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The Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageReview - The Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural Marriage
Promises and Pitfalls: Second Edition
by Dugan Romano
Intercultural Press, 1997
Review by Kelly Lemmon-Kishi
Apr 30th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 17)

Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls by Dugan Romano - the best book available on international intercultural marriage - has been updated and vastly improved. The 1988 edition clearly outlined the "pitfalls" of intercultural marriage, but the new edition breaks ground with explanations of the "promises" of intercultural relationships and strategies for success. This book is intended for the general public - especially people who are in or are contemplating an international intercultural marriage (or want to understand and/or support those who are) - but it will also be of great benefit to helping professionals who work with such families.

The first section of the book, "Daring to be Different," attempts to answer the questions "who ends up in international marriages and why?" while setting the tone for much of the book - straightforward, highly readable, optimistic, yet realistic. Romano directly tackles the tough question of what kinds of people are successful - or unsuccessful - in making international marriages work. As Romano describes the phases of adjustment, she reminds readers that all successful marriages take hard work, while highlighting the typical variations in adjustment related to bridging cultural (and many other) differences.

In Part 2, "Food Friends, and Other Frustrations", Romano delves into the major (as well as the seemingly minor but highly emotionally loaded) issues that frequently cause friction in intercultural relationships. Basic values, food and drink, language, sex, gender roles, time, country of residence, politics, friends, finances, in-laws, language, ethnocentrism, and dealing with stress illness and suffering are all covered in depth in their own chapters. She also addresses confounding issues such as social class. Vignettes highlight each chapter, demonstrating how different couples found solutions to inevitable conflicts or suffered the consequences.

A major strength of this second edition is the expanded focus on parenting (the first edition had only a chapter). Many international couples can manage their differences fairly easily until children arrive - Romano tackles these difficult issues head on and provides a variety of tactics for couples to use to develop consistent - or at least complementary - parenting philosophies. By putting the emphasis on helping bi-cultural children navigate the struggle for identity, Romano's suggestions will help couples de-escalate conflicts and focus on solutions .

While there are many good books on intercultural marriage such a Joel Crohn's Mixed Matches: How to create successful interracial, interethnic, and interfaith relationships, many suffer from an overly Amerocentric focus. Truly international marriages (when one partner was born and raised in a different country and culture) are distinctly different from intercultural relationships when both partners are born in the same country even if they are raised in different cultural, ethnic, or religious traditions. The sustained focus on international issues what really distinguishes this book. For example, Romano examines both the specific problems faced by the expatriate spouse in all phases of marriage (from initial attraction to after the end of the marriage) and how international living affects family dynamics. The final section - "Making Miracles Isn't Easy" - concentrates on the special joys and life enrichment found in intercultural marriages as well as on strategies for overcoming the challenges. If you are looking for relationship-building exercises, look elsewhere; however Romano's clear concise models of common strategies are both useful and thought-provoking . The last 2 chapters "Factors for Success" and "Before Taking that Big Step" should be required-reading for anyone considering an international marriage (though reading the whole book is better!). Intercultural marriage is not for everyone: deep commitment (to your partner's culture and language), ability to communicate, sensitivity to your partner's needs, respect and liking for each other's culture, flexibility, excellent self-esteem, common goals, spirit of adventure, and a self-reflective sense of humor are necessary. While these strengths are needed for all marriages, they are needed in decidedly larger quantities for successful intercultural marriages . Until the third edition comes out (and I really hope we don't have to wait another 10 years), Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls is THE guide for international intercultural couples and families (and those who love or work with them).

Kelly Lemmon-Kishi MSW CTS is an American social worker who has spent most of the last decade studying Asia and living in Osaka, Japan. As a therapist she works with individuals, couples, and families from many countries of many variations. Since 1995 she has also specialized in disaster response and trauma counseling (remember that quake in Kobe?) You can check out her web page at http://www.resolutions.org.


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