Academic research on cross-cultural couples has tended toward the negative, said Kyle Killian, an associate professor of psychology at York University, Canada's third largest, in an Alumni Matters article. But time has brought an increase in the number of intercultural couples as well as an increase in social acceptance.
Recent studies do not suggest that there's a greater likelihood of separation and divorce in cross-cultural marriages, Killian said in an interview with loveandblueberries.com. Killian aims to spread this updated, more positive message with the new 12-chapter book he co-edited, Intercultural Couples: Exploring Diveristy in Intimate Relationships.
"In the past, intercultural relationships were quite taboo. There wasn't a lot of acceptance within families for intercultural or interracial relationships. Also, 20 or 30 years ago, a lot of academic studies tended to be problem-saturated. Intercultural couples were seen as problematic," said Killian in the loveandblueberries.com interview.
Killian looked closely at Canada's increasingly multicultural society, "where one in five is an immigrant, one is six is a visible minority and where it's more likely now that a relationship is going to be a cross-cultural situation," he said.
While all relationships are challenging and complicated, couples in intercultural relationships do have an additional layer of complexity to wade through.
"Culture is a little like water to a fish – we're in it but we're not necessarily aware of our culture until we encounter someone who doesn't share all of our beliefs and customs and rituals" said Killian in the interview. "At first, what's most familiar to us seems like the way to do it. Encountering someone else means finding ways to do things that are exciting, fresh and new. Sometimes it's so unfamiliar that it's not something you immediately embrace. But if you want the relationship to survive, you have to be inclusive of both partner's traditions."
The book takes an optimistic look at intercultural relationships while acknowledging and exploring the unique struggles couples from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds may face.