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6 True Struggles of Interracial Relationships (and How to Overcome Them)

6 True Struggles of Interracial Relationships (and How to Overcome Them)

How do you navigate the additional battles experienced with interracial relationships? What are the pitfalls you need to know about?

Being in charge of your emotions will definitely help reduce interracial tension, however, it’s best to put preventative measures in place so you don’t find yourself overreacting unnecessarily.

This article details 6 of the true struggles experienced by interracial couples and what you can do to prevent them.

How would your life change if it was easy to enjoy your choice of partner?

1. Your interracial relationship is very likely to involve two different value systems.

According to Dr. Sidney Simon (author of Values Clarification), different value systems can easily cause conflict in a relationship. If what matters most to one person doesn’t matter to the other, the relationship isn’t sustainable in the long term.

For example, Lina is an Asian woman married to an Australian named Steven. Since most Australians value a relaxed lifestyle, Lina finds it hard to understand why her husband doesn’t want to be a business owner. In Asian culture, wealth creation is more important than relaxation.

In this case, Lina’s top value is wealth creation, whereas Steven doesn’t think wealth creation is very important at all. Consequently, this interracial couple frequently experiences tension due to conflicting values.

How to overcome this struggle?

Lina and Steven would be well-advised to accept and respect their different value systems.

Lina could start her own business and allow Steven to focus his attention on whatever makes him happy. While sharing a common direction is ideal, a couple doesn’t have to connect with each other through career goals.

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In other words, interracial couples can connect with each other through their shared interests, and respect and accept their differences.

2. There can be many unhealthy assumptions between interracial partners.

When you are in an interracial relationship, it’s important not to assume that your partner likes something because of their race or ethnicity.

For instance, constantly talking about curry may make your Indian partner feel offended. Your assumption that Indian people love curry can easily appear to be a stereotype. Or dating a German and constantly bringing him (or her) beer and sausages. When your German date doesn’t drink alcohol and is a health-conscious vegetarian.

How to overcome this struggle?

Curiosity is always key. Be genuinely curious about your partner without making assumptions.

Discover your partner’s interests and view of the world so you can enjoy every interaction you have.

3. Many interracial couples shy away from hot topics like racism.

It’s a fact that racism exists in our world, but most people don’t want to talk about it. Many interracial couples think that their love for each other will make racism irrelevant.

However, racial discrimination can be a real problem when a partner’s family doesn’t accept their spouse. Many mixed ethnicity couples try to ignore or brush off disparaging remarks and awkwardness. However, this may cause communication breakdown and problems in the future.

How to overcome this struggle?

When dating and forming a relationship, communication is paramount. This is especially true in interracial dating when a partner comes from a different background. Make sure that whenever there is an issue you address it immediately.

If your partner’s family members don’t accept you or vice versa, you need to honestly discuss how you feel with your partner and validate each other’s feelings.

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If you take a resistant or defensive stance, then you will only cause more friction and tension. Challenging people’s beliefs tends to lead to arguments and heartache.

Past generations tend to be fixed in their customs and beliefs. This can make it difficult for them to view your interracial relationship through a different and more liberating lens.[1]

Look for specific teachings within your ethnicity. Sharing common beliefs with others will go a long way toward accepting your choice in partner.

4. Boundaries in your relationship may disappear.

When feeling judged as an interracial couple, couples often become closer to each other. However, this may also lead to lack of boundaries in a relationship.

A case in point is thinking because they have shared everything, they also need to check each other’s phones. This can be a recipe for disaster because individual posts and messages can easily be misunderstood and taken out of context.

Digital boundaries are of vital importance in today’s day and age.

Dr. Henry Cloud (author of Boundaries in Marriage) states that setting boundaries is often an online process in a relationship. Yes, when the two of you are fighting against people’s judgement, you are a real team. But it doesn’t mean you should have access to each other’s email Inbox, Facebook passwords, and so on.

How to overcome this struggle?

Any time you feel a compelling need to control someone else’s behavior, it indicates that you’re emotionally triggered and are out of alignment with yourself.

If there is a problem in your relationship, deal with the problem instead of checking your partner’s text messages. Many marriage counsellors claim that they have never seen a couple who solved their problems by looking at each other’s phones or social media messages.

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When you feel yourself needing to check your partner’s phone, simply ask yourself:

‘Is there an issue in my relationship now, or am I simply feeling out of sorts?’

This question will reveal what really matters – that you need to get back into balance by resolving the triggered emotion. Your best and wisest actions will always come from an internal state of calm.

5. Some interracial couples allow others’ opinions to affect their wellbeing.

Many couples care about others’ opinions, especially when these people are their friends. Unfortunately, not every friend will understand why you are dating someone from a different race. This can be hard to accept and may create a problem between you which didn’t exist previously.

Statistics show that at the end of their lives, most people don’t regret listening to others’ opinions.[2] As a matter of fact, most people only regret not listening to their own inner guidance.

Taking on board other peoples’ opinions can cause you to feel emotionally triggered, which can then affect your ability to effectively communicate with your partner.

How to overcome this struggle?

If someone judges you for choosing a partner of a different race and ethnicity, it doesn’t mean that person isn’t worth knowing. Instead of taking these comments to heart, resolve your own triggered emotions first. Remember that other people’s opinions matter much less than your own sense of wellbeing.

When someone is emotionally triggered, they may make rash or irrational comments which are completely out of character. People can become so fixated on mentally analyzing their own busy life that they lose the mental bandwidth to think before they speak.

Reset yourself into a state of calm whenever you feel triggered. This will immediately make you less influenced by other people’s opinions.

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6. Some individuals dating people from another race feel superior in their relationship.

If you are an individual who is dating someone of a different race, it doesn’t mean you dislike your own race.[3] It is more likely to mean that you’re open to finding the best qualities in a person, and don’t have preconceived ideas about race or ethnicity.

Having said that, not every interracial relationship is stable as you can’t guarantee that your new partner’s viewpoint is as healthy as your own.

Your partner might say something like, “Ha, now you can hang out with a White boy with money”. Yes, sometimes, it can be a joke with no malice intended. But if your partner’s tonality and body language indicate they’re not joking, then perhaps you should rethink your relationship compatibility.

How to overcome this struggle?

Acting out with superior comments tends to be more common in interracial dating and is generally due to other factors mentioned above, which trigger unwanted emotions. If you are the person making superior comments, you may want to ask yourself why you need to have this stance. What’s the real problem that you’re not dealing with?

Feeling superior in a relationship doesn’t make an individual racist. However, frequently making superior comments usually indicates that someone is feeling insecure and needs to deal with their own emotional triggers to come back into balance.

Final Thoughts

These 6 real struggles of interracial relationships can be challenging, although in many cases easy to eradicate. Make sure you put the right strategies in place as mentioned above, to prevent problems before they occur.

We live in a world where everyone can find true love from any race. As you focus on being the best version of yourself, you will naturally feel more confident and at ease when relating with others.

Featured photo credit: cindy baffour via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqui Olliver

Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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