Keywords: mixed couples, social support, personal networks, intergenerational relationships, multiculturalism, Italy
This paper questions the belief that intercultural romantic relationships are the primary path to integration in Italy. I use the paradigm of intergenerational solidarity – bonds of affection, association and mutual assistance that bind different generations of a family – as a heuristic device for ascertaining a broader understanding of intercultural couples’ lives and their family relationships in everyday settings. Drawing on narratives collected from ethnographic interviews and hand-drawn personal networks in the metropolitan area of Milan (2018-2020), this paper explores intercultural couples struggling with families’ prejudices and expectations, in contrast to their own feelings of true love. Social discrimination and a lack of support from one’s social network – especially parental rejection – are among the factors that explain why friendship bonds are becoming more important than relationships to (nuclear) families for both well-being and lifelong support in Italian mixed couples. Establishing distance from unsympathetic families functions to reclaim the intimate and independent dimension of intercultural loving. The article considers how agency comes into play as the couples take risks and venture beyond their given families for a public affirmation of «families of choice».