Communication problems are common to most, if not all, relationships and are not only about having different mother tongues. In fact, many communication problems are gender-related and thus exist in both intercultural and monocultural relationships. Therefore all heterosexual relationships may be said to be intercultural in that they bring together the different cultural worlds and experiences of men and women. However, since gender roles often are culture-specific, a woman and a man who have grown up in the same culture surroundings will generally share an understanding for their different roles in a relationship. This shared understanding may help them to overlook and overcome the communication difficulties caused by gender differences.
Gender roles aren’t necessarily complementary in intercultural relationships, because partners may come from two cultures with very different ideas of female and male roles. When this is the case, the success of the relationship will depend on the couple being able to satisfactorily negotiate a new kind of gender complementarity agreeable to both partners. The satisfactory negotiation requires both to adjust their perceptions of gender roles, selfhood and identity.
The lifestyle and living conditions of the country where the couple lives in will influence the range of choices available to the couple. There are also differences between, for example, city and countryside, and between different social classes. The views of friends and relatives may also come into play and sometimes take the couple by surprise.
Gender is a socio-cultural construct and gender identity is acquired largely subconsciously through interactions with others within the same socio-cultural environment. Gender tends to be understood as nature rather than culture, and thus people tend also to experience their own perceptions of gender and gender roles as the only possible and acceptable ones. However, no culture (and the gender roles it contains) has the monopoly on being “natural” or “right” and all models for gender-role distribution are culturally determined.
In intercultural relationships the culturally determined gender-roles are often re-examined and revalued. Discrepancy in a couple's perceptions and attitudes predicts relationship dissatisfaction in both partners. As with other culture-specific concepts, it helps to be aware of one’s own background and the influence of upbringing. A couple will also need to communicate their expectations and needs clearly. What matters ultimately is the couple agreeing on the gender-role distribution; not what the gender-role distribution is (for example egalitarian or traditional).
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