How to improve and protect against a decline in relationship satisfaction
- Conflict communication
- Marital interaction
- Spousal support
- Relationship maintenance
- Emotional regulation skills
So how can you practically try to improve your multicultural relationship skills? Well here are a few ideas to start with;
Emotional regulation skills
Self-regulation is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised if you want to improve it. Meditation is a great way to do this and can increase your self-regulatory strength and has many other benefit. Below are a few links to free meditation websites with guides.
- The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems
- Sitting Together: Essential Skills for Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy
- Headspace App: Learn to meditate and live mindfully
Conflict communication skills
Sometimes one of the biggest problems to communication is when you have an elevated emotional response. As soon as one person in the discussion has raised their voice, it is likely that false judgements and assumptions have been made. When you next feel misunderstood in an argument, or if you are discussing a subject that you know you both argue about, try the following and hopefully it will improve your listening and empathising skills within your relationship.
1. The first person states what they want to say
2. The second person repeats their understanding of what the first person said
3. The first person then states if that is a clear representation of what they mean and they are satisfied that the person understands them, if they are not then you go back to step one, if it is then the next person starts at step one.
This process quickly dissipates any emotional arousal and creates improved communication, greater acceptance and less defensiveness and helps empathetic understanding of each other (8).
Relationship Maintenance skills
Relationships can take an incredible amount of work to maintain, and that work is heavily dependant on communication. Research has identified 5 positive behaviours, that are associated with an increase in relationship satisfaction, and 6 negative behaviours that you should try to reduce, that are related to a reduction in relationship satisfaction (9)
1. Assurances, implicitly or explicitly reassuring the partner about the future of the relationship, expressions of love and commitment
2. Openness, direct discussions about one’s own feelings and about the relationship,
3. Positivity, making interactions cheerful and pleasant
4. Social networks is spending time with and gathering support from shared friends, relying on the support and love of family and friends
5. Shared tasks, performing tasks the partners jointly face and sharing equal responsibility within the relationship (10)
1. Jealousy induction, behaviours that create jealousy such as flirting with others to make your partner jealous.
2. Avoidance, avoiding being physically being around or to avoid talking about difficult subjects within your relationship
3. Spying on your partner
4. Infidelity and flirting with someone who is not your partner
5. Destructive conflict, thing such as starting arguments with your partner and trying to control your partner’s behaviour.
6. Allowing control, thing such as dropping responsibilities and enjoyed activities because of your partner (11)
Learn each other’s languages, this can create a greater understanding, empathy and improve deeper communication between you both by discovering hidden meanings of words in the others language. This leads to a deeper understanding of your partner. As a by-product this can also help you to understand your partner’s culture and help with the integration process if you have move to your partner’s country.
Tips for native partner
If your partner has moved to your native country try to remember to be understanding and supportive, as discussed above there are a lot of extra stresses that you may or may not be aware of in moving to a new country. These extra stresses added to normal life stresses can elevate the risks of mental health problems with the non-native partner. Your partner could need your support in almost all parts of their lives at the beginning due to the complications of language and culture. Even in simple areas such as buying food or arranging a dentist appointment, this can be very debilitating for your partner to have to wholly rely on you.
Being open and asking questions, asking questions builds an awareness and an acceptance of the differences and similarities that that you face as a partnership and as a family. For example you will need to build a third culture together by finding out what things are important to your partner from their culture that you could both incorporate into your creation of your third culture. The value of this is to respect what is important to them and yourself to create understanding and acceptance of one another’s culture.
There many ways to improve relationships and you need to find one that works for you as individuals and as a family. Relationships and families can be hard work sometimes, and I think there is a need to recognise this and take a moment to think about it. Without work relationships might dwindle and fracture, but if you’re willing to create a cherished relationship they can be the most rewarding aspect of life. The loving relationship that surround you will reward you with happiness and life longevity.
(Timothy Hudd BA)
The author is a BACP registered Counsellor and psychotherapist in the UK, living and practicing in Helsinki, and married to a Finn himself.
3. Romano D. Intercultural marriage: Promises and pitfalls. 2008.
8. Rogers CR, Roethlisberger FJ. Barriers and Gateways to Communication. 1991;
9. Doing the Work of Relationships: A Maintenance Approach | Psychology Today [Internet]. july 19th. 2014 [cited 2018 Jan 11]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/adventures-in-dating/201407/doing-the-work-relationships-maintenance-approach
10. Stafford L, Dainton M, Haas S. Measuring routine and strategic relational maintenance: Scale revision, sex versus gender roles, and the prediction of relational characteristics. Commun Monogr. 2000 Sep;67(3):306–23.
11. Dainton M, Gross J. The Use of Negative Behaviors to Maintain Relationships. Commun Res Reports. 2008 Aug 18;25(3):179–91.