The Ins and Outs of Interracial Relationships

Posted by Leticia, 10 Jan

The physical distance that exists between two people of different races when they meet can be a matter of culture or family upbringing, but in fact goes far beyond that to the very geographical location where we are raised. In a recent study people from different geographical locations were put in a social setting. That social setting was something we are all familiar with – a party. Men and women were simply interacting with no knowledge of their participation.

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What was discovered was that the physical distance between two people during their social interactions was influenced by at least two factors. The first was that women tended to prefer a closer distance when talking to a man regardless of her romantic interest level. The second was that people who were from warmer climates - locations closer to the equator - naturally closed the gap between them and the other person regardless of gender. On the other hand, people from colder climates were more comfortable keeping their physical distance from the other person.

Taking It To The Next Level

While this may seem purely an academic exercise, it has a wealth of practical applications when two people of different races who are physically attracted towards one another are looking to take it to the next level. Understanding some of the basic ideas in this academic study can help to identify and resolve the problem areas, but also can be used to enhance the compatibility level.

The degree of difficulty of being involved in an interracial relationship can range from almost zero, where dating and being married to someone of a different race or ethnicity is readily accepted, to almost impossible, in cultures that have strict and unforgiving taboos against even the idea that two people would venture down the road of an interracial relationship. Depending where you are on this cultural scale, your choice to attempt to successfully date and marry someone of a different race will present its own challenges even before you can consider the specific issues that exist between you and the other person.

Once you are fully aware of your particular cultural problems, regardless of how difficult your situation may be, you will be able to successfully navigate the dating waters. Through your journey, keep in mind that unless your goal is to make a statement about cultural norms, the focus needs to be on bridging any gaps that exist because of your different races. There will always be bridges to cross regardless of race that you will have to deal with, including the “he said, she said” issues, family issues unrelated to race, and the broader cultural differences. If history is any example, it seems clear that two people of the same racial background have enough difficulty in making a relationship or marriage work. Focusing on external interracial cultural factors will distract the two of you from spending time on what is really important.

Personal Space

Now we can move on to the unseen problems that can affect the most promising attraction. Did you ever find someone extremely attractive, began to date them, then found that something was not “quite right” about them? Men and women generally agree that one of the least attractive qualities in a dating relationship is to be with someone who is clingy. You know the type. They are always calling you or texting you, always needing to know what you are doing and who you are doing it with. You have to check in and let them know when you are not available. The sense is that there is something not quite right about them.

But sometimes this takes on a physical connotation when you are with the other person. The person who always seems to be invading your physical “private space” or “comfort zone.” Every time you move away they move in a little closer to close the gap. You see it as an invasion of your private space while they are wondering why it is you want to get your distance from them by constantly moving away. In most situations you will obviously notice this problem, but when there is a high physical attraction it may be explained away as it being “just the way they are.” For both men and women the closing of the gap may be interpreted as a sign that the other person is looking for a sexual encounter – when that is the furthest thing from their minds. And then we wonder why we cannot get along.

Looking back on the study, depending on where you are from geographically, it is an unconscious action to close the gap – or fight to keep your distance. Physical attraction is almost always seen from a distance. Attraction exists because of the person’s overall appearance, even though there may be a specific feature such as their eyes that makes them particularly attractive. You may be infatuated with their big blue eyes but how do you feel when seeing them walk down the street towards you? Or away from you? Closing the gap is a natural way of showing the other person you are attracted to them.

Now if you take someone who is from the North Pole and they are immediately attracted to someone from the northern part of Brazil, navigating the social interaction distance and personal space will likely be quite a challenge. There is a reason many European men consider South American women “hot.” They may not know it but they are speaking more culturally than physically. (Interestingly, most of the Asian countries are a good distance north of the equator.)

So when wondering how a strong physical attraction begins to have problems when trying to take it to the next level, keep in mind that what may make you feel uncomfortable in tight spaces is a perfectly natural and cultural way for the person to act. There is no hidden sexual agenda or cling factor. It is both of your being yourselves as natural as can be. The truth is, everything is going as it should be. So relax and enjoy the distance.

