Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century

Download Report

Transcript Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century

Loving across border control: Couple relationships in the 21st Century

Dr Reenee Singh & Dr Martina Klett-Davies Faculty of Social Sciences The Open University, UK AFT Annual Conference, London, 20.9.2013

Plan for the workshop

• Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21 st findings from quantitative study Century – Methods and • Overview of literature • Qualitative sample and Clinical Vignettes • • Research Questions Self Reflexivity • IPA • Findings • Clinical Implications

Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century

How do couples experience and understand the qualities (‘connectors’) of their long-term relationships?

Qualitative research

Psycho-social mixed methods study The sample includes: • 50 couples (aged between 18 and 60) • heterosexual and same-sex couples • equal numbers of men and women • couples with and without children • Ethnic minority

Research methods

Research methods diaries individual interviews couple (collage) interviews

Research methods


online survey questionnaire

Survey/5 Measures/Likert scale

Religion and relationship measures

Sexual orientation, parenting status and relationship maintenance

Parenting status and relationship measures

My partner wants to have sex more than I do: relationship duration and sexual orientation

Heterosexual women 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Under 1 year 1-5 years 6-10 years LGBT women 11-15 years 16–20 years more than 20 years

Stressors and relationship measures

• 31% of participants have started an educational course • 23% experienced job loss or redundancy and/or starting work • 32% moved house • 25% experienced bereavement In contrast to previous research findings ( Walker et al., 2010 ) there appears to be

significant positive relationships

between the number of events in the past two years and relationship satisfaction.

Help and advice seeking

Plan for the workshop again

• Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21 st findings from quantitative study X Century – Methods and • Overview of literature • Qualitative sample and Clinical Vignettes • • Research Questions Self Reflexivity • IPA • Findings • Clinical Implications

Overview of the literature

• “Things are harder across the divide and it would be foolish to deny that.” Yasmin Alibhai Brown, 2001.

• Falicov (1995, 2007) cross-cultural marriages and migration • Focus on pathology and difficulties in relation to religion, food, language, understanding self and families (eg. Bacigalupe, 2003) • • • Melendez and McDowell’s focus on immigrants or transnationals.

• Killian (2001) discourse of ‘homogamy’, hypersensitivity and ‘no race’ talk.

Karis and Killian (2009) – Power and developmental frameworks Singh and Dutta (2010) Intercultural Couples – U.K.


• • The overall sample of 50 couples entailed 15 couples who were either Asian or Black African or Black Afro Caribbean Of MKD’s sample there were seven couples were at least one partner was either Asian (2) or Black African or Afro-Caribbean (5) • • • Of those RS sample for qualitative research seven couples where one or both identified as ‘Asian’ RS sample Could have refined the category to ‘South Asian’ • • Of the seven couples, one was an older Asian couple but all the rest were in intercultural relationships • Amongst the twelve participants in intercultural relationships, four identified as mixed race, one was Taiwanese, two Indian and the remaining 5 were White English Six of the couples were heterosexual and one was lesbian In this disparate couple, the theme of migration, in this generation, cut across two of the couples whom I have chosen for this workshop.

Research Questions • What are the experiences of couples where one, or both are migrants to the U.K?

• What are the resiliencies or strengths in such relationships?

10 Data sets • 4 Diaries of Participants 1, 2, 3 and 4 • 4 Transcripts of four Individual interviews • 2 Transcipts of two couple interviews


• IPA is a “qualitative research approach committed to the examination of how people make sense of their major life experiences.” (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2012) • Phenomenological and interpretative • Detailed and idiographic • In depth look at a small, homogenous sample

• Meta Themes • Development • Resiliencies Findings

Developmental Stages


1: Becoming a Couple

Unintentional Migration

• Participant 4 : “And I never really anticipated that I would be living in the UK as a wife.” • Participant 1: “ She didn’t really come to Britain with any intention of staying here, she just came to her Masters degree.”

