrimination and stigma aren’t rare for intercultural couples, either. This often happens in public, where interracial and inter-religious couples are easier to notice. This can lead to people who are involved in these relationships to avoid going out together and enjoying a normal date night, out of fear that they will be pointed at.
You might leave this website with the idea that yes, indeed, intercultural couples are more unhappy than same-culture couples. Some of you who are currently involved in such a relationship might even be discouraged. However, this isn’t the full story.
Yes, intercultural couples might have to face additional obstacles than same-culture ones. However, there are many examples of happy intercultural couples. Let’s look at George and Amal Clooney, for example. He’s from Kentucky and of European descent, while she’s Lebanese, yet they have found ways to work around their cultural differences and live a satisfying life together. Research tells us that one relationship’s success or failure potential also lies in the way that partners deal with all the difficulties they have to face.
To describe the optimal process of forming a successful intercultural relationship, two US researchers by the name of Foeman and Nance came up with four stages that all intercultural couples should go through
Stage 1: Acknowledge
Both partners should acknowledge their different cultural backgrounds and the difficulties that come with them, but also prepare to face them together.
Stage 2: Cope
The couple should learn how to communicate efficiently and create a safe space for each other when coping with obstacles.
Stage 3: React
The two partners should start fighting against stigma and successfully face discrimination situations, but also start speaking out about these harmful behaviours.
Stage 4: Maintain
In this stage, the couple should maintain the behaviours and skills they acquired so far in order to live a satisfying life together and within their community.
All in all, remember that it is what you and your partner do that matters most for a relationship to work, despite any external variables. Being aware and wanting to put in extra effort into your cultural relationship is key for a satisfactory life together!
If you are struggling in your relationship and would like to speak to a professional, book an appointment here.
Alexandra Trașcă is an intern with Willingness and an undergraduate Psychology student at Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania.
Foeman, A. & Nance, T. (2002) Building New Cultures, Reframing Old Images: Success Strategies of Interracial Couples, Howard Journal of Communications, 13:3, 237-249, DOI: 10.1080/10646170290109716
Herr, G. J. (2009). Factors Influencing Black/white Interracial Marriage Satisfaction. Retrieved from https://rc.library.uta.edu/uta-ir/bitstream/handle/10106/1892/Herr_uta_2502D_10162.pdf?sequence=1
Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture & psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage
U.S. Census Bureau. (2018, July 9). Race, Ethnicity and Marriage in the United States. The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/07/interracial-marriages.html