Expert roundup

Posted by Minuca, 03 Dec 17

What is your best advice for interracial couples that have difficulties adjusting with each other's culture, traditions, and religion?

Rori Sassoon - Platinum Poire

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Rori Sassoon This is where compromise and communication come into play. Each partner needs to firstly communicate all of the things that are important to them in their culture, traditions, and religion and why. Give your partner an outline of what your ideal relationship would look like in regards to sharing and creating a safe space for each other’s culture. One person shouldn’t make it that their culture is better than their partners. There needs to be a lot of respect within the relationship. When you have children you need to have this set. You should not surround yourself with people who are prejudice, however, as a team, you should communicate about this so that you are on the same page. Remember that wounds of the words are worse than physical. Never hit below the belt.

Sheri Heller - Sheri Therapist

Sheri Heller

As a psychotherapist and interfaith minister in private practice in NYC I encounter many interracial couples seeking help with navigating through cultural and spiritual differences. The most pressing concerns relate to the raising of children. Essentially there needs to be a willingness within the couple relationship to find common ground and to expand one's consciousness to be inclusive of traditions that are outside one's personal context. Travel and immersion in rituals, food, and spiritual services outside of one's familiar perspective assists with this intention. Logistically, determining what one wishes to generationally pass on to potential offspring needs to be assessed. If there is room for a merger of traditions and cultural prescriptions than a diverse approach can result. However, if one is adamantly polarized in their ethnic and cultural framework this could be a dealbreaker necessitating a parting of ways.

Dr. Dara Bushman

Dara Bushman I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist clearing trauma, embodying healing and creating transformative experiences in my private practice of multi-racial and multi-cultural populations and I am a mother and a wife in a multi-racial family. I am a Jewish-American, born in New Jersey and raised in South Florida in a nuclear, traditional middle-class economical family. I have one brother. My husband is a Christian- Hispanic (Venezuelan and Dominican) born in the Dominican Republic, raised in DR and NY in lower socioeconomics by his grandmother. He was one of nine children in a combined familiar household. My husband joined the military to serve the U.S. government at age 17. At age 17, I went to Johnson City, TN on a college tennis scholarship. I am fair skinned and petite with light hair. He is dark-toned and tall with a strong, masculine stature. We met online. I had not dated interracially prior, but I never saw his color and he never saw mine.  We just met. We fell in love.  We have two beautiful mocha skinned babies who are a perfect combination of us both. Our children are 3 and 5 and they only see people, not color. Others see our differences, but they are also saddened from their own differences. It is their sense that is skewed, not mine and their short-sightedness is their challenge. I have received comments like, “wouldn’t it be hard on kids to raise them interracially, what will others think? and why make it more difficult in this difficult world than it already is”.  These are comments from unhappy people, sad people uncomfortable in their unmixed skin. Whether you are purple, green, or from different cultures, values and communication are key to any relationship.  Have similar core values is the foundation and base of a relationship. From there you can build. Communication does not discriminate! Communication is critical. It is how you will find compromise and discuss similarities and differences. Use direct questions, make eye contact, and respect difference as you respect similarities.  Ask questions even if you think they are silly. Let your partner know how much you want to understand about them. Talk to them as you want them to talk and treat you.  It is okay to share different perspectives.  Identify what are priorities and areas of importance of family traditions.  Try different things out. Understand adjustment and integration is liquid as relationships and life grow and develop. Be flexible! My husband and my perspectives shifted values as we had kids, so we shifted together.  Our views as momma and papa bear of the world cultivated and broadened as we became protective of our cubs. Areas of importance have become clearer. Our one rule is no matter our differences we speak to the kids from a united front. We don’t have to tell them we agree on everything, but we have to tell them together we disagree. At the end of the day, it is about the bond and connection you and your partner develop that creates the perspective of the world of how you both receive the world. When you are both aligned you are a stronger force. If you see prejudice you will receive prejudice. If you see similarities, you will receive acceptance.

Katie Ziskind - Wisdom Within Counseling

Katie Ziskind

It can be challenging to adjust to an entirely new culture when you’re dating someone who is of another race. In one sense, opposites attract. However, if too much change happens too quickly, it can break apart two people that would have otherwise been a perfect match.

Take bits and pieces slowly. Be gentle with yourself and with your partner. As you introduce your partner to your culture, know that it takes children 15 times to try new food to even think about liking it. Be compassionate with your partner and be OK if they don’t like one of your favorite foods. In time, they may grow to enjoy it just like you do. Your new partner may need extra support meeting relatives of a different culture. Discuss topics ahead of time and be open about conversations. Different cultures have different normals around gender, sex, marriage, children, finances, working, and rules and expectations. Some cultures don’t drink alcohol where his other cultures have alcohol every night with dinner. Know that what is normal for you may not be normal for your partner, so there will be an adjustment phase.

