When you marry someone, you marry everything that made them who they are, including their culture and race. While marrying someone of a different race can have added challenges, if you go in with your eyes and heart wide open, you can face those challenges together and come out stronger. Here are a few things I've learned:.
Your relationship needs to be tight enough not to let naysayers, societal pressure and family opinions wedge you apart, explained Stuart Fensterheim, a couples counselor based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and host of The Couples Expert podcast. Luckily, my husband and I haven't had to face many issues from the outside world.
We're so "old" according to our cultures, that our families were just thankful someone of the human race agreed to marry either of us, and we currently live in a diverse section of New York City where no one bats an eye at interracial couples. But having a strong relationship without trust issues helps us give each other the benefit of the doubt when one of us says something culturally insensitive. We can talk about it, learn from it and move on without building up resentment or wondering about motivations. One way to begin, in the process of getting to know a new partner, is to maybe include some questions like, was the school you went to diverse, do you have diverse friends?
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Have you dated interracially before and if so, how did your family react? My husband and I were friends before we started dating, and we just organically ended up having these conversations. At times, I was shocked at how little he ever thought about race before me, and that was something that worried me when I first started falling for him. But his ability to be open and honest about the things he didn't know and his willingness to learn, rather than be defensive, eventually won me over.
For my part, I had to face the stereotypes I had about white Southerners.
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To be honest, I just assumed that deep down, he and his family were probably racist. While it was a defense mechanism for me, it wasn't fair that I didn't allow him a clean slate. There was a moment two years into my relationship with my now-husband, when I realized he might be my lifelong partner, and joy gave way to dread: Would he ever really understand my experience as of immigrants?
Could he really support me when I or our children faced racism? I could have thrown our entire relationship away based on my fear, but luckily, I turned to a friend who had been in an interracial relationship for 10 years. They have a relationship of mutual love and respect.
He had faced some of the same challenges I did. Knowing how much they had to work for it, and how happy they ended up as a result, helped me see that we could do the same. Whether you can find someone in your friend group, through social networking or even just watching relevant YouTube videos, hearing from people who have been where you are can serve as emotional support.
I waffled on changing my name — it felt really difficult for me, like I was letting go of my Indian heritage. Ultimately I decided against itand my husband was supportive of my decision. Would it have been different if my husband were Indian? But, fear set in when they found that he deeply believed what he had been taught.
I didn't freak and was not surprised. They came around quickly. Many people Childs has spoken to in the course of her research came from families who seemed very accepting, but feel differently about who their children date. Her advice? Have an open and honest conversation before you bring your ificant other into the mix.
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Prepare yourself for reactions that are unexpected or even upsetting, and accept that it may take some time for your family to come around. And if grandma just can't get on board? You can't force it. Acknowledge her feelings, but also acknowledge it's hurtful to you and your partner. Eventually, she may come around. That was the case for Baker, who said that after her kids were born, her husband's grandmother cried and apologized for her initial disapproval. But stick with it; your patience will be rewarded. If your partner asks you something that feels offensive, acknowledge they are likely coming from a good place, and then explain why you have an issue with the interaction.
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With enough conversations over time, they might just surprise you. I learned how to mud ride. I shot a gun. I attended crawfish boils. He now eats dosa with his hands like a pro, practices yoga and meditation and understands racial issues in a much more nuanced way. While we both come from very different backgrounds and sometimes have passionately opposing opinions, we do share one trait in common: Neither of us knows the people we will be tomorrow, and we're not only OK with that, but excited by it.
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