Relational dialectics in intercultural couples’ relationships
The main purpose of this study is to describe and to understand the intercultural couples’ relationships in Finland from the relational-dialectics perspective. Relational dialectics supports the idea that tensions (relational contradictions) are a fundamental feature of a relationship, and are thus distinct from conflict or problems. In this qualitative study, data were collected from 18 heterosexual intercultural couples (36 persons), utilizing the multi-method approach.
The intercultural couples in this study experienced internal and external dialectics. Internal dialectics were specifically related to intercultural adaptation, e.g. need of support, uncertainty about the future, and identity confusion issues. Externally, the couples encountered challenges of inclusion and exclusion regarding, e.g. family support, access to a social network, which are facilitated through disclosure, which is at times problematic regarding the host community’s language.
The effects of intercultural couples’ cultural background on their relationship concerned continual negotiations, that constitute their lives -internally and externally- and entail repeated decision-making and compromising about friends, religion, traditions and celebrations, and their acceptance in the larger social network, the upbringing and education of their children, values and gender issues, and adaptation.
The common thread surfacing in the couples’ accounts of how their different cultural backgrounds are reflected in their relationships is unquestionably the continual re-negotiation between the two partners themselves and between the couples and their social networks. In a sense these define their intercultural relationship; all their moves are negotiated moves.
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