This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of African American Perspectives
This article outlines lessons the author has learned from her observations of interracial relationships and her own experience in an interracial marriage. The advice she lists is great for those considering dating or marrying outside their race, and for those who are already in an interracial relationship.
For the Couple
- Relax and Stay focused
It is not easy to have people disapprove of a relationship, but the relationship does not exist for everyone else. Not everyone understands why anyone would date or marry outside his or her race or why anyone would add stress to something that is naturally challenging. Relax. Not everyone has to understand. Do not force your friends and family to support you or accept your significant other. Communicate your intentions to those close to you, listen to their concerns, and let them know that you heard them. Beyond that, any focus on the negative attitudes and actions of others will only distract from the attention that should be devoted to building your relationship. Although it is good to hope that your relationship will be a positive model for others, the purpose of your relationship is not to please others. You and your mate are a team, and it is important to work together and not let outside forces negatively influence the relationship and life you are trying to build together.
- Extend or create a new support network.
With or without support it is normal to feel isolated and as if no one understands the situations unique to interracial couples. Although interracial relationships are more common than they were just 10 years ago, they are still a rare occurrence. Extending or creating a new support network will help to ease the feeling of isolation. Befriend another interracial couple. Even if the couple is not an exact match to your mix, it eases the burden to know that someone can relate to the struggles (and joys) you have as an interracial couple. If you have difficulty finding an interracial couple that you feel connected to, there are numerous online support groups for interracial relationships. Those are a viable substitute for personal words of advice, encouragement, and support. It also never hurts to be able to vent to someone who can relate to your experiences.
- Watch a movie together
There are several movies based on interracial relationships or movies that simply have interracial couples as the main characters. Watching a comedic movie on the subject is good for the soul, and some movies might help communicate something to your family or mate in a way that you are unable to do.
Help your mate understand your culture. It is easy to take on the mentality that people are representatives of their race. To a large degree that is true, but people are individuals first. Do not take everything personally or overreact to comments they make, but respond in love and treat each situation with patience. However, know your limits and set limits at the beginning. No one should remain in a verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive relationship. If educating does not seem to work, there might be a deeper issue that is simply manifesting itself in the form of unacceptable comments. Perhaps the person is not right for you or maybe your relationship needs the guidance of a professional. Counsel from a clergyman or other couples specialist could spare you the needless pain of a break up or divorce.
- Don’t make it a race issue
In finding a lifelong mate, it is essential to find someone that is a good match for you–regardless of that person’s race. Being chosen or rejected solely based on race is bound to fail and cause hurt. Do not date or marry someone because the person is a certain race. If your relationship started because the person met your “race criteria,” your relationship started on a rocky foundation. Do not avoid dating someone because the person is not a certain race. If you date exclusively in your own race and have not found a suitable match, perhaps you need to start exploring the options within other races. It is not a matter of if there are eligible men or women within your race (hopefully everyone has come far enough to know that every race has eligible possibilities), it is about increasing your options and opportunities, and finding someone that is right for you regardless of their race.
Additionally, those whom are the friends and family of those in or considering an interracial relationship could benefit from these tips:
- If you are unsupportive or simply have a few concerns, it is important that you communicate your concerns, and then back off. Nagging and arguing about the relationship will only add distance between you and your loved one. Time will tell if they are right for each other.
- Treat the person as an individual, not a representation of an entire race or that one person that did something to you or your neighbor’s cousin’s uncle. Get to know the person for who they are, find a common ground. Understand why they are interested in your loved one and why your loved one is interested in them.
- Be welcoming and intentional in your interactions. No one wants to be left out. Joining a new family can be stressful, and if your loved one’s significant other is another race, you might need to take extra steps to make sure you include them in family events or engage in one-on-one outings.