Australia is the world’s leading example of successful multiculturalism. We are home to over 200 nationalities, we speak more than 400 different languages, more than a quarter of our population was born overseas and more than 75 per cent of our population identifies with an ancestry other than Australian. So in a country that is so inherently diverse, why are modern cross-cultural relationships still suffering at the hands of cultural pressures?

Intercultural relationships are an extremely common occurrence in Australia because love for diversity and cultural difference defines us. This resonates even more strongly with Greek Australians because our identity is strongly immersed in two different cultural realms. While this inherent diversity is Australia’s truest quality, it sadly does not stand a chance against various cultures whose family pressures can devastate a couple’s love.

Greek Australians who enter cross-cultural relationships are commonly at the hands of such suffering. While pressures are reducing as we move further from the conservative nature of first wave migrants, pressure deriving from extended family is still quite prevalent. The most prevalent issues surrounding a cross- cultural relationship are based on the collective identity of the couple. According to registered family psychologist Kia Antoniadis, the main issues faced by Greeks in mixed relationships are that of religion and culture.

Antoniadis has worked with families for over 25 years, with the last four years of her career devoted to family counselling at the Australian Greek Welfare Society (AGWS). She cites decisions surrounding religion as the main issue. ‘Which church will we get married in? What about our kids, how will we baptise them? What faith will we follow for Easter and Christmas?’ Ultimately, when religions are disparate, conflict and problems are raised between the couple.

Antoniadis also places strong emphasis on the idea that Greeks hold great pride in their culture, and for mixed relationships, where someone from a foreign culture enters the family, this can be a common issue.

“In the Greek culture, parents put so much into maintaining the culture, people feel a strong loyalty and commitment to their culture.”

There is no doubt such a devotion is key for the success of the Greek community in Australia, but ultimately such loyalty can weigh quite heavily on a couple who aren’t entirely Greek.

Psychologically, family pressures during cross-cultural relationships can also cause emotional and social problems surrounding a loss of individual identities. According to Antoniadis, it is common for one half of mixed couples to culturally negotiate in order for the couple to live sustainably. After years of negotiation, individuals can “develop resentment … feeling like they have betrayed their culture and sold out on their values”. This is a psychological cost of the pressure surrounding mixed relationships.

Cross-cultural relationships in Australia hold social benefits for not only those involved, but for wider society and the future of Australia as well. Mixed couples reflect respect and appreciation for difference, radiating positive energy and lessons in cultural acceptance for anyone who encounters their social intersection. According to Antoniadis, “mixed relationships are fantastic for the kids they produce, who, research shows, are usually bilingual and who are a lot more sensitive and understanding of people from different cultural backgrounds”.

Since Australia’s conception, Australian society has passionately battled for multicultural peace; fighting for equality, acceptance and respect for cultural minority groups. This has lead to a distinct pride in our diverse co-existence, and cross-cultural relationships form a natural and important part of this success. They reflect not only our true identity, but an inherent part of our battle to attain peace for cultures who live here. We must ensure our heterogeneity and cross-cultural relationships are a part of winning the battle and maintaining its success; their acceptance is a natural and beautiful part of our spirit. Thus, as we move into the future, it is imperative future generations do not suffer at the hands of external pressures, and that their intercultural relationships can revel in an Australian freedom.