People have different expectations when it comes to romantic relationships and marriage. People may also have relationship bias and as early as during a couple’s wedding ceremony some people might be speculating about the durability of the marriage or about children and their names etc. Other people´s expectations, presumptions and bias lay pressure on every relationship, but external pressure is often more intense if a couple differs from the norm. Societies and the world as a whole are changing rapidly but assumptions about marriage and family life are still somewhat tied to certain traditions and rules.
External pressure and expectation can make the couple try harder, which is a good thing, but they can also become the most stressful factors in a relationship. Traditions and norms change very slowly as well, and are bound to cultural and social contexts. Intercultural relationships are not new or uncommon phenomena, but people still have stereotypes and sometimes prejudice on the subject.
Intercultural couples create their very own family culture tht is also called 'a third culture'. Third culture combines both partners' cultures and creates new. Third culture brings along compromises and arrangements that might not fit the expectations of others. Cultural differences are usually other people’s main focus even if the couple has more in common than a couple sharing the same national culture might.
The most important things in any functional relationship are common values and a shared worldview on the most significant things. The ability to communicate, openness and respect for one another are also very important. Even though our ways to communicate, values and worldview are developed in a certain national culture and its context, they are not necessarily a permanent fixture and can evolve when people come into contact with different social and cultural contexts. Our childhood and adult experiences as well as our personality make us what we are and getting to know different cultures, even if only through a partner from a different culture, have a lasting effect into our lives.
You can find bias existing in different and sometimes unexpected places. Our environment (families and friends, and the society as a whole) has often unspoken definitions about which two people are suited for each other and what are the conditions of love. Unfortunately some nationalities and couples face more prejudice than others. The geographical and cultural distances as well as economical and political factors seem to define the conditions of love in intercultural relationships. For example, spouses coming outside the European Union are treated differently by the immigration authorities than those coming from inside the EU. Some intercultural couples feel annoyed by having to produce facts concerning their dating history and documents such as travel tickets and rental agreements.
Unfortunately prejudice exists also in places where you wouldn´t expect it exist. Faced with a new situation some people react and reveal a new side to them which isn’t always a positive one. Negative attitudes and stereotypes can become evident in the words and behavior of people you thought you knew very well and these people can include family and friends. Sometimes this could mean that you have to choose between your partner and a good friend, but sometimes it might also be a relief to have an explanation to why a friendship has not been working: you have not shared common values on the most significant things after all. When a biased attitude is exposed in close relationship, for example with a family member, it can be a shock and signify a turning point from which onwards you might have to revalue your own identity and what is important to you.
Prejudice works both ways and sometimes intercultural couple sees prejudice in others’ behavior when there isn’t any. No one is completely free from biased attitudes and stereotypes, but we can and should be aware of them. By being critical about the information that surrounds us and by being open-minded and willing to change our views, helps us to cope with biases of our own and others’.
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