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Mixed couples: what they are and why they have become popular

Mixed couples: what they are and why they have become popular

May 6, 2021

The conformation of mixed couples , that is, those in which there are significant cultural differences between its members (as a country, religious beliefs, language or ethnic group), has had a considerable increase in recent times.

This growth is attributed in the first place to the fact that the possibilities of meeting people from other countries have increased due to the intensification of international mobility and the mass communication through the Internet. In addition to the above, there have been a series of social transformations in the love field that allow older people freedom quotas and autonomy when making the conjugal choice.


Migration for love

Migration in which one of the main motivations is to form a couple or a family is called by some social researchers as migration for love.

This typology of migration is described as a diverse and complex phenomenon that transcends simplifications and prejudices with which it is usually conceived from common sense.

A basically feminine phenomenon

Different ethnographic research highlights that women express much more frequently than men that their feelings and the desire to start or establish a relationship has been one of the main reasons for a geographical displacement . This is attributed to the fact that there are still structural conditions for man to function as a provider in a family and that it is women who prioritize the care of their children and the home, leaving their professional development in the background.


Therefore, it is more common for a woman to leave her country and emigrate to her partner's country or to accompany her partner in a migration for work reasons.

Migration for love it is then described as predominantly female and is mainly directed from Caribbean regions, Latin America , eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to rich countries in Western Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The ease of mobility for European citizens within the EU has also generated a significant increase in the formation of intra-European binational couples.

Modalities of mixed couples and their reasons

The differences between people of different cultural origin can be softened or intensified if they share or differ in other characteristics such as: urban or rural lifestyle, educational level, professional environment, social class, etc. Sometimes, even though people come from different countries, they share many other factors, resulting in more elements of affinity than distinction. .


For anthropology, it is a verifiable fact that in all cultures people tend to associate with members of their own group and that linking with others is an exception. The choice of a couple that belongs to another culture can come to be interpreted as a transgression of one's own culture and family ideals, since a foreigner will transmit values ​​different from their own.

In binational mixed couples, the borders of the countries are transcended , but the most usual thing is that they continue to maintain the boundaries of socioeconomic class and formative level. It is also possible to observe the existence of a kind of hierarchy of cultural distances, in which certain nationalities or groups of emigrants are considered more or less susceptible to being chosen as a couple. In this hierarchy would be located the nationalities to which it would be considered totally incompatible up to those to which it is admired in its practices and customs.

The exchange of status

Although in smaller proportions, sometimes in mixed couples the socioeconomic or formative level borders are also transcended . In these cases, an exchange of status can be presented. This is the case of people from rich countries (high status) with low educational level (low status) who marry people from poor countries or belonging to marginalized minorities (low status), who have a high educational level.

The exchange can be given by any element that can be considered as a guarantor of a person's status: beauty, age, social status, a nationality that has a certain prestige, etc.

Sociology highlights that Statistically, men usually marry more frequently hypogamously than women . That is, with a partner with a lower socioeconomic level. And, therefore, women usually marry more frequently in a hypergamic manner, that is, with a man who has a higher socioeconomic level. The above is also true for mixed couples, although the educational level reached by women in recent decades is making the statistical difference is increasingly less.

It has also been observed that to the extent that the educational level increases, the chances of forming a couple with people from different countries also increases. Greater inbreeding (that is, the tendency to bond maritally with people of the same culture) occurs more intensely in people with strong religious observance.

The mixed couple as resistance to the transformations in gender relations

It is relevant that, according to different researches, the motivations that have to do with gender are expressed by men and women who decide to establish a relationship with a foreign person.

The motivations related to gender are much more evident in the case of men from rich countries They are looking for a partner abroad, as well as women from those countries where these men focus their search. It arises in relation to the above that the material and sentimental independence acquired by women in the most industrialized countries has generated a resistance of some men with respect to this new female model.

This resistance drives them to look for a partner in a marriage market different from that of their own country, opting for nationalities in which it is assumed that women maintain a more traditional role. That is they keep the family and the home as priority over their profession , and that they would accept gender relations sustained in a certain degree of submission and dependence. This stereotype is given, for example, to women from countries in Latin America or Eastern Europe.

