Intercultural Relationships: What Couples Face and the Beauty Behind These Relationships

Posted by Darci, 08 Sep

Couples in intercultural relationships usually experience their ups and downs. Read on to learn more about the experiences of most mixed couples.

“I Don’t See Color!”

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Of course, you do. One has to acknowledge the reality that there are many colors before choosing not to see it. However, love is all colors. And color and culture are even more obvious when two people from different backgrounds decide to come together and celebrate their love.

People in intercultural relationships could write a series longer than the Game of Thrones saga, and they’ll still have leftover stories to shock, amaze, and stun their listeners. Intercultural couples could talk about the stares, the cutting remarks, the outright hostility, and of course, the admiration they receive. All it takes to trigger these reactions is just holding hands or going out together in public.

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Intercultural Dating: The Beauty in the Hurdles

Now, love is a beautiful thing, especially when people who couldn’t be more different embrace their differences and come together. This kind of union creates a beautiful mix of both cultures, which could lead to a personal relationship culture. It is not easy to skip from the ‘jarring differences’ part to the ‘personal relationship culture’ part. There will be a few snags along the way.

  1. The Personal Shock

Okay, you start swiping until your thumb gets sore. The dating gods finally smile down on you and you get a great match. Or a mutual friend could decide to introduce you to a friend of a friend. The only thing is, the person you’re going on a date with is from a different race or belongs to a different religion. It doesn’t matter, you say.

You slip into something sexy and try not to go overboard and drown in your perfume. You think about your differences. He’s black and you’re white. She worships Lord Krishna but that whole religion thing is not your scene. They can trace their ancestry back to Abraham Lincoln but the only family you have is Aunt Linda who you talk to on the phone every other Christmas. The whole intercultural dating thing sounds appealing as you drive to your dinner date. You even get ahead of yourself and consider having an interracial marriage.

Fast-forward to dinner, and she’s eyeing the way you’re struggling to use your chopsticks. She’s Asian and you’re African American, so you swallow your remark about how regular cutlery is just more time-saving than two sticks.

  1. The Beginning Could be the End

If interracial couples survive that first (sometimes) awkward date, then congratulations are in order! It means everyone got on well and no one was fatally offended. The waiters didn’t stop to find out how the ‘interview’ was going, because–wait for it–it couldn’t possibly be a romantic thing happening. If the date had turned out to be a fireball of disaster, everyone would have gone home to continue fishing form their own tiny dating pool.

  1. Getting to Know Each Other is an Education in Cultural Relations

Loving someone from a different culture is quite an eye-opening experience. Interracial couples in this situation are usually receptive to the experiences that shape the lives of their partners. It might be difficult in the beginning, especially having to unlearn all the stereotypes you previously held (if any) about the other person’s culture. That’s understandable, as no one is perfect.

A close look at the intercultural relationships around will reveal couples who have become sensitive to the other’s culture. This is because what matters to the other person matters to everyone in the relationship. You learn a lot about another person if you stay around them long enough. It’s better if the parties involved are open to learning and asking the right questions. One solid constant is that in intercultural dating, you will keep learning new things about your love as long as you two are still together.

  1. How Did You Guys Meet?

This question is usually loaded, especially when it is aimed at couples in intercultural dating relationships. It might just be a harmless curiosity on the part of those asking these questions. It could also be a way to express their shock at the union. No one is coming out to ask: of all the people to date, why this person?

You don’t have to explain! Love is love, and your partner is good enough for you. That’s all that matters.

  1. A New Understanding of Race Issues

Intercultural relationships could lead to a better understanding of race issues. Since you now have to navigate these nuances in your personal life, it could open your eyes to bigger race relations in the world. Fortunately, there’s room to grow and learn that no group is truly homogenous. Your partner is just one part of a larger whole.

  1. Meet the Family…and the Culture

Meeting each other’s families could be a breeze or a heartbreaking nightmare. At best, your folks will welcome your S/O to a nice family dinner. If all goes well, the only thing you will worry about is embarrassing questions. Or your dad’s recollection of the nice time he had in Singapore on hearing that your boyfriend is Chinese. Aside from these minor foot-in-the-mouth situations, things could be much worse.

Some families actually frown at the idea of bringing home someone who isn’t of the same race. Dinner could be a terse, rigid affair. Or dinner might not happen at all. Most times, the bulk of the work is in convincing your folks that intercultural dating is what you have chosen for yourself.

Meeting the family is the phase of the relationship that could make or break the union. Everyone wants to feel accepted and loved, and outright hostility from your S/O’s family could draw you closer together or drive a wedge between you two and cause irreparable damage.

