3 real-life couples share with us on dealing with interracial marriage

Posted by James, 24 Feb

Race has always been a very touchy subject in America. However, much as there has been an increase in interracial relationships when you hear stories of interracial relationships, some make you wonder whether we are moving forward or backward.

That said, interracial couples go through different experiences. Some have it easy. Others have it rough. All this depends on where they live. For instance, an interracial couple in an all-white neighborhood or the other way around will definitely give people something to talk about. Plus, they will definitely be looked at differently.

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There has been a lot of acceptance towards interracial relationships (at least, that is what people say when surveys are conducted). Things are better now compared to when there was a miscegenation law in place before 1967 that banned interracial marriages.

One therapist, Marisa Peer, specializing in relationships, interviewed 3 couples in interracial marriages. What she got from these true interracial stories were varying opinions about what it means to be in an interracial relationship today.

Well, read on to find out what they had to say…

JESSICA JONES NIELSEN AND CHRISTIAN NIELSEN

Jessica Jones Nielsen and Christian Nielsen have been married for over a decade. They both live in London. Jessica identifies as Afro-Latina, whereas Christian is white from Denmark.

What does the word interracial mean to them?

It means that they come from different backgrounds, mainly different skin types. "I'm a visibly brown Afro-Latina, and my husband is visibly a white man. So the differences in our races are quite noticeable", says Jessica.

Now, seeing as their kids look white, they usually spend time explaining that they are indeed mixed race.

Have they encountered challenges in their marriage because of cultural and racial differences?

When it comes to how they celebrate traditions, it is more different than difficult. The couple takes time to celebrate and respect each other's traditions. What was challenging, in the beginning, was the expectations.

Being Afro-Latina, Jessica was used to her family's louder and more festive traditions. However, she found Denmark to be too calm and quiet. Adjusting to a low-key environment was a challenge, but she started appreciating their subtle traditions with time.

As for Christian, he feels that depending on whose traditions and family they are with, one of them will be an outsider who doesn't quite grasp the traditions or what is expected of the culture.

What do they feel about the acceptance of interracial marriage today?

Jessica feels that they are lucky to be together now based on societal attitudes. Her mum, Latina, and Dad from Bermuda lived in Virginia and had to move to California because of the racial issues they faced in Virginia.

What has being in interracial relationships taught them?

They think about being from different races more because they have kids. Much as their kids look white, they still talk to them about appreciating different skin types' beauty. They emphasize diversity and that there is no standard of beauty. The children compliment both their skin colors and features.

As for merging their traditions, it's an everyday affair. For instance, they will have a Danish lunch and a festive party at night. They eat foods from both cultures and often visit the U.S. and Denmark. They don't hide their different cultures. The kids know their dark and light family members.

JESSICA YI-PENFOLD AND CODY PENFOLD

Jessica and Cody live in Atlanta, Georgia, and have been together for about 4 years. Jessica considers herself a first-generation Korean American, and Cody identifies as white American.

What does the word interracial mean to them?

Jessica has never thought of the word as negative for their relationship. Although, much as historically, it had negative connotations, she doesn't even think about it when it comes to the two of them. For her, interracial means a blend or mix of thoughts and ideas, traditions, and cultures influenced by geographical differences. Although both of them are American, they are from different races and have different cultural norms.

"To me an interracial marriage is the amalgamation of those two things," Jessica mentions.

When it comes to their interracial dating experiences, when they started dating, since both of them are American, there wasn't any real racial tension. But when things got serious and families got involved, they started noticing the differences in their upbringing. He realized that even though Jessica is American, she is also a first-generation Korean American.

What do they feel about the acceptance of interracial marriage today?

Having his parents meet his girlfriend and getting to know each other more wasn't a big deal for Cody. But when it came to the Korean traditions, only meet potential in-laws until both families meet. So basically, the families meet when you ask for the girl's hand in marriage, and the families agree or disagree.

Being American, Jessica found it pretty easy to assimilate into Cody's family. Things were familiar to her. That said, she saw things completely foreign when introducing him to her family and extended family because none of her siblings or cousins had been married before.

Going through marriage with Cody, she learned what was traditional and unconventional in her own culture. So they decided to do things differently by getting married in Cuba.

Have they encountered challenges in their marriage because of cultural and racial differences?

When it comes to stories of interracial relationships, everyone has their story. Jessica feels that if their relationship was just about the two of them, things would be easy. But the moment family was added into the mix, that's when things became a little bit more complicated. The love the two had for each other didn't count. The thoughts and opinions of their families did.

On the other hand, Cody has learned an appreciation he hadn't fully understood before marrying Jessica. He appreciates her family and the people who have migrated to the U.S. He understands what sacrifice means for his family especially leaving one's home country and moving across the world.

Advice to other interracial couples ready for marriage

"Make sure you talk through what is most important to you in life. Those are conversations you should definitely have before getting married," adds Jessica.

Cody says, "If you both like each other's cultural food... that's a good start."

ANGELICA GARCIA VICARY AND THOMAS VICARY

Angelica and Thomas got married in 2019. She identifies as Hispanic and him, white from England. They have noticed the change in societal attitudes towards interracial marriages.

What does the word interracial mean to them?

Angelica puts it simply: "merging of two races." That said, she isn't sure whether there is any significant role in her relationship. All the two of them see is someone they love. She believes the elements that make her Latina are not influenced by her race but by her upbringing.

