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Relationship therapy, couples counselling and marriage counselling. Relationship Struggles: When Love and Culture Clash

Relationship Struggles: When Love and Culture Clash

Challenges and tips for interracial couples

Relationship Struggles: when love and culture clash, read on to learn more about the various challenges interracial or inter-cultural couples may face. We also highlight some tips to overcome these challenges and if you need further assistance, we have therapists & counsellors who have experience in couples counselling and marriage counsellors. Interracial relationships are becoming increasingly common in Australia, as the country becomes more diverse and multicultural. While the majority of Australians support interracial relationships, there are still some challenges that couples may face. 27.6% of Australians were born overseas and the majority of us have at least one parent born overseas (ABS, 2021). Whilst all marriages have challenges, for the third of marriages that are interracial, there are some unique challenges.

Cultural Differences in Couples

One of the biggest challenges faced by interracial couples in Australia is cultural differences. Partners from different cultural backgrounds may have different expectations, beliefs, and values, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. A common conflict occurs between members of collectivist (CC) and individualistic cultures (IC). Often people from CC will go to great lengths to help and take care of their family members. People from IC may view this as excessive and a lack of boundaries. Especially if the CC individual is frequently distressed due to their feeling of obligation to their family.

Tip from a Counsellor:

It is important to remember that family and identity are very influential over our personality and values. Try not to view your partner’s differences at face value. Instead assume they have the same importance to them as they have to you.

Stereotypes & Prejudice experienced by Couples

Another challenge is dealing with stereotypes and prejudice. Interracial couples may face discrimination from others who are not accepting of their relationship. They may experience negative comments, stares, or even harassment from strangers, acquaintances, or even family members.

Tip from a Counsellor:

You may not see the discrimination your partner endures. It is important to consider they may have experienced more discrimination earlier in their life. Furthermore, if you have no experienced discrimination in the same way you may not notice it. Remember to listen when they discuss their experience. Your job is to listen to their struggles not win an argument.

Social Challenged experienced by Couples

Interracial couples may also struggle with social isolation. They may feel like they don’t fit in with their partner’s cultural community or their own, leading to feelings of loneliness and exclusion. This can be particularly difficult for couples who are far from their families or support networks.

Tip from a Counsellor:

Often the little things can help to feel connected to our culture. This could be watching the footy, getting a weekly dose of the food our mum used to make or calls with family members. Our relationship satisfaction is separate to our feeling of cultural or familial connection.

Couples and Culture

Finally, interracial couples may struggle with the question of identity. They may feel pressure to choose between their cultural heritage and their relationship, leading to feelings of confusion and loss. This can be particularly difficult for children of interracial couples who may struggle with their own sense of identity and belonging.

Tip from a Counsellor:

You may not have thought about your cultural identity before dating someone outside of your culture. Consider it an opportunity to actively connect and explore your culture. It is also an opportunity to share your culture with your partner.

Successful Relationships

Despite these challenges, many interracial couples in Australia have successful and fulfilling relationships. The rise in internet dating has connected people who never would have in the twentieth century. Communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to learn and compromise are key to overcoming the challenges and building a strong relationship. By embracing their differences and celebrating their unique cultural backgrounds, interracial couples can create a rich and diverse relationship that is stronger than any challenges they may face.

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Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2021). Cultural diversity: Census. ABS.

Calderon, P. S. P., Wong, J. D., & Hodgdon, B. T. (2022). A scoping review of the physical health and psychological well-being of individuals in interracial romantic relationships. Family Relations, 71( 5), 2011– 2029.

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Monique Jones

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