Mark Borg Jr - Irrelationship

Mark Borg

The most important ingredient, skill and resource for all couples is communication. Being in an interracial couple, however, brings the imperative nature of communication into stark relief and can, at their best, provide an ‎opportunity to address a huge communication problem that couples who think and believe they share common culture, race, religion, etc. often totally miss: True intimacy, getting to know a partner, requires that we use communication to dispel our assumptions about our partner. Too often, ‎when we think and believe we are similar, we deny and dismiss the subtleties of how culture (values, morals, practices, etc.) are actually transmitted to us through our unique and individual families. This creates a sense of mutual denial where the assumption of similarity can later prove to be a roadblock to genuine communication, development of empathy, and willingness to be truly intimate. It can, ironically, get in the way of learning to accept who our partner really is. Cultural assumptions of similarity allow couples to avoid these essential elements of communication in ways that being in an interracial relationship--and this couples psychologist is also in an interracial marriage--make much more difficult to sustain. Therefore, I hope that along with the difficulties ‎that interracial couples face, I believe that there are also assets that they possess that can be used productively to create a deeper sense of emotional connection.

Dr. Fran Walfish

Fran Walfish There are many couples that are of different races and religions that simply don’t practice.  This is the best scenario of all. Yes, it is possible for a couple to accept their differences when it comes to religion and continue to practice separately. However, on their respective religious holidays when they want to enjoy celebrating meals and festivities together, many couples experience a sense of loneliness, divisiveness, and a wedge between the two partners.  This can be the beginning of a crack in the foundation of the marriage. It is not so clear-cut to be able to simply tell couples that it’s not always important to have religion in common. The reason is that no one is clairvoyant and no one can predict what unexpected tragedies, traumas, and events life may bring.  These unexpected curveballs can catapult someone deeper into their religion, sometimes even fanatically. Once this happens, the equilibrium in the couple and relationship is tipped and no one knows how it will affect the two partners and their children.  Religion is potentially a very delicate and crucial issue in the marital relationship. Parents with different religions can enrich their children's life experience with exposure and celebration of both cultures, religious practices, and customs. The situation that creates a wedge between partners is that in which each one has (or develops after marriage) strong orthodox beliefs and practices. I have treated many families in which after having children, or after suffering a life trauma, one parent becomes fanatically involved in their religion.  This can tip the equilibrium in the marital relationship and cause deep confusion in the children about their individual identities.

Kryss Shane – This Is Kryss

Kryss Shane It's super common for individuals to love each other but to be completely unsure how to love the others' families and the others' traditions. Rather than battling or always fearing a battle about these sensitive topics, each member of the couple should take some time to think about what matters most. Is it spending one specific holiday with your family even if you are not together for that holiday? Is it keeping religious worship in your weekly schedule even if you attend without your partner? In addition, what is most important to do with your partner? When each person has made this list, compare them. Often you'll find that both of these are doable so no one has to feel as if they've lost out. Plus, knowing what is most important to your partner helps to better decide whether that is worth arguing about or whether you can simply see your participation as one of the ways you show your partner that you love them. Then make your plan together and agree to present to both families as a united front and agree not to vent to your own family about the other in order to preserve the relationship between your relatives and your partner.

Christopher L. Smith - Seeking Shalom

Christopher L. Smith I would let the couple know that what they are going through is normal and while being an interracial couple may amplify things that adjusting to what the other person brings in to the relationship is something that many couples have to go through. Once they realize that, the next step is to work out how they feel about their own culture, traditions, and religion and the relationship - what can be their own expressions without their partner being involved, what do they need their partner to respect and be somewhat involved with and what do they need their partner to be an active participant in with full belief about? Honestly talking about your needs and desires while also carefully listening to what your partner is able to give you can help you find ways forward or realize that loving each other may mean that you have to go separate ways in order to allow each of you to maintain integrity. It is possible that your needs relative to the culture, traditions, and religion each of you bring into the relationship cannot coexist, for example if one of you comes from a background where it is important for the whole family to be together in church on New Year's Eve in a Watch Night Service where you are quiet, reflective and in prayer to bring in the new year (which is common among certain African American Protestant traditions) and your partner places a strong importance of partying and celebrating with your loved ones to welcome in the New Year (which is common in other ethnic traditions). These two are exclusive of each other and relate to a particular time period and require your partner to participate with you. On the other hand, there can be situations where there are significant differences but you each have an openness to the other person's stance and a blended approach can be assumed. There was a couple that I worked with that was able to find ways to draw on their different religious traditions and weave them together into a single service that they both felt comfortable with and which met the needs each one identified. In this case, one partner's religious background was Jewish and the other partner practices a mixture of Roman Catholicism and Wiccan. Even diverse aspects can be integrated and engaged in across backgrounds.

Grant Brenner

Grant Brenner

Be flexible and open to learning. When you are part of a mixed ethnicity couple, many basic assumptions about relationships will be different from what you expect. Especially early on, until you have the lay of the land, assume the best about your partner when things are unfamiliar. Rather than jumping to negative conclusions, such as believing that the other person did something on purpose which upset you, approach the situation with openness and curiosity. What she or he just did may be a sign of respect or love which gets lost in translation. Be hospitable. Act as if you were welcome guests in one another's cultures. Before you get to know each other fully as individuals, as part of the process, you will become acclimated to one another's culture and customs. It will help to ease the tensions and reduce the risk of conflict if you err on the side of diplomacy. You are strangers in a strange land. Be skeptical. While second-guessing oneself and others is generally seen as a problem, in this case, a level of healthy doubt will help keep you from thinking you know what you are doing, knowing what the other person means, and knowing what is going on -- when you really do not. We can easily fool ourselves and one another by filling in ambiguity and gaps in communication with familiar ideas and concepts. This can go on a long time, leading to misunderstanding and the need to go back and fix mistakes. Proceed with cautious optimism and you'll be more likely to get it right the first time around, reducing the risk of inadvertent injury.

