Reflections on the challenges of understanding racial, cultural and sexual differences in couple relationship research

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Abstract

In the field of systemic psychotherapy there has been much recent interest in the areas of culture and reflexivity, and in working with couples. In this article we reflect on the process of conducting research in these areas. Drawing on findings from a large, national, empirical mixed-methods study on long-term relationships, we use two examples from the data to illustrate the complexity of researching across racial, cultural and sexual differences, in terms of research design and sampling, fieldwork and research practice, and making sense of multidimensional data. We point to findings that suggest that notions of coupledom are culturally constructed and thus challenge straightforward ideas of the procreative, sexually active couple dyad, separate from intergenerational extended families. The clinical significance of the findings for both lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer and culturally diverse couples and families are discussed.

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