She has been a limbo, though. She doesn't feel American enough, and neither does she feel 'Boricua' enough for Puerto Ricans. She doesn't feel that way with Thomas, and she thinks maybe it is because he is European. With him, she feels enough just as she is. He is the most non-judgmental and open-minded person she has ever met. Besides the apparent British accent, his traditions are influenced by how he was raised. One minute he is blasting La India, the next, salsa. Much as she doesn't ignore their vastly different upbringing, she believes that makes them so unique. Plus, they have the rest of their lives to get to know one another.

"It means to me that I, my wife and our present and future family will have so much to investigate, explore and learn together. It means we can culturally grow, and actively educate our children to help them understand their identity", says Thomas. He feels it will be an exciting journey to guide them. Learning both family histories, combining traditions, coming up with new ones will create fresh, lasting memories.

What do they feel about the acceptance of interracial marriage today?

Less challenging than their parents' time. However, challenges still exist, such as Mariah Carey's family being kicked out of their neighborhood just because they are interracial. That may not be happening these days, but it doesn't mean that people don't talk about these things.

Angelica feels the day we will get to the place when an interracial couple can walk by without getting the weird or doubles stares, that will be the time we will be on our way to total acceptance. She feels that a lot of pressure comes from family. Her mom always told her never to date Hispanic men. Her reasons were racist and stereotypical.

Even though she ignored her advice, she was always less judgmental when she dated white men. Angelica wishes that her daughter grows up free from negative color or race influence and hopes that she will marry for love and be with someone who treats her fairly, with dignity, and respect despite race or gender.

Thomas was brought up in a very accepting environment. Much as there are differences in opinion when you watch or read the news, he feels that the marriage between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has somehow helped modernize or evolve 'old-fashioned' views and opinions on interracial marriage. He hopes things will be less challenging beyond today.

Have they encountered challenges in their marriage because of cultural and racial differences?

Well, her text and tone or his misunderstanding about them have got her into communication debacles with her husband. An example is when they met on an online dating site:

"I asked him what his plans were for the weekend and he responded with 'What do you have on?' I was in shock and of course immediately thought – WEIRDO! Seeing that I wasn't responding, he realized what it sounded like and clarified with what weekend plans I had on…"

Such misunderstandings happen pretty often with them. Much as both speak English, they are still trying to decode their 'languages' depending on how or who is speaking. So it could mean something totally different, lol!

She always uses him to get them a table at a packed restaurant because his accent always works. When they were looking for a house to buy, she kept pushing him to make the inquiries simply because her last name is Morales and he is Vicary. Now, this might sound racist, right. Well, those are not her intentions. She feels that a realtor is more likely to respond to a male Vicary than a female Morales.

Thomas never used to get this because maybe he had never experienced such prejudice.

Thomas acknowledges and embraces their marriage's cultural and background differences and feels fortunate that they haven't come across significant challenges. "However, we almost never met initially due to my question of 'what do you have on?'", he acknowledges adding, "… our differing use and interpretation of the English language (and wider communication) is something we've worked on since day one!"

Advice to other interracial couples ready for marriage

It's tough, especially with family putting pressure on them when it comes to making the most important decisions of their lives. Angelica says that interracial couples should envision the life they want to live regarding who will be in their lives and who supports that life they want to live. Can you, your partner, and your family consider therapy together to iron out your differences?

Angelica and her mom have never been close, mainly because she is at a place of ignorance that Angelica cannot relate to. That said, as she's getting older, she has realized that she cannot change her. However, it doesn't mean she has to accept her ignorant behavior either. Instead, she has chosen her small family, her husband, and kids over trying to enlighten her mom. She still has a small place in her life, though, via texts and sending her photos.

"I find myself more at peace with this form of relationship than our previous tumultuous one," mentions Angelica.

As for Thomas, he advises interracial couples looking to get married to "Go for it! Life's too short". He emphasizes communicating these feelings or concerns they have to one another. That said, he still says he is very fortunate to come from an understanding family that only wants him to do what makes him happy.

To be honest, this is one of the most candid and the best interracial stories of the three. Don't you agree?

Marisa Peer concludes…

Having read the above stories of interracial relationships, Peers says that the couple's love needs to come before rules. Interracial and interfaith marriages usually get rocky because of the different beliefs that we assume the other person understands.

For example, celebrating birthdays might be a big thing in your culture but not your partner's. If that is the case, you need to have a high level of acceptance of how important that means to your partner. When it comes to how you raise children, specifically how you discipline the kids or the religion they will follow, many cultures have conflicting beliefs. Such things need to be addressed early, and both parties need to agree on how to juggle these two conflicting beliefs.

With intercultural marriages, things usually go well… until children come along, particularly when it comes to how girls should be raised. People always believe that love conquers all when interracial couples get together. But, unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

Interracial couples need to "Talk. Talk about everything". Talk to family, talk to friends, talk to kids and get some counseling if you are open to it. Support is important. Find other people in interracial marriages that have worked, whether it's those you know of or online. Find out what their biggest challenges were and how they tackled them.

My opinion?

You know what, in the end, whether a marriage is interracial or otherwise, there will always be challenges. Even people from the same race or culture are raised differently. It's hard to change people's opinions about some things, especially where race is involved. But, if you take those challenges as challenges that happen in all marriages and give them a fair chance, then you will be the ones narrating one of the most beautiful interracial romance stories ever heard. Things are better, that's for sure. Compared to before the Loving vs.Virginia ruling, we have come far. It's great that we have interracial dating websites like ours that encourage free love.

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