Intercultural Marriage

Intercultural Marriage: Challenges and Uniqueness of Experience

Individuals entering intercultural marriages have to make a greater effort to maintain a lasting relationship due to differences in traditions, norms and even language.  Evaluation of these challenges involves consideration of elements affecting success and failures of marriages.  It is a well-known fact that commitment to a relationship and marriage entails physical, social, and emotional adjustments in each member of the couple.  In an intercultural marriage, these difficulties are caused by the fact that two people that have different personalities and outlooks are bound to make unified decisions.

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Comparatively to other marriages, unions where spouses were born in different cultures and traditions face the need to make efforts to establish a stable relationship and attain a successful married life.  The dedication required from individuals in an intercultural marital relationship is higher because of the acceptance of the fact that there are added factors that are in need of consideration (Romano, 1997).

Scenario of an Intercultural Marriage

In determination of the factors that can affect the process referred to as intercultural marriage, there are two contributing elements to be considered.  First, the partners need to consider issues related to differences in traditions and norms of the two individuals. The second priority should be the factors that lead to and affect marriage.

In this view, the first area that needs to be studied includes factors that affect the relationship of two individuals.  Primarily, the factors that can exert such influence are means of communication.  Contemplating the onset of intercultural marriages, a researcher cannot but note that today’s reality increases chances for intercultural couples to meet and communicate. Immigration and relocation are two phenomena that augment the likelihood of two people from different cultures interacting with each other and consequently raises the frequency of intercultural marriages. This ease can be attributed to the developments currently under way in society.  The advancement of the communication technology is another factor that broadens the scope of communication means (Bacas, 2003; Constable, 2003).

The second important consideration in this type of marriage should be given to the factors that can affect the relationship established between the two individuals of the same culture.  These issues have the most influential effect on the union of two individuals from different backgrounds and include norms, traditions and the language that is mainly used for communication.  It is a recognized fact that people coming from different cultures, may the difference be geographically-related, caused by religion and spiritual belief and ethnic backgrounds, have different visions in life (Romano, 1997).  The outlook and viewpoints maintained by each individual function on the basis of their background.  Thus, every aspect of one’s personality is deeply rooted in one’s origin which can affect decisions to be made in the course of the married life.

The Efforts Required in an Intercultural Marriage

In an intercultural relationship, there are more efforts and dedication that are required from the two individuals compared to a conventional union where partners share the cultural background.  This difficulty is caused by frequent miscommunication.  Even the simplest occurrences can be the cause of misunderstandings.  What is the norm for one person can be unacceptable to the other.  These challenges are not limited to significant issues such as religion, norms, values, financial issues, social status, and the views specifically related to the nurturing and development of children.  Issues also revolve around simple subjects and points of discussion such as food, the couple’s household duties, clothes, the priorities, and even the friends and the social activities (Romano, 1997).  These factors concern every aspect of the life shared by the couple.  The presence of a large number of discrepancies causes a high percentage of divergence and makes frequent misinterpretations inevitable.  As a result, the couple exerts an extra amount of work to be able to completely understand each other and attain a successful marriage.

Success in terms of marriage can be equated to the contentment and fulfillment that an individual can achieve in a relationship.  An intercultural relationship is a complex process due to the fact that success of a relationship is a product of the interplay of the complex factors associated with the dissimilar origin.  A recently conducted study on the achievement of intercultural marriages considering for the effect of religion supports this claim. Results generated by the study showed that even in cases where couples are of the same religion, which lessens the incurred differences, those belonging to the same race and culture are comparatively more successful than others.  Thus, in terms of the observable parameter used, these couples have fewer arguments and misunderstandings (Fu, Kendall, & Tora, 2001).

Another significant consideration is the pressure on women that can be generated by the relationship. The complexity of roles that they have to carry out in an intercultural marriage accounts for the pressure (Fu, Kendall, & Tora, 2001).  Women are commonly expected to conform in the culture and tradition of the men.  This makes them especially vulnerable in the society composed of an intricate web of interpersonal relationships.  In cases with complications like intercultural marriages, norms and traditions even in an advanced era oftentimes dictate that the women are the ones to adjust to the traditions of communities to which the men belong.  Women agree to this setup often due to the strong sense of duty and importance traditionally given to the norms of the family (Romano, 1997).

Although, as the results of the study demonstrated, women usually take a bigger role and experience a higher degree of change in their personal life, both parties have to sacrifice a part of their well-being to be able to attain a compromise and achieve a successful life together.  Maintenance of norms and traditions is an essential part of every person’s well-being, and compromising in an intercultural relationship may also mean losing a part of one’s way of life.  This makes the preservation of such relationship a struggle for many.

This struggle relates to unconventional traditions than can be unacceptable and even detestable to the other partner.  In such cases, additional communication and ultimate understanding is required.  Communication is necessary since performing such activities and practices is common to the partner and cannot be viewed negatively; thus, any harm done to the other person was not consciously incurred.  Intercultural communication is an essential and vital element in the relationship of individuals in society and the world.  It applies to every conversation, every transaction and every variation in character and culture; thus, it is worthwhile trying to attain the wanted intercultural marriage success and contentment (Casmir, 1997).


Based on the result of the research conducted, there is an increase in the efforts required from couples of different norms and traditions to attain success in an intercultural marriage.  This means comparatively more trials and obstacles to overcome obstacles in every aspect of the relationship and each individual’s personal being.  This can be a trying and tedious endeavor, but success is not impossible, and achieving a lasting and worthwhile relationship is worth all the risk.


Bacas, J. L. (2003).  Cross-border marriages and the formation of Transnational Families: A case study of Greek-German couples in Athens WPTC-02-10.  Transnational Communities Programme.  Retrieved July 3, 2006 from

Casmir, F. L. (1997).  Ethics in Intercultural and International Communication.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Constable, N. (2003).  Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail-Order” Marriages. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Fu, X., Kendall, H., & Tora, J. (2001) Marital Happiness and Inter-Racial Marriage: A Study in a Multi-Ethnic Community in Hawaii.   Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 32 (1), 47.

Romano, D. (1997).  Intercultural Marriage: Promises & Pitfalls.  Washington, DC: Intercultural Press.


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Intercultural Marriage. (2017, Jan 17). Retrieved from