Wyatt Fisher – Christian Crush

Wyatt Fisher 1. Seek to understand. A first step is to seek to really understand your partner's culture and traditions. What are their values, how do these see the world, how do they approach situations and why? The more you understand how they think, the more you'll understand their perspective.

2. Humility. Remember your way is not the way. Elevate your partner's cultural customs to the level of yours. Both deserve respect.

3. Ask. Ask your partner how they would like for you to improve respect for your differences and what that would look like.

4. Compromise. Last, discuss with your partner what your culture should look like as a couple. Which elements of both of your cultures would you like to incorporate into the relationship and why? If your relatives don't agree with interracial dating although your partner is from another ethnicity you should:

1. Count your costs. The first step is recognizing this will most likely cause a lot of strife between you and your family and be sure you feel the relationship is worth the strife.

2. Meet with your family alone. The next step is to meet with your family without your partner to confront their discrimination and how it makes you and your partner feel.

3. Comfort your partner. Third, be sure to empathize with how your family's reaction makes your partner feel. Also, be sure they feel you are siding with them and defending them at every turn. 4. Defer to your partner. If your partner continues to not be treated with respect, defer to how often they feel comfortable visiting your family, if at all.

Lori Whatley

Lori Whatley In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of dating someone from another culture is that you each educate yourself on your partner's culture, traditions, and religions. It is imperative for the health of the relationship that you communicate your interest to your partner in their culture. All relationships, in general, are about learning about your partner and becoming aware of many different aspects of their being. This is a great opportunity for you both to grow and strengthen the relationship, as you learn together about one another's culture. Being curious about your partner's traditions, and integrating some of them into your life together, is a gift to your partner from you.

Martin Lucas - Getlaid.today

 

Interracial couples often go through cultural and religious beliefs clashes. While you will never have the same opinion on every matter, you should learn to respect each other's beliefs and religion. Participate in your partner's traditional and religious activities as an observer.It will help you build a strong bond and show that you accept and respect your partner's choices even if they are different from yours. Learn to compromise, if you have some fundamental cultural differences the only way to save the relationship is to find a middle ground. Compromise to find a solution that is acceptable by you and your partner.

Jor-El Caraballo

Jor-El Caraballo Many people are uncomfortable talking about race and cultural differences so it's normal to feel awkward around discussing these things. Be open and authentically curious about each other's background. Be patient & compassionate - if your partner has had little experience with someone of your background they may be ignorant but that doesn't always mean it's malicious. Communicate, communicate, communicate - many things are worked out by having effective communication and practicing active listening. Do your own research on your partner's culture - read books, blog posts, go to cultural events to learn (this also shows genuine interest to your partner). It could also be wise to consult with a relationship coach or therapist to explore these issues in a safe environment

Iman Iskander - Culture Of Care

Iman Iskander If you’re already in a relationship and you find your partner’s culture, traditions and religions get in the way of your love, then without a doubt you will need to establish excellent communication skills to resolve your differences. My advice is to learn the difference between the Solvable and Unsolvable problems and use a set structured communication process to discuss each.

Your first step is to identify whether your problem is solvable or unsolvable. A solvable problem has the following features:

1. It relates to a task or an action.

2. It can be ticked off on a list.

3. There are several options for how it can be solved and a middle ground is possible. A solvable problem requires good communication and listening skills followed by negotiation.

An unsolvable problem has the following features:

1. Is related to a value system.

2. It points to a life direction and cannot be ticked off on a list

3. It’s embedded in a person’s psyche and view of the world. The unsolvable problem will continue to come up again and again in relationships. It may masquerade as a task or thing but underneath the obvious, there is a value system, like religion, view of family, view of the world, or an orientation to life etc.

This unsolvable requires you both to shift your attitude and your goal when you speak about it. You’ll need to find a way to live together with this difference and to accept that it will always be a difference between you.

For an unsolvable problem ask yourself: “How can I learn to learn to live with this difference?” and “What steps can I take to show acceptance of my partner without agreeing with their view?”

The most important thing to remember is that your partner will not change and that you will need to find a way to live together harmoniously without damaging your relationship. This requires an attitude of acceptance.

Elayne Savage - Queen Of Rejection

Elayne Savage For 35 years I have primarily been seeing couples in my private practice. Style differences in the form cultural differences are challenging in many relationships. Messages are passed down from generation to generation, often non-verbally.

After all, each partner grew up in a different family with different ways of doing things and we too often believe “My way is the best way.”

Here are a few of the style differences that receive focus in couples sessions: cultural ways of connecting, ways of coping with stress, privacy needs, comfortable closeness and distance, celebrations and gift-giving. As you can imagine, gift-giving is a particularly hot topic.

The list can number in the dozens and has been one of the most popular focuses of I have been able to offer couples. Our work is to find ways to embrace rather than feel threatened by cultural style differences. Too often we need to make someone ‘wrong’ and ‘bad.’

