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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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