1: Becoming a Couple

Escape from patriarchy

• Participant 2: “ I think it’s just my dad is very, um, controlling and very, umm dismisive … my dad is really um from a patriarchial background” • Participant 4: “…Because they had visions of me never getting married, and every time they tried to arrange a marriage or somebody suggested it I would just say, “Oh I don’t want to get married because it was easier to say that than to say ‘I don’t want to get married like this…

1: Becoming a Couple

Mismatch of Cultural Expectations

• Participant 4 : “….I would have liked him to take my cousin to the train station but he was reluctant – said it would take an hour. I was a bit annoyed but decided not to push it- she said she didn’t mind taking a cab.”

1: Becoming a Couple

• Participant 1: “It was really difficult to negotiate because I didn’t want to be that kind of, as oh, I was trying to live up to some sort of breadwinner patriarch… so I wanted to, you know, I felt it was only fair that you contribute something, but then I was also wrestling with that guilt…” • Participant 2: “Because before, when we started going out, I only had a one year visa and, for some time, it seemed the only option for me to stay in England was to get married. And there was no way you would marry me at that point. So that I was really worried, an I think I was, kind of, expecting you to do more for me, but it was really early days, so it was too much to ask.”

1: Becoming a Couple

Negotiating Intercultural Differences

• Participant 1: “Well, we’ve clearly had to develop our awareness of each other’s cultural differences, because there’s so much that you don’t really know how it’s going to impact on each other. Like you know, compared to Taiwan, English society, you know, women…a lot of women make jokes about sex and talk about it, it’s there much more prominent and I don’t know. When I was younger I always used to have quite a kind of, cheeky sense of humour, like a bit rude and a bit, like always double entrendres and things. And um, I think I just took that for granted, so I assumed…it took me a while to realise how that..it wasn’t because you were prudish, and it wasn’t because you were, kind of, stuck up or anything. It was just, kind of the cultural standards are different.”

1: Becoming a Couple •

Experiences of Racism

• Participant 3: Um, I suppose Participant 4 has a strong sense of um her Indian identity, the legacy of UK domination over India pre-independence, um and I think there’s a lack of sensitivity to that often within my family or or a sort of …a difficulty in acknowledging it.” • Participant 2: “I know, just so many, well…we don’t have to brand them but they’re like chavvy looking teenagers and I got robbed, and I got shouted abuse…”

1: Becoming a Couple •

Experiences of Racism

• Participant 1: “Last summer we went to the ---- festival and as we were leaving some drunk guy came up and he, he looked at Anne and he said to me, “Oh she’s Chinese.” And I said, “She’s not Chinese’’ and he, he looked at me and said, I think he thought he was being funny but he said, “Did you buy her?” • And I said, “You’re drunk and you’re ignorant. F--- off.” And he stumbled off, but, um, yeah, I don’t know, I think there’s that, particularly in English men with Asian partners, there’s that stereotype of, kind, of you know, Thai mail order brides and things like this, that people assume there’s going to be a big disparity….”


Recognition of sacrifice

• Participant 2: “Yeah, so then, because I usually got frustrated with visa applications, the fact that I had to apply and then take time off and book the train and everything, you know, the cost added up, so then you decided to come with me and made it a pleasant day, instead of just getting the visa sorted, we booked the high tea in the afternoon….” • Participant 3: “It’s much tougher for Participant 4 because she’s in the UK and I think, um, because she’s here permanently. Her relationship with, with the culture if you like, is much tougher, and difficult to sort of feel integrated in because you’re because you’re living here permanently…”

Resiliencies •

Interplay of Cultural Differences

• Participant 3: Yeah we do, we do Diwali and Christmas • Participant 4: Yeah. We don’t – probably do as much for Diwali because we don’t get time off in the same way so it’s a bit harder to do something on the day. But we do try to do something. We used to try and go out for a meal or something on Diwali, or call friends over .

• Participant 2: Yeah, and I think you’re usually very quick to point it out. Like he’s very patriotic and aware to point out that I’m from Taiwan, not China, yeah…”

Resiliencies •

Parental Approval

• Participant 4: “And I think they always wanted me to get married and they’ve been trying to arrange marriages of me, then they realised that it wasn’t working, that I wouldn’t go ahead with it. So, um, so they were very pleased when I got married, when we got married.” • Participant 2 “Sometimes I think they (her parents) like Henry better than they do me and the fact that he’s got a Ph.d, he’s teaching at the University is very respected in Taiwan…”


Similarity in class, political ideologies, values

• Participant 2: “ I think we have similar values um, we’re more on the Left really and um, interested in helping people in a more vulnerable position.” • Participant 3: “Because although we come from different cultural contexts our class backgrounds aren’t dissimilar so, um, I think that’s that makes it quite a lot easier in certain respects.”