These negative, toxic feelings lead to hurt feelings, taking things personally, anger and resentment which get in the way of connection and intimacy.

Shlomo Slatkin - The Marriage Restoration Project

Shlomo Slatkin My best advice for adjusting is to be able to have open and honest conversations about any concerns. No two people are alike and a relationship is about experiencing the otherness of your partner. This is further accentuated with cultural differences. The ability to travel to the "world" of the other and appreciate their "otherness" is the key to a successful relationship. Couples that learn the Imago Dialogue can learn how to make that journey by "mirroring" back or repeating what the other says without interjecting their own opinion, validating their partner by letting them know they make sense and empathize with them by imagining what emotions they may be experiencing. This will help the other feel that there is a real caring relationship.

How to overcome the challenges of an interracial relationship?

Sonya Schwartz - Her Aspiration

Sonya Schwartz

Four main factors define the success - and ultimately helps overcome the challenges - of an interracial relationship. These are acceptance, understanding, accommodation, and communication. The first step is to accept your differences. You will have different cultural backgrounds, which often come with prejudices. You’ll have to overcome them and embrace, or at least accept, your partner’s culture if you want to have a happy relationship. From spiritual views and practices to food, those involved in an interracial relationship have to keep an open mind and accept their partner’s culture and perspectives. It is equally important to understand each other. You don’t have to agree with your partner’s culture, nor like everything about it. But you owe it to your partner to study their culture and understand it before judging. You must also give up stereotypes and accommodate your partner into your life. If the relationship seems promising, also learn how to accommodate your partner’s immediate family and friends into your life, and learn how to deal with their rejection. In the end, communication is perhaps the most important step in overcoming the challenges of an interracial relationship. Talk to each other, share your views even if they are different, speak about your fears or concerns. The goal is to become comfortable with each other, as this is the only way to deal with a society that is often reticent to interracial relationships.

Kira Nurieli - Harmony Strategies Group

Kira Nurieli

Inter-racial dating can be particularly tricky. In my mediation and conflict-coaching practice, I see many situations where culture and language shapes a miscommunication or misperception, and these culture and language barriers can be especially sensitive when parties are in intimate relationships.

I myself am married to a man of middle-eastern descent, and we often have radically different views, based on our different styles of upbringing.

Sometimes, it feels like extra work to be married to someone so different, but it also helps enrich my life with new flavors, traditions, and ideas.

Three key points can help ease the relationship dynamics:

1. Remember that all couples have breakdowns and misunderstandings. Don’t be quick to blame race or ethnicity on the reason you don’t see eye-to-eye. When disagreements flare, carve out time to better understand each other as individuals, rather than blaming divergent backgrounds.

This also allows each party to consider how to grow and change beyond cultural norms, to create a new system that works uniquely for the two of you, together.

2. Take time to define your goals, habits, and dreams together. Find out how you can complement and help each other create the life you’re looking for. Just as in a business context, diversity fuels innovation.

By sharing your visions, you may see new and fascinating opportunities that you could not achieve with someone of the same background.

In my situation, my life is filled with different languages, conversations, and ethnic foods than I would have embraced on my own. This fuels excitement, fascination, and creativity for both myself and my spouse.

3. Don’t be bashful to look for help. There’s no medal for going it alone – if you feel your relationship could use some assistance, then reach out and find someone to help!

There are many mediators, conflict coaches, and therapists who can help shed light on the triggers and complicating issues you are facing.

They can also help with extended-family dynamics as well if there is any pushback or lack of understanding from parents, in-laws or others.

Dr. Zofia Czajkowska - Find Your Harmony

Zofia Czajkowska

I'm a psychologist in private practice in Montreal. From my experience seeing interracial couples, as well as individuals in such relationships (or still considering them) the best approach is to ask yourself what do you want to drive your life: your own desire or fear of disapproval by others?

People at the end of life don't typically regret not listening to their relatives more, but they often report regrets over not listening to their own hearts, having the courage to be themselves.

Be truthful to yourself about whom you want to date and why. Ask yourself whether there is a part of you that perhaps wonders if your relatives' concerns are also your own.

Do you worry about what will people think and say of you? Are you concerned about raising children together? Why? What exactly is it bothering you?

Be honest with yourself. Talk to your best friend or a therapist to really understand your motivations - why are you even wondering about race or ethnicity as a potential issue? Is it to please your relatives? Avoid conflict? Is it to protect yourself from being self-conscious or shy in the future and if so, why?

Talk to your potential partner about your thoughts and feelings and ask the same questions you may have, e.g., how would we raise our kids?

How would we solve problems when we're faced with racism as a couple? How would we settle disputes when cultural differences arise?

Oluchi Osuagwu - Woman Scope

1. If you want to be able to keep your interracial relationship, you shouldn't take racism personally. In a relationship, partners sometimes have issues. When such issues arise, don't bring racism into the issue.

2. Don't stay silent. Speak up. In every relationship, communication matters a lot. You must speak up. Tell your partner what your problem is and you both should trash out the issue peacefully.

In addition, never let the race issue define your relationship. If you both love each other and understand each other, then there is no problem. Race shouldn't be a problem.

