Establishing and Maintaining
Satisfaction in Multicultural
Stanley O. Gaines, Jr.
Kelly A. Brennan
State University of New York College at Brockport
Can individuals from different ethnic backgrounds establish and maintain satisfying multicultural friendships and romantic relationships? If so, then what cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes are likely to facilitate the development of stable, mutually satisfying relationships crossing ethnic boundaries? These questions are as applicable to the relatively new field of cultural psychology (see Shweder & Sullivan, 1993, for a review) as they are to the equally new field of personal relationships (see Berscheid, 1994, for a review). Not surprisingly, the answers to such questions draw on theory and research in a variety of social and behavioral sciences, ranging from anthropology to psychology.
Multicultural relationships (especially heterosexual romantic relationships involving persons from different racial groups) traditionally have been stereotyped as unstable and, thus, as unsatisfying over the long run (Porterfield, 1978; Rosenblatt, Karis, & Powell, 1995). Nevertheless, in the present chapter, we emphasize the cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes that are most likely to foster long-term satisfaction and stability in multicultural relationships. We argue that: (a) during the formation of multicultural relationships, satisfaction is promoted to the extent that partners genuinely appreciate, rather than simply tolerate, the differences in their respective personalities; (b) after multicultural relationships have been formed, satisfaction is maintained to the extent that partners jointly create and sustain relationship cultures that are uniquely theirs; and (c) throughout the development and maintenance of multicultural relation-