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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 October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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