What people might say shouldn't bother you at all. Let your love for each other define your relationship.

3. For your interracial relationship to work, like I said earlier, you must love and understand each other and always communicate with each other.

Uma Alexandra Beepat -  Lotus Wellness Center

Uma Alexandra Beepat

In addition to being a dating coach, I am also in an interracial relationship! I am West Indian and my partner is Caucasian. It has been a roller coaster ride, especially in these politically charged times.

The difficulty is we will never TRULY understand each other's point of view from the color perspective as we have different backgrounds and did not have to face the challenges we each went through.

BUT to overcome this, we developed compassion for each other and did not try to one up each other on our stories and our pain.

He will never know what it is like to be a colored woman in this country and how certain opportunities were never presented to me because of my name and race.

I will never know the pain he feels as a white man for being despised for atrocities he never did or know how to do.

The differences are there but the similarities are that we both have a backstory related to race and from that perspective, we can understand and love each other.

Lesli Doares - Foundations Coaching

Lesli Doares

The more differences there are in the backgrounds of partners, the more challenges they could face. It is not just the usual challenges all couples face in this area, but there are potentially some external ones as well.

The differences in culture and family/social acceptance can also be problematic. The best way to overcome these is through honest communication.

Being open and curious about each other’s life experiences and perceptions is the place to start. The more different they are, the more important it is to remain curious and accepting.

Dating outside of your racial group can open you up to judgment and criticism from those who want to maintain the status quo. This is fear-based behavior but can make the usual complications of building a relationship greater.

The basis for dealing with outside disapproval is coming together as a team which means you have to be able to have each other’s backs. Creating a solid, respectful foundation is the only way to do this successfully.

All relationships have to have a way of dealing with personal differences. Some relationships also have to deal with the disapproval of those closest to them but, for interracial couples, it can also be complete strangers weighing in.

The more pressures, the more difficult it can be for the relationship to survive. How each partner deals with stress and conflict matters. If these aren’t handled in healthy, productive ways, the relationship will suffer.

Dr. Karen Phillip

Karen Phillip

To overcome the challenges of an interracial relationship means to be aware and respectful of your partners and their family culture and beliefs.

As long as this does not conflict with your own ethical, morals and value system adjustments can often be made to co-exist with interrelational differences.

Much of the conflict is born when children arrive and the values they are taught by parents.

Chris Manak - Manic Workshops

Chris Manak

I honestly believe that you simply need to decide that your life with your partner, is much more important than the opinion of others. It's that simple.

It's 2018, so for the most part, you're not actually going to have too many issues from other people (which I believe has historically been the primary challenge to people in interracial relationships).

At least in Melbourne, where I'm from, there are many Australian men happily dating Asian women (and vice-versa), and all I usually see is one brief mention of it to the friends and family when they are meeting them, and then that's the end of the subject.

So try to not create problems where there is none, nor stress yourself to the point of ending something that's great, because of the opinion of other people.

Danny McCoy - Mature Dating Site

When two people of different races, find each other attractive enough, to be going out with each other, more than half the racial, battle is won. As in any relationship, there will be a lot of problems. Not all the problems will be because they are of different races, so the first thing to be away of is to be able to spot regular relationship challenges, and separate it from challenges that arise because of they are of different race. When a relationship challenge is identified at a racial issue, then it is important to get together and devise a plan to overcome the challenge. As in almost any relationship, good communication is always key to overcoming problems. In interracial relationships, sometimes a problem can stem from prejudiced family or friend of one of the couple. When a serious challenge like this occurs, one may have to reduce contact with that family or friend. To make one’s partner feel secure.

What's the best thing to do when your relatives don't agree with interracial dating although your partner is from another ethnicity?

Laura Dabney

Laura Dabney The best thing to do when you are dealing with relatives that do not agree with interracial dating although your partner is a different ethnicity is to try and have a constructive conversation with them about it. They may never agree with it, but it is something that should be discussed. After a discussion creating boundaries with those relatives will be a very important step too. For example, it may be that they will never approve and you may need to either explain to them that you will not be comfortable around them if they discuss it when you are with them, or also may have to be that because they can not accept your relationship you not may spend as much time with them. Communication and boundary setting is very important in this situation.

Brooke Williams - Better Way Counseling & Coaching

Brooke Williams

The truth here is that in an interracial couple, you have to learn to set boundaries fairly early about who you are going to allow to guide your relationship. People from the outside are always going to have opinions on everything that you do - parenting choices, career choices, judgments about where you live and how you spend your money. If you let other people guide your life and relationships - whose life are you living, anyway? Present a united front to those that disagree with interracial relationships and set boundaries to keep your emotional responses in check. People can change over time, but you don’t have to sacrifice your well being to be the ones to change them. Just enjoy your relationship and be a model of healthy couples. Your relatives will either see you and have their minds changed from what they see - or they won’t. But your relationship doesn’t have to take on that burden.

Dr. Carissa Coulston - The Eternity Rose

Carissa Coulston

If you’re in a loving relationship, it’s only natural you want to share your joy with your loved ones. However, if your family doesn’t agree with interracial dating, here are some tips to help you maximize your chances of gaining their acceptance.