  1. The Role of the Extended Family

Intercultural dating comes with a new family dynamic. Some cultures promote close family ties, while some thrive on fostering very independent relationships. The integration into each other’s family will give that much-needed sense of belonging. In terms of long-term intercultural relationships, it isn’t uncommon for members of the extended family to move in with the couple at some point. The point to note is that you embrace both the person and their families.

  1. Navigating Different Cultural Waves

You’ll grow to love a particular culture if you learn about it from a dear one. You will always discover new things. There’s no learning it all in one day. Even when your relationship evolves and becomes an interracial marriage, you will still discover amazing things about your partner.

The fact that you two are in a relationship means that you look forward to making these discoveries. You will still have your individual differences, of course, but you will also learn how to merge your cultures together and form a new one. How about celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah? You could also learn to celebrate multiple cultural festivals together in the same calendar year.

  1. Whose Way is the Best Way?

Interracial marriages usually face this question, especially when children are involved. Whose language will the kids learn? Whose religion will the couple introduce their kids to? These are all important questions that would have been settled during the intercultural dating stage. The reality might differ once the relationship evolves into an interracial marriage.

The good news is that the children can immerse themselves in both cultures and become better for it. Experiencing the best of both worlds could encourage them to grow up and become well-rounded individuals. Culture enriches!

  1. Widening your close Circle

Intercultural dating could lead to an expansion of one’s circle. You’re not only getting integrated into their families, you may also inherit their circle of friends. These new people could be those you wouldn’t ordinarily meet on your own. The tricky part is not everyone in this new circle will be accepting of the relationship. This is fine. The ones who have no problem with intercultural relationships will hopefully go out of their way to offer ‘tips’ on how to brave the cultural divide.

  1. The Name Change Question

To be frank, it is easy to make assumptions about people you’ve never met before based on just their name. Regular marriages come with the name change question, and in intercultural relationships, this issue is even weightier.

A change of name is a change in identity and in how people perceive you. Consequently, the combination of your given name and your new surname could raise a few eyebrows. This could lead to open curiosity or hostility, depending on who is involved. Sometimes, you can get both at the same time.

This gets even trickier when children are involved. So, it is a good idea to talk about the name question early in the relationship. Do you keep your name? Do you take on the other person’s name? How about hyphenating both names?

Interracial relationships pros and cons

Unfortunately, dating someone from a different culture is not always flowers and sunshine. Interracial dating pros and cons are worth considering before you make the plunge.

  1. Get Ready to be Offended

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But then, it is better to brace yourself for the unavoidable gaffs in intercultural relationships. Keep in mind that the other person may not be out to hurt you with their words or actions, but mistakes will happen. They are learning, so please be patient. If they unwittingly do or say something disrespectful about you or your culture, it is possible to turn it into a great teaching moment. Hopefully, they’ll learn and you can both move on from it. These issues, if handled the right way, could strengthen the relationship bond.

  1. The Common Ground Might not be So Common

When couples disagree, finding a common ground is usually a great reconciliation tactic. But what if the argument stems from their differences? How can they find a common ground if they’re arguing about their different religions?

Intercultural dating might give rise to this kind of problem. Again, wide-open communication channels can help to resolve these kinds of issues.

  1. Families: Close or Meddling?

One person’s close-knit family might be another person’s meddlesome in-laws. In some cultures, it is common for the elderly to move in with the younger members. This is prevalent in cultures where children grow up with the expectation that they’ll take care of their older folks.

Problems could arise in intercultural relationships when one partner objects to this kind of closeness. Let’s face it, most people prefer to live independent of their extended family. Having a partner’s aged parent in the home could pose a few problems if the couples don’t treat the issue before it arises.

  1. A Clash of Cultures or a Celebration of Multiple Cultures?

Children born to intercultural couples will have to deal with this question. Having a colorful family from diverse races is beautiful and enriching. Acknowledging the different backgrounds could sometimes get a little overwhelming. Then there are children who will decide they don’t want anything to do with either parent’s heritage.

It’s not that the new generation is ashamed of where they came from. As individuals, they have the right to choose. Parents will have to manage the situation in a way that benefits the whole family. It might sting when your child decides to discard your culture. Even worse, the child might choose to identify with a parent’s background and completely shun the other parent’s heritage.

All you can do is to teach them both cultures when they young. Once they grow up, accept whatever decisions they make. After all, culture is inbred.

In conclusion, an intercultural relationship, like any other kind of relationship, will require lots of work. That’s not to say you can’t do it! Interracial relationships pros and cons shouldn’t stop you from making the plunge. Mixed couples everywhere are flourishing in love.

Check out this article about interracial dating myths that need to be quashed!

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