The search for a more traditional woman is more acute in men over 40 years of age, in the younger the prototype of the submissive woman and housewife is less attractive, with more other factors influencing motivation to establish a relationship with a foreigner .

The longing for polarized gender roles

Some men justify their desire to seek relationships with more traditional women because of the conflicts and tensions that, according to them, generated the independence obtained by women in their previous relationships.

Longing for more polarized gender roles is also present in some women from industrialized countries who state that part of their interest in a foreign partner is the desire to relate to men whose way of being is closer to a certain stereotype of traditional masculinity: chivalrous, romantic, passionate, seductive. This type of stereotype is given, for example, to men from Mediterranean or Latin countries. The polarization of the genders in these cases is seen as a value of complementarity and also as part of sexual stimulation.

Marriage with a foreigner as a search for equality

Paradoxically, for many Latin American or Eastern European women One of the outstanding motivations to establish a relationship with a foreign man is the desire to acquire equal shares and emancipation that they do not find in their own context. These women describe gender relations in their countries as more subordinate and inequitable than what they assume occurs in the destination of their migration.

Men in their own country are described as more macho, controlling, possessive, infidels and aggressive. These aspects consider them as rooted in their own culture, and believe that they occur at a much lower intensity in the men of the destination country. Some of the women also express their desire to distance themselves from previous experiences of abuse and alcoholism of their ex-partners. In these cases the polarization of the genders is seen as a manifestation of oppression and inequality .

The physical aspect: the ideal and the exotic

The predominant physical aspect in some nationalities is the subject of attributions that nourish the fantasies of men and women , also becoming a factor that affects as a motivator to establish a relationship with a foreign person. It is, in part, the attributions on the sexuality of certain population groups.

Of the previous they give account realized investigations on the agencies of search of international pair that operate by Internet. This is the case, for example, of those specialized in Latin American or Eastern European women who emphasize the physical characteristics that are supposed to be valued by the possible "boyfriends". One would be the Nordic ideal type (tall, blonde, blue eyes, slender) or the exotic type referred to Latin American women (brunettes, curvaceous and sensual).

Marriage as a way to improve living conditions

The cultural model of couple that predominates in the West is based on the ideal of a relationship established by free love and spontaneous, distanced from any calculation or interest. Therefore, motivations of a material nature, which are sometimes interwoven with sentimental ones, tend to be much more veiled in the discourses of women who decide to formalize a relationship with a foreigner.

In many cases, the countries from which people migrate out of love are characterized by high rates of job insecurity, insecurity or other aspects that promote the search for better living conditions. Marriage to a foreigner is a strategy among others to be able to settle in a place that offers better opportunities.

Despite this expectation, people with high levels of training clash with bureaucratic obstacles to be able to perform in the field of their profession and they are forced to perform jobs that do not require qualification .

Social pressure in mixed couples

One of the situations with which many migrants are often confronted for love is with the resistance of the family and friends of their partners who accuse them, directly or indirectly, of marrying for economic reasons or to legalize residency in the country. Many of them narrate that they constantly have to be demonstrating that their marriage is based on feelings and that it has not only had an instrumental character. Some women consider the arrival of the first child of the couple as a milestone of legitimacy .

In relation to the above, it has been observed that women who migrate out of love do not usually seek to establish links with migrants of their same nationality in the place of destination. This distancing is sometimes encouraged by their local partners, responding to the desire to make a difference with economic migration and the stigmas that surround them.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gaspar, S. (2009). Integration and social satisfaction in mixed intra-European couples, Discourse and Society, 16, 68-101.
  • Roca Girona, J. (2011). [Re] looking for love: Reasons and reasons for the mixed unions of Spanish men with foreign women. Magazine of Dialectology and Popular Traditions, 2011, vol. LXVI, nº2, p.487-514.
  • Roca Girona, J. (2007). Migrants for love. The search and formation of transnational partners. Aibr. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana, 2007, vol. 3, No. 2, p. 430-458.
  • Roca Girona, J .; Soronellas, M. and Bodoque, Y. (2012). Migrations for love: Diversity and complexity of women's migrations. Papers, vol. 97, No. 3, p. 685- 707.
  • Rodríguez-García, D. (2014). On transnational kinship: contextualization and theoretical-methodological considerations. AIBR-Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana, 9 (2): 183-210.

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