Communicate effectively with your family Of course, you could always avoid the problem of telling your relations about your partner by simply carrying on dating in secret. However, this is never going to be an effective long-term solution. Once you know your relationship is a serious one, it’s always wise to open the channels of communication. Initially approach your family on your own, without your partner. Remain calm and collected at all times. Don’t forget that whilst you have been thinking about this moment for a while, it’s only the first time your family have heard about it. Their emotions are likely to run high, but you must keep yours down and low. Be prepared to hear some unkind comments, and even raised voices. This way you won’t be caught off-guard by any unpleasant surprises. Explain how much your partner means to you and that you are at the point of committing to them long-term. Help your family understand that you will always love and respect them, but your happiness is also important. Try to find out why they feel the way they do, especially if there are any irrational fears they have. Do some research on your partner’s ethnic background and present the key points that may help your family understand more about this person – especially if you can dispel any unfavorable myths or beliefs they might have about your partner’s ethnicity.

Take the time Be prepared that your first discussion with your family may not end with their approval. Or indeed, it may not end well at all. But this does not mean you should give up hope. You need to give your family the time they need to think about the situation. When (or if) the time is right, you can introduce your partner to your family. Staying strong is important. Your relations must know they cannot choose your partner for you, and you will continue the relationship in any event. In most cases, family members eventually come around to the idea once they realize that their loved one is happy.

Shelley Sommerfeldt - Loving Roots Project

Shelley Sommerfeldt

As we know from our current political and social climate, racism is alive and well in this country and unfortunately, this is also true amongst family members and relatives. The viewpoints of others and difficulties that interracial couples face are very challenging.

Here are some examples of the reasons behind many challenges and some tips to handle the situation:

Reasons Behind Challenges:

- People may hold preconceived notions about one person due to their beliefs, views, and stereotypes about entire races and cultures.

- People have a hard time with change and something being “different” or what is different for them.

- People often believe that they know what’s best for another person and this is very common in families.

- Much of racism is due to ignorance, lack of knowledge, misunderstanding, and fear.

Tips:

- Try to have a constructive conversation. Sit down with your family and discuss their concerns and answer questions. Remember that much racism is due to ignorance so try educating first.

- Put a face and name to their beliefs. Give them a person to see, meet, get to know and have a relationship with. This will give them less opportunity to continue misinformation or overgeneralizing an entire race onto one person.

- Set strong boundaries. If you’ve done the above and your family is still not accepting and they are criticizing, judgmental or being racist, set limits. Explain that these things will not be acceptable or tolerated by you.

- Relationships are challenging as is so if you’re finding that your family is not supportive, then create a healthier and more positive support group. Surround yourself by people who uplift you and are helpful for your relationship.

- Nurture your relationship. Try not to let others’ viewpoints have a negative impact on your relationship or let it come in between the two of you. Stay on the same side as your partner, work together through your challenges, and keep your communication high.

Casey Lee - Rooted Hearts Counseling

Casey Lee

Not having the support of your family can be extremely difficult especially in regards to someone you that is very precious to you whom you dearly love. Below are a few ways to respond when your family does not support interracial dating and your partner is from another ethnicity.

1. Determine if your partner is worth staying with even if your family disagrees with you being with them. Your family may make negative comments or mistreat your partner in front of your partner or behind your partner’s back. Stand up for your partner if you chose to be with them.

If your family mistreats them in words or deeds, tell your family that it is not okay for them to mistreat your partner or their ethnicity in general, even if your partner is not present.

Your partner can be deeply wounded if you don’t stand up and protect them. They can feel betrayed and doubt their love and importance to you. This can erode the trust of your relationship.

2. Ask your family questions about what concerns them in regards to interracial dating. People often discriminate because of fears they have.

Those fears may come from media, their upbringing, or negative experiences they had that is then generalized to a whole ethnic group. Most of the time those fears are clothed in anger and hostility. It is easy to react to the anger and hostility in defensiveness.

Listen to their fears that underlie their disagreement. Validate and empathize how scared they may feel rather than defending, withdrawing, or fighting back.

3. Look for something that your family member and your partner have in common. There may be things that they both feel are important to them that can bridge their differences. Hopefully they can see that they have more similarities than differences.

Allen Wagner - A Los Angeles Therapist

Allen Wagner

A key component of the resistance couple’s encounter is related to the parent’s perception that there is a loss of the families value in some way.

While sometimes it is specific racism, for many parents, it is feeling overwhelmed and fearful that their family culture will be missing in the next generation, just get absorbed.

It is so important for couples to be aligned, but also to respect the values and core hurts that extended family members may feel and not overly simplify the lack of blessing or positive feelings right away.

It is generally about the loss of traditions and heritage, and this can be reaffirmed to parents through respect of where they came from as well.

When a child can value where they came from and reinforce that in no way, does this relationship impact that, many families can become more accepting.

The best thing to do in any conflict is to understand where the other persons hurt and where the pain lies.

This usually comes out aggressively, unfortunately, but ultimately there is pain and fear that they will lose their child. This can be rectified through assertive communication.