2: Marriage: Crossing the Borders

The Home Office Affects Relationships

• Participant 4: “…. I mean the UK border agency I think that did initially put a bit of stress in our-on our marriage because, uh, I had it took me over a year to get indefinite leave to remain. Um and I couldn’t go to India because they had my passport for over a year. Um so I – I mean I think they again, and I know from my own work that they are making it much more difficult for couples where one couple is – one of the partners isn’t from an EU country; they’ve raised the income threshold and they’ve increased the time, or they’re planning to increase the time, and I just think that would just put a lot of stress on relationships which isn’t, you know – in a sense it isn’t necessarily for the government to decide who you should marry, and help and encourage certain kinds of marriages and not others. Um, so I think that that, again, is something that should possibly be changed…..

2: Marriage: Crossing the Borders

• •

Being married equates being entitled to protection

Participant 2: “I think as a migrant you always feel like you’re in a vulnerable position and people have been telling me at work that um, you’re entitled to a different set of rights if you’re married than if you’re not married.” • “And being married, it just, you know, offers me protection.” •

Not acceptable to have children outside wedlock

• “It was only this year that I came to realise if we don’t get married I will have less protection, and for a long time, it’s just the fact that it’s not really possible to have kind if we don’t get married. It’s not acceptable for my parents …”


Being part of a mixed race community

• Participant 2: “Yeah like in my office, for example, um, one, two, three, um and yeah, they all have a foreign husband or boyfriend and one of my good friends, she’s English but her husband is um, from Indonesia and I’ve got another friend who is Japanese and her husband’s English and one from Hong Kong, her husband’s English…yeah and I think there’s this kind of unspoken thing among all these mixed race couples, is you, you understand how difficult for the other…”


Growing and changing together

• Participant 1: Participant 2’s often said that Taiwanese culture compared to British culture isn’t that sexualised. I mean, I thnk when she first came to Britain she was shocked how, you know, not even your closest friends, but just mates from your courses go to the pub and you’d be drinking and people would be joking about sex and things to do with their sex life…So I guess I’ve kind of learned that it’s easier to keep it behind closed doors a bit more, um, yeah…

3: Parenting

• •

Re-negotiating relationships with parents and in-laws:

Participant 3: “And they’re very religious Catholics, and when the children were born they wanted to have them christened…what we wanted was like a sort of naming day ceremony which was secular, but you know, maybe, just have…we wanted something where, you know, well, we call it the Namkaran and you know, you know just have the child..my mother was there at the time and she just wanted to do a (inaudible) they sort of assumed that that was all Hindu, whereas actually it wasn’t…” • Participant 4: “I think having children’s been quite tough as well. Um.. Particularly because Asmi ‘s somewhat separated from her family in India. And they’ve been good in coming here…a few times, but it’s not quite the same as having them close by.”

3: Parenting

Differences in Parenting Styles

Participant 3: “Um, last Christmas I just decided that I wouldn’t go to their house again because also it was, it’s not so much me, I think but I don’t think they are all that giving with the children. My father-in law’s constantly tutting at them, and… I suppose I’m biased but I don’t think they’re sort of spoiled or naughty, I think they’re sort of normal toddlers… I don’t really want them to go somewhere where people are just, kind of…start tutting at them because they’re doing things which anybody should, all normal toddlers do.”


Recognising the importance of having bilingual children

• Participant 4: “ I mean my mother-in-law ticks me off for speaking to the children in …. (own language) she doesn’t like me doing that and…Participant 3 just told her off once because he just thought that was unacceptable.”



• Participant 4: “At the end of the day, we do love each other a lot. I think that’s what keeps it going..” • Participant 3: “Ah well without meaning to sound sort of…smultsy about it, I mean I think we sort of do, deep down, love each um and I think when things have been very tough for us, we’ve, we’ve always recognised that we are there for each other… I’ve been in other relationships and they don’t compare with …the depth of, the kind of feeling I have for her or the kind of um, sense of loyalty and…safety I suppose of being with her (Participant 4).


