Intercultural romantic relationships aid personal growth, York U researcher says

Featured image for YFile on relationship satisfaction survey by pexels-wendy-wei-2719500

Research by Faculty of Health Professor Amy Muise and her team offers first look at how cultural differences can facilitate personal growth and relationship success.

Couples in intercultural romantic relationships benefit from each other’s cultural differences, as they are exposed to new perspectives, knowledge and identities, three recent studies conducted by York University researchers indicate.

Amy Muise
Amy Muise

“Intercultural romantic relationships are increasingly common and although the obstacles such couples face are well-documented, the factors that facilitate their success are less studied,” says Muise, a social psychologist, who is the senior author of a new paper. “Our current study results show that personal growth was associated with relationship quality and identity outcomes.”

“Growing Together Through our Cultural Differences: Self-expansion in Intercultural Romantic Relationships,”  published Oct. 6 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, is a research paper based on studies using cross-sectional, dyadic, over time, and experimental methods to understand the opportunities for growth through cultural sharing in a relationship.

The studies indicate that personal growth through a partner’s culture was uniquely related to identity outcomes, such as a greater cultural awareness, beyond general growth through the relationship.

“Also, actively sharing cultures and discussing their differences was linked to more cultural and relational self-expansion, which in turn, differentially predicted partners’ relationship quality and cultural identities,” points out Muise, who is also the York Research Chair in Relationships and Sexuality.

These studies provide a first look at the role of self-expansion in intercultural relationships – demonstrating that the way couples negotiate their cultures is linked to both relational and personal outcomes.