Tips for Interracial/Intercultural Couples
In the last article, I discussed some of the challenges faced by couples in interracial & intercultural relationships. Marital and romantic relationships that cross the barriers of race, culture and faith tend to be more challenging at times than homogeneous ones because such relationships face an array of stressors above and beyond any other relationship.
A couple in an interracial/intercultural/interfaith relationship might experience difficulties around family of origin issues, expectations around wedding planning and decisions related to religion, spirituality, identity especially during child rearing. However, negotiating these differences is not unique to only interracial or intercultural relationships. All couples, irrespective of their backgrounds/culture, have to negotiate differences in order to have a secure functioning relationship.
Despite the many challenges, interracial and intercultural relationships are very rewarding for couples that are able to manage their differences and create their own unique identity as a couple.
Here are some tips for intercultural/interracial couples to manage the differences & reap the rewards:
Us vs. the world-
The toughest challenge that interracial and intercultural couples face is disapproval from family and at times, complete alienation. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is for couples to have a relationship that is absolutely solid. The feeling within that rock solid relationship is of us vs. the world and a commitment to protect each other from your family’s backlash. Conveying to your family very early on that you will not tolerate any disparaging remarks about your partner in their presence or absence can help to set firm boundaries from the get go. Be prepared to handle disapproval and also create space within the relationship to acknowledge that the disapproval is painful. Some family members come around relatively quickly and others never- that is ok!
Have an open mind-
Openness and willingness to see the world from your partner’s perspective is a necessary ingredient for a loving relationship. This becomes even more important when your partner comes from a different world than you. Our culture shapes the way we think, act and even feel. Just because your partner sees the world through a different lens, it does not mean their worldview is flawed.
Learn all that you can about your partner’s cultural or racial background. Immerse yourself into their culture, traditions, rituals, food, music & festivals. Nothing says I love you better than your eagerness to learn more about the person that you love. However, immersing yourself in your partner’s culture does not translate into you losing your own cultural identity- a common fear that comes up for some people.
Compromise & Acceptance-
The fact that you are dating or married to someone from a different cultural/racial background speaks to your open mindedness. Take that further and be willing to accept your differences when it comes to holidays, parenting, sex or money. Be willing to compromise instead of trying to prove who is right or wrong. At times, partners from diverse backgrounds get stuck in the never ending cycle of trying to prove that their views on sex, money, parenting or holidays are better or more evolved than their partner’s.
Being comfortable talking about race-
If you are an interracial couple, chances are that you have experienced societal prejudice & bigotry in some form or fashion. Maybe it was in the form of insensitive comments, weird looks, or even outright communal boycott. By being able to openly talk about race with your partner, you can create a buffer between the outside world and your relationship along with strengthening your collective ability to deal with prejudice & bigotry.
Teaching & learning-
Interracial & intercultural relationships are so rewarding because the process of teaching and learning never really stops. It is truly an adventure to create a life with someone belonging to a completely different culture or race. You get to learn things that you would not have picked up if you were with someone else. Being exposed to cultural experiences very different from your own can be a mind blowing experience.
Creating your unique shared identity-
I think this is the most exciting & rewarding aspect of being in an intercultural/interracial relationship. At times, people in such relationships begin to experience the fear of losing who they are when they begin to immerse themselves in their partner’s culture. The reality is that intercultural/interracial couples get to create a unique shared identity of their own that defines them as a separate family unit. By bringing together aspects of each of your cultural/racial backgrounds, you can create a one of a kind experience for yourself and for your kids.
By putting these ideas into practice, you and your partner can reap the benefits and rewards of being an interracial/intercultural couple. However, if you are experiencing difficulty with navigating the challenges of an interracial/intercultural relationship, seeking the help of an experienced couple’s counselor can be very beneficial.
Written by: Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C. specializing in sex therapy, couples therapy & marriage counseling, premarital counseling, individual relationship therapy & LGBTQQI couples counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay, in Dublin & Oakland.
If you and your partner are interested in improving your connection and strengthening your relationship, multicultural couples/marriage counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay can help. Dr. Clark utilizes an integrative approach to help couples strengthen all facets of their relationship.
Call 925-400-3541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30 minute phone consult or fill out the contact form and you will be contacted within 12-24 hours.