Book Reviews -- Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls by Dugan Romano

By Fong, Colleen | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls by Dugan Romano


Fong, Colleen, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Romano, Dugan, Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls. Yarmouth, Maine: Inercultural Press, Inc., 1988, 162 pp., $16.95 softcover.

Given the author's definition of intercultural marriage--a marriage between partners from "diverse cultures as well as countries"--this book would more appropriately be titled "international" marriage. The book is written from primarily a psychological perspective and an insider's point of view; Dugan Romano has been in an intercultural marriage for seventeen years and has worked "ten years as a cross-cultural trainer and counselor." The book provides profiles of seven personality types who are likely to enter an international marriage as well as four types of international marriage. Excerpts from interviews with international couples are included making the book highly readable and engaging.

This book will be appreciated by individuals who are or will be internationally married and by professionals who work with international couples. It will be of some interest to scholars who are in the midst of formulating their research problem or designing a set of interview questions. But Intercultural Marriage will be of little value to researchers looking for methodological guidelines because it lacks any discussion on how the "hundreds" of interviews used in the book were obtained, how respondents were sampled, and what type of interview schedule was used.

The book is divided into three parts: 1) Who marries internationally, for what reasons, and what types of adjustments must be made; 2) potential problem areas; and 3) advice on managing differences and factors which contribute to marital success.

Because Romano adheres to two contradictory conceptions of the marriage the book is confusing. Sometimes she adheres to the belief that all marriages are partnerships involving constant negotiation; international marriages are simply a more complex type of marriage because in addition to negotiating personality differences, international couples must also resolve conflicts rooted in cultural differences. At other times the author succumbs to a linear conception of marriage which begins with the "honeymoon" phase, and predictably moves to "settling-in" and finally "resolution." This implies that negotiation stops by stage three and if a couple makes it to the third stage they will remain married. This unrealistically assumes an internationally married couple lives in a sociocultural vacuum and their relationship, once in a state of "resolution," will never be subject to new conflicts.

A similar inconsistency arises in her perception of the individuals who marry internationally and their motives. Sometimes she perceives of them as the natural products of a global village--individuals who choose partners from other countries do so simply because national boundaries no longer present the barriers they have in the past: "More and more people are leaving their homelands to visit, study, or work overseas....many local customs are giving way to apparent uniformity....The whole world shares the same threats and problems--terrorism, drugs, nuclear war, poverty, pollution..." But for the most part she pathologizes these individuals, asserting that they fall into one or more abnormal personality types: outcasts, rebels, mavericks, compensators, adventurers, escapists, and unstables. She infers a mentally healthy individual rarely considers an international marriage unless he or she is under some sort of "stress" when she suggests couples take an inventory of their motivations for marrying by "look[ing] over a list of life events considered to be stress causers to see if they apply."

Identifying the power and resources individuals bring to their marriages--factors rooted in the respective partners' countries of origin--would be more useful than delineating seven psychological personality types. This shift in focus would provide a consistent outgrowth of the negotiation model of marriage described above and illuminate the very conflicts and differences that originate in power differentials with regard to international politics, culture-based gender distinctions, etc. …

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