A General Application

While the topic of discussion has focused primarily on dating, the distance factor is also very applicable in business and general relationships. The study showed that two people from different climates do a “dance” around the room, where as soon as one person closes the gap, the other person retreats to create a comfortable social space. Then the other person closes the gap, and this goes on all during the social interaction.

An important question is whether you can overcome your inbred personal space mentality, especially in business environments or general social settings. There is some evidence to show that it is possible, but it generally is considered to be a very stressful event because it strongly opposes the inherent nature of the person. Also consider there are times when there is a spoken or unspoken invitation for the other person to close the gap. (This point was considered in the study and did not affect the basic conclusion.)

When stopping to consider the importance of social distance, a business deal or future relationship can hinge on knowing and being actively aware of this issue of the social comfort zone. Presuming that the other person is aware of it is likely to be a big mistake.

Getting Practical

Now we said that the point of all this was that there was a practical application. It is fine to know that there are cultural differences that we have to be aware of and deal with when choosing to pursue an interracial relationship. But the most obvious question is where do I meet these people who are mutually interested in the same thing?

First, there are a number of Internet web sites that have been specifically designed to meet and personally date people who are like-minded about interracial dating. The best ones will have pictures and profiles of other people and will have a way to communicate with them online, generally through email exchanges or chat options. Some are international in scope, meaning there will be people available to date who are willing to travel or receive a traveller to meet someone they have met online.

Depending on where you live, you can meet local people who share the same interest in interracial dating as you. Again, the Internet is often a good place to start if only for the purpose of going to meet someone who you have a basic idea of what they look like, their basic interests, and what they are looking for in a dating situation. Most people prefer up close and personal, as it gives them the opportunity to discover the potential, and problems, of interracial dating.

Yes, There Are Pros and Cons

As someone once said, “It ain’t a perfect world.” Even in cultures where interracial dating and marriage are very accepted, the personal aspects of the relationship can be challenging. As was discussed earlier in the article, the unseen and what appear to be the simplest things can help move the relationship forward or end up as insurmountable obstacles for both people. So it makes sense to look at the major pros and cons of interracial dating – both the obvious and not so obvious.

The most obvious pro of interracial dating is that it expands your dating pool tremendously. It will almost certainly take you out of your dating comfort zone, but that can hardly be looked at as a negative. In fact, if you are currently looking for someone to date it can be safely said that expanding your comfort zone may be the best thing that can happen to you.

Interracial dating is a great way to learn about different cultures first-hand. While most people approach dating from a romantic view, it can also be a way to be able to understand the challenges other cultures face in their day-to-day lives. This is a good approach to take when there is a definite attraction but there are other areas that you are not quite sure about. It is more than possible that understanding the person’s culture and the way they look at life will be a solution to some of the perceived barriers to a long term relationship.

But not is all flowers and sunshine when choosing the road of interracial dating. The most difficult part of being in an interracial relationship is being able to be public about it. This is a cultural constraint in many cases, and this makes something as simple as deciding where to go out for a quiet dinner a major challenge. While you and your partner may see interracial dating as liberating, others may see it as unnatural. Even in cultures where it is generally accepted, you may find there are some people who are very vocal and very public about their disapproval.

Unfortunately, political realities enter into the picture. The threat of terrorism in Western nations has created a pall of suspicion against all people of Middle Eastern descent, even if only for a limited period of time. The specific country where the man or woman comes from does not matter. In fact, even if someone looks like they are of Middle Eastern descent they are viewed with suspicion. So even in cultures where interracial relationships are generally accepted, there are times where exceptions are made that work against you.

In the early parts of the article, the issue of how unconscious differences can lead to misunderstandings was discussed. The reason many problems cannot be resolved in relationships in general is because the people are not aware a problem exists. You cannot fix something that you do not know is broken. In the case of interracial relationships, it is very important that each person works to understand the underlying reason behind problems that seem insignificant but are disruptive to the relationship. The reason is that what is underneath it all is simply a matter of cultural perspectives and approaches to life.

