Master of Science
Intercultural relationships—romantic relationships where one partner is outside the other’s racial, ethnic, religious, and/or language group—are a growing sociodemographic group. Individuals in such relationships must navigate their cultural differences to mitigate the negative effects of the challenges they face and ameliorate the benefits of their relationship. Culture can impact preferences in communicating about these differences and consequently relationship maintenance. Yet little is known about how intercultural couples communicate about their cultural differences to effectively maintain their relationship. To address this gap, I conducted semi-structured, virtual, interviews with 23 intercultural couples and found that intercultural couples’ overall preference and efficacy of some communication strategies over others in four contexts: (1) recognize and reconcile their cultural differences, (2) navigate stigma and discrimination, (3) navigate regular relationship maintenance, and (4) maximize benefits of the relationship. This work highlights the functionality of communication strategies for the quality of intercultural romantic relationships.
Summary for Lay Audience
With increasing globalization, more people are interacting with individuals from different cultural backgrounds more often. These frequent interactions have led to increasing romantic relationships amongst people from varying cultural backgrounds. Romantic relationships where one partner is outside the other’s racial, ethnic, religious, and/or language group are called intercultural relationships. Individuals in intercultural relationships face unique challenges and garner unique benefits because of their relationship. To effectively cope with these challenges and maximize these benefits, intercultural relationships may need to rely on specific communication strategies, as communication is an important contributor to relationship quality (Epstein et al., 2016). Current literature has developed communication styles based on intracultural relationships: romantic relationships where both partners are from the same racial, ethnic, religious, and/or language group. However, culture can impact preferences in communicating about these differences and consequently relationship maintenance Additionally, effective communication is dependent on situational context, yet there is little work exploring the efficacy of communication strategies in varying contexts, especially for intercultural relationships. To address these gaps in the literature, I conducted semi-structured, virtual interviews with 23 couples to examine how intercultural couples use communication strategies and determine their usefulness in different contexts. Findings show that intercultural couples do indeed use a variety of communication styles and strategies to varying levels of effectiveness, depending on the context. Specifically, participants used communication styles (developed from previous literature) as well as unique communication strategies: positivity, compromises, assurances, future focus, and unhealthy strategies (developed from current interviews using thematic analysis) in four contexts: (1) recognize and reconcile their cultural differences, (2) navigate stigma and discrimination, (3) navigate regular relationship maintenance, and (4) maximize benefits of the relationship. This suggests that different communication strategies are important tools for everyday maintenance of the relationship as well as navigating the unique aspects of intercultural relationships, advancing theory on the impact of cultural differences on romantic relationship processes.
Daniel, Adira, "How do individuals in intercultural romantic relationships use communication strategies to maintain their relationship? A qualitative analysis." (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8760.