Challenges of Interracial Relationships and How to Thrive in One

Of course, the politically correct thing is to not see color at all and to approach an interracial relationship as any other “same race” relationship. And as great as that sounds, there’s one problem with that. That attitude doesn’t actually prepare you for the challenges that do arise when you date someone who is ethnically or culturally different from your circle of family and friends.

The best thing to do, for yourself and your partner, is to read up on the challenges most interracial relationships face and then resolve to avoid those problems. Talk things over with your partner and determine to stay strong, even if people’s accidental racism or insensitivity comes out.

Here are five different challenges that do tend to arise and some suggestions on how to avoid quiet resentment and hurt feelings.

1. You may have different expectations.

At first, this may seem like a man-woman issue, but many are surprised to know that culture does sometimes play into it. We are instilled with certain beliefs as children and we grow up simply accepting them, usually without even thinking about it. You may even unconsciously make a lot of decisions and hold some attitudes that are culturally driven. And these attitudes may clash with your partner. Whether that’s in family planning, food, schooling, culture and history, and so forth. Discuss these differences in advance and make it a point to discuss your differing cultures. This may lead to some interesting revelations about how you see the world.

2. You will frequently misunderstand each other…and cultural differences may make things worse.

The fact is that EVERY couple is eventually going to misunderstand something and fight about tone, about “that look”, and about “your attitude!” Arguments are bound to happen and it’s very easy to misinterpret your partner’s intentions. You may even think certain attitudes, or even racist attitudes, are part of that argument. If you love your partner, give him the benefit of the doubt. If you recognize a racist attitude, or shall we say, an insensitive attitude (i.e. stereotypes, or political statements) then express to your partner why it bothers you, rather than letting resentment build.

3. Family disapproval and differing opinions.

Family disapproval may well be the top problem among interracial couples. Though we have come a long way since the age of segregation, some attitudes, stereotypes and insensitive comments still bother us. You may even be put in an awkward position of having to support either your partner or your parents. There’s clearly no winner in this type of contest!

So the best thing to do is to talk things over with both parties. Explain to your parents (or his parents) why certain statements or attitudes are upsetting. Avoid being overly aggressive or intolerant when it comes to these discussions. Remember, the racist belief or attitude may be unacceptable, but you still do love the individual. Taking the time to talk things over and express feelings, rather than focus on who’s racist, is the best way to help both families to get along.

4. Expect critical views of friends, strangers, coworkers and the like.

It might surprise you to know that harassment by bigots is not nearly as common as “friendly poking” from friends and colleagues. It may be upsetting to you or your partner, and yet this other person thinks because he/she isn’t “racist”, there’s no need to be tactful. This can lead to strained friendships and resentment. Worse yet, it can even cause a rift between you and your partner.

These stereotypes could be anything from, “Oh he only dates white women!” to bawdier sexual humor that has offensive racial connotations. It may even involve just a strange look from a stranger, or coworkers whispering something about you from a distance. You may want to react and pick a fight…or you may want to just let it go.

Either way, it will stress you and your partner out, so once again, it’s important to talk about these things so you’ll both know what to expect. Just remember this: sometimes people talk about you, or share offensive jokes with you, because deep down they are resentful of your freedom. Take that as a compliment, that they’re a little jealous of how awesome your relationship is!

5. You may clash over religious and or political differences. How you respond determines your future.

Religious and political differences are hard to just forget, unlike petty bickering. The idea of raising your child in a religion opposite of your beliefs, or passionately arguing about politicians or happenings in the world, are really landmines when it comes to relationships. Nowadays, religious and political differences can even END a relationship. And just when you think you’ve solved the problem, you face another hurdle: holidays! Vacations (and what you want to see on the grand tour)! Lifestyle choices, ethics, and morals!

It’s all very stressful. All the more reason to learn how to compromise and learn this attribute as soon as possible. I know we live in an age of “Stand up and fight!” and some people seem to think that speaking one’s mind will change the world for the better. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

But here’s the point: if you can never learn compromise, and it’s always your way or the highway, then get used to being single.

Guys might date you for a while, but they will seldom ever stay with someone who has no ability to compromise, no empathy, and no willingness to at least try to meet him halfway.

Sometimes to make a relationship last, you really have to forgive freely. Overlook a man’s mistakes. Tolerate his family. Let him win a few arguments. And listen, listen a lot! Becoming more self-sacrificing is what’s going to make your marriage last. It will allow you to stay married to someone of a different religion or faith. It will allow you to put away political differences. It will help you both to love each other even in very stressful times.

Having a successful marriage is all about being open-minded and self-sacrificing. And yes, it’s still true…Love will always be stronger than Hate.

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Talk soon,

Matthew Coast

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Matthew Coast

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