To begin the series on intercultural marriage, beginning with a discussion about who exactly tends to be most attracted to intercultural relationships/marriages in the first place seems like a good place to start. It’s certainly not for everyone, as mixed marriages are full of unique challenges that married people from the same culture may never face.
In Romano’s book “Intercultural Marriage,” she lists 5 common types of people who tend to be involved in intercultural relationships. The first type is the Romantic type: those who see people from other cultures as exotic, fascinating, and thrilling. These people may find people from their own culture boring and predictable, and thrive in the mystique of people from far away and foreign lands.
The second type is the Compensator. These people often feel like something is missing from their lives and believe they have found it in another person or culture, as they believe elements from that person/culture fulfills what is missing from their own. Romano notes that this type is found even in couples who marry from their own cultures, who are simply looking for someone to fulfill what they lacked growing up.
Rebels are slightly different from the compensators in that they dislike much about their own culture and are intent on finding someone from somewhere else. Sometimes they have a specific target culture in mind; other times they simply take whatever fate brings them.
Internationals, the next type of people drawn to intercultural marriage, are those who lived outside their native countries for most of their lives, and are typically children of missionaries, diplomats, military personnel, and so on. These people often do not feel as though they completely belong to one particular culture, as they tend to have been influenced by several cultures and therefore have a wide appreciation and love for differences.
The final category is comprised of Others. These people may not fit into their society and often are ostracized from it. Finding love in a different culture is a way to find a place to fit in and be accepted. Some of them are not considered to be attractive in their native culture, and have better luck in another culture. Others are part of a minority and find acceptance in another culture. Still others live in poverty and marry as a way to improve their quality of life.
After writing this, I began pondering which type I am, and it seems that I’m a mix of a few of them. Basically, I’ve always been different from everyone else, so I can relate to others who are different and appreciate differences more readily. I think that the world has so much to offer, so many different ideas and ways of thinking that can add a great deal to my life (making me a bit of a compensator).
I moved constantly growing up, so I was always the outsider, always the new kid, always unsure of the local habits… since I was mostly home schooled, that added a further dimension because I wasn’t really part of mainstream American culture (making me somewhat of an International type, even though all my moves were domestic). I recall one instance when I had just moved to a new town and was at lunch at school (I happened to actually go full time to public school that year). One kid decided to start pestering me with questions, asking me things like, “Are you a dork?
Are you a retard? Are you a b*?” I repeatedly answered with a resounding, “NO!” Finally he asked, “Are you a virgin?” I was about to repeat my answer when the girl next to me grabbed my arm and whispered, “No, don’t say no! Say yes!” I wasn’t sure if I could trust her or not – why would I say yes?!?! I had no idea what it meant but it didn’t sound good… But after a few seconds of indecision, I gave in and said yes, and the kid, disappointed, gave up and left me alone. This is just one example of all the vocabulary that I was completely clueless about (college was eye opening, haha).
I also was a double major college and earned two master’s degrees (I have way too many interests), so I’ve never really fully fit in with my classmates either (in addition to being home schooled and not really having a hometown or childhood friends!). And to top it all off, now I’m a White, American Muslim convert, so my being different is now very visibly apparent, due to my hijab!
Alhamdilulah, I like it though; I enjoy being different, and would feel bored, unmotivated, and unchallenged if I weren’t with someone who wasn’t different as well. That I think, makes me a Romantic as well.
Out of these 5 common types, which one are you?
*Concepts taken from “Intercultural Marriage” by Dugan Romano*