Relational Dialectics and Conflict Resolution
in Intercultural Marriages of the Sundanese and Arabs
(401 pages, 12 charts; 5 tables, 771 attachments, Bibliography: 112 books, 91 articles, journals, and others (1977-2007)
In a heterogenic country, such as Indonesia, an intercultural marriage is always possible. Many data reveal that intercultural marriages potentially are more troubled than marriages of the same culture. These conflicts arise because each culture has its own rules. A logical situation in one culture may seem very illogic in another. They cannot be compared. Ironically, both sides often react according to each their own culture and cannot accept when the spouse reacts according to a different standard of cultural rules.
Leslie Baxter and Montgomery (1998) put forward a theory called relational dialectics, which analyzed the strains that are conjoined in a romantic relationship. Relational dialectics are divided into internal and external dialectics. Internal dialectics how that in a couple relationship, the party needs to 1) balance between connectedness and separateness, 2) certainty and uncertainty, 3) self disclosure and privacy or openness-closeness to other party. External dialectics are relationship between couple and community. There are need of: 1) inclusion-seclusion, 2) conventionality-uniqueness, 3) revelation-concealment.
In this research the relational dialectics theory was studied in the cultural context in marriages between the Sundanese and Arabs. The culture elements that caused contradictions in their relationship is called intercultural dialectics. The aim of the research was to: 1) get the knowledge about internal-external relational dialectics of intercultural couples, 2) get the understanding about the experiences of the couples in connection to intercultural dialectics and 3) get the understanding on how those couples overcome the intercultural dialectics they face in their marriage on the internal and external scope.
Another theory used to help understand the researchers’ reasoning in this research was, among others, the intercultural communication model by Gudykunst and Kim (1997), the conflict resolution tactics by Hocker and Wilmot (1995) and five general resolution patterns in marriages between couples of different cultures developed by Tseng (1977).
Case study was done to four couples of Sunda-Arab. Interview, observation and participation to some of the couples activities were done to understand their experience related to relational dialectics and intercultural dialectics.
From this research it can be concluded that internal and external dialectics are tended to be sourced by cultural difference of each couple. The most conspicuous dialectics of those couples were caused by the individuals’ competence or incompetence to predict their spouse’s culture or surroundings. From the empirical data it was found that the attraction between the individuals were caused by culture elements related to scientific, religious, kinship including etiquette, and language systems. From the deep analysis was also concluded that the dialectics tended to be sourced by cultural difference instead of gender.
Another finding that was significant in this research was Conservative – Moderate dialectics. Conservative dialectics is the attitude to protect the culture or tradition believed. Moderate dialectics is the attitude to avoid extreme behavior and take a neutral stance in the differences of the cultures that occur in the relationship with the spouse.
Generally, couples discuss the differences between them. Collaborative and accommodative tactics are most obvious in their relationship. The adjustments are varied. In certain cases, they adopt the spouse’s culture, in other cases a mixture of cultures happens. Causes of adjustments are usually practicality, or the good of the family.
In relationships between individuals from large family surroundings, they usually adopt accommodative tactics and adaptation to one culture, that of the spouse’s family. This usually happens in conflicts that involves seniority in the family. Force from seniority tended to be important factors to create dialectics. That was also happen because Indonesia is a collective and high distance culture (Hofstede, 2005).
Dialectics in relation to beliefs, especially religion taught from childhood, is a problem that is inclined to be difficult to change. While in cultural dialectics that do not include belief systems, less time is spend to study it or is more logical not to practice, is the easiest to change.