The percentage of Americans marrying outside their race has more than doubled since 1980, largely because of increasing acceptance of interracial and intercultural relationships. Being in such a relationship can present many challenges, from confusion and misunderstanding about a loved one's behavior to fear of your differences. However, a number of invaluable advantages to these relationships emerge as intercultural relationships become increasingly commonplace.
Discovering a New Culture
The moment you begin an intercultural relationship is the moment you start to learn about an unfamiliar culture with its own traditions and customs. The ways that we communicate, from the volume of our voices to our concepts of personal space and gesturing, are heavily influenced by our cultures. So are our religions, the ways we speak, our relationships with family members and often the rites of passage we undergo. You and your partner can teach one another about the aspects of your cultures that are dissimilar.
Learning New Skills
Culture describes a wide range of practices of a particular group of people, including the foods they eat, the music they listen to and create, the sports they play and the books they read. You may already have mastered some of the skills associated with your culture, and being in an intercultural relationship will open up a whole new world of welcome challenges. For example, you could perfect a recipe for a dish you've sampled at a loved one's home, practice a sport played in a different part of the world or learn a game that your partner has grown up enjoying with family members. You might learn a new language or dialect in order to communicate with your partner's family or read some literature you might not have been able to access before.
Relating Better to Others
The difficulties involved in intercultural relationships may actually have upsides. According to University of Wisconsin communication studies professor Tony Docan, the skills we develop in all relationships are exaggerated in intercultural relationships. Docan explains that we build feelings of connection with other people in general through our own specific connections to partners from different cultures. Your newfound understanding of one different culture -- that of a close loved one -- will likely make it easier for you to relate and feel close to to people from many different walks of life, not just those most like you or your partner.
Healing Past Prejudices
One of the greatest benefits of an intercultural relationship is its effect on everyone it touches, starting with the two people at the center. The suffering one or both partners have gone through at the hands of prejudice can be addressed, at least in part, by this healthy relationship. This healing effect can grow and blossom as family members, friends and even strangers learn that their prejudices have little to do with the thriving relationship in front of them.
- USA Today: Interracial Marriage: More Accepted, Still Growing
- Purdue University Extension: The Benefits and Challenges of Intercultural Communication
- Intercultural Communication in Contexts; Judith N. Martin and Thomas K. Nakayama
- All Academic Research: Building and Sustaining Intercultural Relationships
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