Representations of Mixed Race Families in the Media

• Participant 4: Yeah, because it’s yeah. In fact you see so little of it and you see so little reflection on what it might mean and what it might mean to bring up children in um, in a mixed race relation…you know, and considering that I’m sure it’s not a small percentage of the population and in fact there’s talk about it actually increasing dramatically as it would; so yeah you’d hardly ever see it portrayed in films that much either….

• Participant 1: “So I do hope when our, you know, if we have kids and they’re growing up, that they will see, um…when we were watching the Olympics opening ceremony the other night, the the scene with the family that was a mixed, mixed er race family…”

Financial security


• Participant 3 : “We’re not worried about the finances it’s more a sense that um…because we’ve both got pretty good jobs and they’re pretty well paid…” • Participant 2: “..we’re really lucky because we both have jobs and we’re still together and we very settled as a couple.”

Resiliencies •


• Participant 2: “We like to do nice things together and celebrate, um, occasions, you know, birthday, Christmas, or you know, treat each other, if you know, I pass my test or he’s graduated…

Resiliencies •

Playing with cultural differences

• Participant 1: I think humour helps sometimes. We, we’ve joked over the years, like when I first went to Taiwan to meet your family I actually was quite nervous about it, it was a big step. But we, in um, Wayne’s World, there’s a scene where he met the, the girlfriend’s Dad from Hong Kong and there’s like a kung fu fight. But it is, it’s very very silly, but we were just, I was just joking about that scene, like your Dad’s going to want me to fight him to prove my worth or something. I don’t know, I think, I think that it helps…”


• Are couples where one is a migrant very different to those where both belong to the same country?

• Participant 4: I don’t think it’s an issue between us, in fact I think most of the time we don’t even think of it. And in a sense all couples are different from each other, aren’t they, even if you are the same colour there will be some other difference within white – or even if you’re from the same social….

Conclusions • Does negotiating with intercultural differences and sacrifices on both parts build up resistance?

• Does this translate into a stronger and healthier relationship, in keeping with the quantitative findings of the study?


• Cultural Genograms (Hardy and Lazloffy, 1995) • Internalized Other interviewing (Tomm, 1997) • Separate cultural spaces (Falicov, 1995) • Particularizing the ‘universal’ (Killian, 2001) • Contextualising and Universalizing the ‘Particular’ • Encouraging Couples to Reauthor a Family Identity • Self as a Tool • Positioning and polarities • Redressing the power imbalance


• • • • • • • • • Alibhai-Brown, Y. (2001) Mixed Feelings: The Complex Lives of Mixed-Race Britons Bacigalupe, G. (2003) Intercultural therapy with Latino immigrants and white partners: crossing borders. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy. Volume 2/3: pp 131-149.

Karis, T.A. and Killian, K.D. (2009) Intercultural Couples. Exploring Diversity in Intimate Relationships. London: Routledge.

Kilian, K.D. (2001) Reconstituting racial histories and identities: the narratives of interracial couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 27 (1): 27 -42. Falicov, C.J. (1995) Cross-cultural marriages. In N.S. Jacobson and A.S. Gurman (Eds.) Clinical Handbook of Couples Therapy. New York: Guilford.

Falicov, C.J. (2007) Working with transnational immigrants: expanding meanings of family, community and culture. Family Process 46: 157-171. Melendez, T. and McDowell, T. (2013) Race, class, gender and migration: family therapy with a Peruvian couple. Journal of Systemic Therapies 27(1): 30-43.

Singh, R. and Dutta, S. (2010) Intercultural Couples. In R Singh and S. Dutta A Handbook for Professionals.

(2010) ‘Race’ and Culture. Tools, Techniques and Trainings. Smith, J.A., Flowers, P and Larkin, M. (2009) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Theory, Method an Research. London: Sage.

Enduring Love?

Keep in touch with the project




Dr Martina Klett-Davies martina.klett [email protected]

Dr Reenee Singh EMAIL????