The Benefit Package

The specifics and generalities of interracial dating and its challenges have been laid out. But there is yet another level to advance to and be discussed – the benefits. Like almost every other aspect of interracial dating, the majority of the benefits that can be reaped from expanding your view of dating to include men or women of other races will depend on the cultural environment.

Take China as an example. They have since rescinded their one child policy, and for good reason. Since a vast majority of Chinese men preferred their one child be a male, there is now an “oversupply” of men to women in the country, leading to a number of potential long term problems. For the men in China who are willing to explore the interracial dating possibilities, there is a world of good that can come from it, both for the two people individually and for the nation of China.

Your view of the world in general will change. Most people choose to date and marry within their own race based on their familiarity with the customs and ways of their own race and a certain degree of unspoken social pressure. People may order take out Chinese food, but prefer to eat it in the confines of their European surroundings. Choosing to go the interracial route will open up new ways to look at the world and discover problems and customs that you both were previously ignorant about. The Internet and media should not be the only sources of information about other cultures and world problems.

In the United States, more and more single people are discovering there is a great interest from people of other countries to come to America to enjoy its social and economic benefits. While this has generally been true and is an avenue pursued primarily by American men, there are definite economic and social benefits women from Asia and South America can gain from exploring the world of interracial dating.

Some people may argue that this motive is purely self-serving, and there is an underlying motive for marrying an American. The problem with the argument is that it undermines the reality of dating regardless of race. People date and marry because they are attracted to one another. It’s a fact that women of all races have been marrying men because of their wealth and not for her love of him, in fact, this was the overwhelming model for marriage in most cultures until very recently, and still is in many. But the fact that love and money do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts also applies to interracial dating.

Summing It All Up

We have looked at both some of the cultural realities and misperceptions about interracial dating. They are both seen and unseen, and many of them we are not consciously aware of ourselves. There are many obvious realities that make interracial dating a challenge even in the most liberal cultural environments. There are also individual factors that come into play that make crossing cultural bridges difficult.

Since people tend to like lists for some reason (maybe they are easier to remember) we can create a short list that makes the ins and outs of interracial dating easier to remember and understand when you go on your first interracial dating web site and venture into the waters.

1) There are many unseen factors that have the potential to wrongly skew your perception of the relationship. This is something to keep in mind when dealing with the other person as well, making communication a key responsibility of both people.

2) Interracial dating is likely to have more to do with culture than with skin pigmentation. Though “people of color” is a euphemistic phrase used to point out the differences between Caucasian people and other races, the lion’s share of the differences have more to do with cultural perceptions than anything else. The ability to be open to other customs and cultures is a key factor in the success of an interracial relationship.

3) The individual differences between you and the other person are likely to be based on gender than race. Every dating situation will have its share of challenges and problems, and while race can factor in as one of those problems, it is usually not the determining factor in determining whether a relationship is able to go to the next level.

4) Understanding interracial relationships in a general, rather than a strictly dating, context can mean the difference between a successful business or social engagement and a failed one. Sometimes a general social meeting can lead to a dating scenario, so there are opportunities available on many fronts to start dating interracially.

5) Knowing the pros and cons of interracial dating in general is essential before venturing into it. There are many positives that can come from it on a personal level, yet going into it without a full knowledge of the cultural traps that await you can be devastating for you and the other person. Proceed with caution.

6) There are personal, social, and economic benefits that can result from interracial dating. Most of the benefits are of the personal variety, but that is actually no different than people who date others of the same race. Presuming interracial dating is another type of dating is basically a misconception. The benefits it offers are basically the same as with dating people from your own race.

7) The best place to start exploring the world of interracial dating is on an Internet interracial dating web site. Look for one that actually encourages interracial dating and emphasizes the advantages. Take your time and do not be shy about asking questions about the other person’s culture and beliefs. Remember, they are just as curious and potentially uncertain as you are!

We hope you find the world of interracial dating both fascinating and fun. There is an old saying that opposites attract, and there are many opposites between people in their cultural practices and views of the world. Finding the one who is your natural match may be found in the world of interracial dating.

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