Claudia Luiz

Claudia Luiz

If relatives don’t support your interracial dating, it means they are racist. Because they are your relatives, you probably don’t want to break ties with them, but you will have to do some consciousness-raising. The best way to do this is by ignoring the feelings and concerns. The more you can ignore irrational fears, prejudices, and viruses, the more space you create for people to get to know your partner. You will be bringing your partner to family events, family occasions, and other gatherings and slowly, over time they will become colorblind just as you are. However, whenever you partner with someone from a different background, you will encounter differences in the relationship. Without the support of relatives to find each other through these differences, it’s much harder. It creates mental conflict because you don’t want to feel aligned with disapproving relatives if you yourself feel disapproving toward your spouse – which is inevitable. It’s important to know this because the better you can anticipate the challenges of negotiating differences, the easier navigating those differences will be.

Michelle Hannah

Michelle Hannah

Communication is so important when it comes to Interracial relationships. Being open about our feelings regarding culture, family rituals, religion, and public opinion is vitally important.

On the other hand not being judgemental regarding those vulnerable and transparent feelings is the key. If people feel judged more than likely they will shut down. Recap every week for an hour about what went right and the things that you can improve. In addition talk about what both of you can implement in your relationship from both backgrounds. Lastly make it a point to stay open minded and share weekly or monthly each others traditions. Ask the Tough Questions: Here are some suggestions.

Traditions and Rituals. My fiancé and I come from very different cultures. How will we respect one another traditions and rituals? I am attending my partner’s family function, and they expect me to taste dishes from their culture, but the food looks and smells unpleasant. How do I respectfully decline?

Communication. My partner’s family members or friends want to know if the stereotypes about my race are true. They ask you question after question, as if you represent an entire race. How do I respond? My partner’s friends tell jokes that are stereotypical in nature. They notice my displeased expression and respond, “We know you’re not that way. No offense.” How do I expect my partner to respond to his or her friends? My partner and I go out with friends who are of my partner’s race. They begin talking about issues regarding their race and make me feel isolated from the conversation either by remarking that I wouldn’t understand or by speaking in their native language. How will I react? How will I expect my partner to react?

Public Opinion. How will I respond if my family chooses not to attend my wedding because of my partner’s race? How will I handle people consistently doing a double take, even ten years into my marriage? How has the public received my choice to be with someone of a different race? What would I say to someone who stated that it’s an abomination for someone to date/marry outside his or her own race?

Children. What three key values will we teach our biracial children to help them confront racism? If my partner and I speak different languages, will our children be fluent in both languages? Love note: In today’s climate, knowing two languages is a plus! What would I say to someone who feels it is selfish and unfair for interracial couples to have children because of the disadvantages that biracial children face?

Tina B. Tessina

Tina B. Tessina Interracial dating, if you haven't done it before, can be an adventure and a challenge. Race can be complicated because it includes a mix of cultural, regional, religious and traditional ethnic dynamics; and two people of the "same race" can have vastly different histories and attitudes A black man raised in American southern states can have vastly different attitudes from one raised in the Caribbean or Europe.  The differences between Asian cultures and Western cultures can be quite profound, and each person feels that what he or she experienced in the family setting in childhood is "normal".  So it's very easy to get locked in a battle about who's right, and who's wrong. Meeting each other's families is bound to feel awkward, at first. It's not only race; it's culture: While the couple may enjoy each other’s differences, their families can be very uncomfortable with each other. Blended families and ethnic groups mean that couples must learn to honor different traditions, lifestyles andpreferences when they date get to know each other or and meet each other's families.  Blending and fusing of culture can go on for years, as your relationship develops and your family grows Family: Especially in rainbow relationships, you need to know about his family, how it operates and how they'll deal with a mixed relationship.  When you encounter differences, don't take them personally and get upset. This will end communication. To keep the lines of communication open, be as accepting as you can, and uncritical. Ask interested questions, such as "What was dinner time like?" or "What were your parents' jobs?"  You can be sympathetic if he had a rough childhood, but be careful. He may be a good guy, but the only response he learned to stress and pressure might have been violence, fighting or shutting down. If that's the case, be prepared to gently train him, or to get couples counseling before things go south. If a parent reacts badly to a racial difference, be patient.  If your Dad reacts badly, perhaps he's taking this personally; as if your choice of a person from a different race is a slight to him.  Remember your parents love you, and will probably come around. Just keep calmly repeating, like a broken record: "Mom and Dad, I love this man (woman), and he (she) loves me.  We are happy. I love you, too, and I hope you can be happy for me. I'll be very sad on my wedding day if you're not there." Don't push, don't argue.  You don't want to make it harder for your parents to be accepting. Just keep going with your wedding plans, involve whichever parent is willing, and make it possible for the other parent to change his or her mind and join you, even at the last minute. Have a plan B for if someone is not there (someone else to give you away, or make a toast).  Have faith and trust that your parent will get over his issue when he or she sees his objections are not going to stop you.

BJ Gallagher

BJ Gallagher

1. If the dating couple can understand that their family members are operating out of love and concern, that's a good place to begin. They love you and have your best interest at heart.

When they criticize or complain, what they're really saying is "I love you and I'm concerned about your happiness and well-being." A good way to respond is: "Thank you for sharing your concerns. I know how much you love me. That means the world to me."

It's best not to argue or try to get them to change their minds – just thank them for their love and concern. No point fighting about it – they're not going to change their minds (at least not right now) and arguing will just make things worse.

