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5 Problems Interracial Couples Face That Threaten To BREAK Them Apart

Photo: Photo by Aricka Lewis on Unsplash
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Love

The only way to succeed is to know what you're up against.

One in six newlyweds is married to someone of a different race or ethnicity, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. That's up from one in 12 in 2008. That's quite a change. 

Attitudes about intermarriage are changing as well.

In just seven years, the share of adults saying that marrying someone of a different race is good for society has risen 15 points, to 39%.

via GIPHY

Yet biracial or bicultural couples don't have as much of a chance of surviving as other couples, according to the several studies of divorce rates.

The rising number of newly married biracial couples don't translate to happily ever after as often.

Why?

Couples from different backgrounds can fall apart because of a failure to handle differences, talk about their challenges (and any stress they create), and external societal judgment and prejudice. And the only way to guarantee any chance of success is to know what you're up against.

 

Here are the 5 challenges all interracial couples face at some point or another. And how interracial dating, relationships and marriages can be succeed despite them. 

1. Different expectations.

Our culture shapes us.

By the time we're seven years old, we've imprinted certain belief systems.

We may think we share the same world view and the same vision for our future together when we first fall in love. Yet the daily grind may soon make us realize we view things differently. That's why it's so important to share our beliefs, histories, and dreams early. 

It's imperative that two people of different races, cultures, nationalities, or ethnicities decide on boundaries, guidelines, and plans.

What holidays will you celebrate? Will you both bring in income? Will you have children? How will your children be raised--what faith, what schooling, what activities? Who will be with the children during the day? Where will you live?

Discuss cultural differences early: religion, diet, birth control and children, finances, family, grief, and yes, especially sex

 

2. Crossed wires.

Even when we communicate, we may end up in conflict.

Different cultures communicate differently. Our partner may interpret what we say, do, and even emote differently than we mean it. You may think you’re conveying love when he thinks you’re conveying ambivalence.

You may believe you’ve said enough when she wants to keep talking about it. You may want to cuddle, while your partner needs a while to let the steam evaporate.

This may result in long-term misunderstanding and renewed conflict, and if we don't open up and communicate our feelings, we may hold grudges, which ultimately may lead to a split. 

 

3. Family disapproval.

Times have changed since “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” but in current films like “The Big Sick,” which is based on a true love story between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, we can tell that families can still create big hurdles to navigate.

“You marry a family,” says one divorced reader of my multicultural love story, The Shores of Our Souls. “Relationships all have challenges enough, and families can add a huge one. It’s my belief the more you have in common, the better.”

The other person’s family may face their own societal challenges if you end up together.

"The guy I was dating worried about the repercussions his family would feel back home if word got out that he was romantically involved with an American girl," says Colleen Waterston of Big Shared World, a site dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding.

4. Societal judgment.

Most people married to someone of another race or culture experience some stereotyping and rude assumptions.

People will make comments about their kids, their sex life, and their taste. Some will think they're complimenting you with words like "inspiring."

When I was dating people of other cultures, the biggest question I got was, "What do your parents think about it?" I got to the point I pre-empted the question with a statement after introductions: "My parents like him a lot."

I understand this is still a common question from complete strangers. It can take a toll on a couple to be under this much scrutiny. 

 

5. Lack of compromise.

Yet the biggest enemy to any relationship is a lack of compromise.

If you can't agree on which restaurant to eat at, if he hates your friends, and you hate his family, if you're always bickering over politics or who does the laundry, chances are slim your relationship will stand the test of time.

Try putting yourself in your love’s shoes for a change.

Be generous, compassionate, and kind for a day. Listen instead of talking. And see if they don't follow suit.Maybe they won't, and that leaves you with a decision about staying or leaving.

“On a good day, it was just two people who really loved each other doing life together,” Colleen says. On a bad day, it was as if our histories were in so much conflict we’d never make it work.”

 

via GIPHY

The bottom line: Know yourself, and get to know your partner and your partner’s culture before you commit long-term.

Get to know their family. Introduce your love interest to your friends. If people disapprove, and you love each other, ignore them.

It’s YOUR decision.

Just make sure you’re ready to stand strong in your partnership — because you’ll have to.

 

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger is a coach and author who has worked with and loved people of other cultures, though not simultaneously. She’s written nonfiction widely on cross-cultural communication, gets relationships unstuck worldwide, and coaches couples through their differences. You can find out more about her at shoresofoursouls.com