2. When relatives criticize your love interest, you might ask them if they're speaking from personal experience. Perhaps this is a road they have walked themselves in the past – or know of others who have – and they're trying to save you some headaches and heartache.

Ask them to explain why they feel the way they do about interracial relationships and see what they have to say. You might get some helpful insights into where they're coming from and why they feel the way they do.

3. Above all, LISTEN. One of my favorite mottos is: "Feedback is the breakfast of champions." But you have to listen to the feedback to get the "nutritional" value. Don't get defensive. Don't argue.

Ask your family member to tell you more. Thank them for sharing their opinions, perceptions, and experiences. You might learn something important about them ... AND they might just have a point of view worth considering.

Jake Idoko - Very Naughty

Being a man of African origin, married to and English woman for more than a decade. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that, what people of different races have in common, is much more than what separates them. There will be superficial challenges, such as one partner doing things this way, because that is how it's done in his/her culture. And the other partner doing it that way, as done in his/her culture. When situations like that arise, which it will frequently in the early years. When such gaps appears in an interracial relationship, the best way to bridge the gap is to create your own unique solution to the issue. Other more serious, more fundamental issues may arise, for example contentious issues such as circumcising your son. This are more potentially testing issues. The best way to avoid a conflict is to discuss it, and find a solution that the two partners can live with.

Raffi Bilek - Baltimore Therapy Center

Raffi Bilek I’m a couples counselor and I'm also in an interracial relationship myself! If your relatives aren't happy about your partner being from a different racial or ethnic group, the best thing you can do is to hear them out. Let them share their concerns with you, whether they seem reasonable to you or not. Only if you show that you are invested in understanding your relatives will they be willing to invest in understanding you as well. At the end of the day, you may never get your family on board with your relationship. It is a painful situation to be sure, and something worth working on - perhaps in the context of family therapy - but ultimately just as they cannot change your mind, you cannot change theirs. Part of the work you may have to do here is simply accepting that.

Talya Knable

Talya Knable It can be incredibly difficult when your family does not approve of the person you are dating.  It can be even more touchy when the reason they do not approve is based on the issue of race.  Many cultures still place a high value on only dating within your particular race. With each ongoing generation, it seems that individuals have more exposure outside of their culture and this opens up the opportunity for interracial dating. I would recommend that individuals in these situations explore what it is that makes their family uncomfortable.  Are they worried about how children will be raised, or about how holidays and family traditions will be honored? Discussing with family how you will continue to hold on to the values they taught you can help elevate some of this uncertainty. Furthermore, having an honest conversation with your family about what is important to you in a life partner, and how the person you are dating fits those needs, even if they are of a different race.

Toni Coleman - Consum-mate

Toni Coleman

Ideally, you would be able to sit down and have a frank conversation with your family, explaining that this person you are seeing matters to you and that intend to move forward in the relationship. You would let them know that what they feel matters, but that you need them to respect your choices and this person. If the family is hostile, unmoving, refusing to meet the person, etc.—you will have to make a decision. If you want to continue with the relationship, you need to make it clear to your family that if you are pushed to make a choice, you will choose to continue this relationship and see where it goes. Again, let them know this is hurtful to you and not what you want, but that it is the way it will be. If they say they are open to meeting them and getting to know them, proceed slowly and with respect for their feelings of discomfort. Often people reject or fear what they don't know, and familiarity could change their perceptions and feelings about your relationship/partner.

Heidi McBain

Heidi McBain Let them know the positives about the person you are dating, and why you are choosing to date them. Then, give them time to voice their concerns and actively listen while they talk. They can have their own opinions, but you get to choose who you date regardless of how your family feels about it. Know that because of your family’s negative views regarding interracial dating, your relationship will probably be difficult and strained, especially around the holidays. What happens if only you are invited to events, but not your significant other? Do you skip these family functions all together to spend time with your partner? Do you pick and choose what activities you go to with them? Do you attend these functions as you usually do and not address “the elephant in the room?” Only you can answer these hard questions for yourself, and these tough questions often lead to tough conversations with your significant other as well. Often the hardest part of your family not liking the person you are dating is that you’re hoping they will change their mind and they’re hoping you’ll change your mind. This means that you’re often coming from two very different places, and your conversations can become very polarized. What’s most important is that you stay true to who you are and what you believe in, regardless of the opinions of others and how they feel about your partner and interracial dating.

Dan Rykers -World Dating Guides

Interracial dating is still tricky today but at least the situation is much better than it was fifty years ago.

People are becoming more open-minded which is great, but some people will still have relatives who think in old-fashioned ways.

In truth, this might be one of the harder situations for a person to go through. If you love someone of another race and your family openly disapproves then it could leave to lots of awkward times for years to come. But at the end of the day, you just have to do what makes you happy and not worry what anyone else thinks about it, even your loved ones. In a best-case scenario, you chose the right person to be with and your relatives will grow to see this over time and will change their tune. Unfortunately, people who still judge others by the color of their skin are often very ignorant, and people like that aren’t always willing to change their beliefs. If so just do what you need to do to get through the family events as painlessly as possible. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose the person who you spend the rest of your life with and you can’t let anyone else make that decision for you.

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