3 Ways To Help Your Interracial Relationship Thrive — Even When Everyone Seems Against You

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Mixed-race couple smiling and laughing together

When I was dating in the 1980s, I went out with an Arab economist, a Caribbean movie producer, a Latino marketing associate, and an Irish carpenter before I met my husband. I enjoyed every minute of my dating life, learning about their differences and sharing our nuances.

I even fell deeply in love with one of them.

Here's what I lived and learned in my years of multicultural and biracial dating, and how you can get closer when you come from different worlds and nurture a great relationship

RELATED: Loving Day: The Love Story That Legalized Interracial Marriage

The changing face of inter-cultural dating

I've written about my experiences in multicultural dating: The secrecy from family. The worry about my friends meeting him. His concern over introducing me to his.

The stares and comments from complete strangers of both cultures. A late night when he almost came to blows with someone who shouted something profane as we crossed the street (in a language I didn't understand but a tone I did).

I'll never forget my rage that night, for him. But white Americans were full of vitriol and judgment, too.

Times have changed. In some ways. In others, racism and bigotry have moved underground.

Here's what you need to realize if you're dating someone from another culture in the 2020s, and how to cope.

RELATED: How I Discuss Allyship In My Interracial Relationship

First, the good news

People are in relationships with people of other races, countries, and cultures in record numbers. Most people under 50 (and many over 50) approve of this much-needed evolution in humanity.

Nine out of ten singles would date someone of another race in the UK.

Only 15 percent of Americans say race or ethnicity would be a deal breaker for a relationship (as opposed to the top 3: distance, debt, and presidential voting record).

RELATED: Interracial Couple Reunite & Marry 40 Years After Their Parents Forced Them To Break Up

The bad news

Our empathy hasn't caught up with this cultural shift. We may say we approve, but recent research doesn't bear this out.

The Mixed Up in Love report, released from the dating app Inner Circle in collaboration with the authors of Mixed Up: Confessions of an Interracial Couple, surveyed more than 1,000 UK adults actively dating with a minimum of 100 respondents in five ethnic groups.

The report uncovers that over a third (37%) of respondents have experienced racial microaggressions or discrimination due to being a part of a biracial couple.

Plus nearly half are afraid of a backlash or criticism from their friends and family. The ones closest to them!

RELATED: Woman Tracks Down The Love Of Her Life 40 Years After Her Disapproving Family Forced Her To Leave Him

How far have we come — really?

Couples aren't even opening up with each other about it because they:

  • Haven't been taught how.
  • Don't want to make waves in the relationship.
  • Don't know what to say.
  • Are afraid of being misunderstood and hurting the other.
  • Don't totally trust the other person.

All of this sounds familiar to me. When that horrible man disrespected the man I loved, I asked him what the stranger said, but he wouldn't tell me.

I tried to get him to open up so I could support him. (Hell, I wanted to go after the man myself!) But he probably was embarrassed, wanted to protect me, or didn't trust what my reaction would be. 

There was a lot simmering underneath the surface of society and culture (which didn't have anything to do with how we felt about each other) that we didn't discuss. That's why we broke up.

You have a chance to behave differently, with the world opening up to differences in culture, race, religion, gender, or any identity.

If you are falling in love with someone different than yourself, there are three things that can pave the way to falling more deeply in love. 

I created a system that I use with my clients that reminds them that they need to open up when times are hard when their families don't approve when a colleague makes a wisecrack.

It's my C-A-T system, and it works with dating, family dynamics, and interaction with colleagues.

RELATED: The Most Unique Challenges To Dating In Every Age Range

Three ways to help your interracial or intercultural relationship thrive in a biased society

1. Communicate

As I said in a previous post, 5 Problems Interracial Couples Face That Threaten To Break Them Apart, couples from different backgrounds can fall apart because of a failure to handle differences and talk about the challenges created by them.

Communication is key to dating transitioning into a more committed relationship.

One person's small thing is another's big deal. Practice active listening.

You can even set a timer for one of you to speak and the other to listen. Try your best not to judge, and keep your response warm and loving.

Accept there will be a debate. Not just with family and friends but within your romantic relationship. Everybody has disagreements that stem from their own list of made-up rules and getting used to each other's differences.

It's just that coming from another culture, race, or religion will take a little more time for understanding the person we love because their perspective might be something we're not even familiar with. It takes dialogue, and yes, education — them to us, us to them.

Just make sure you skip the bossy judgment. Communicating about any issue, belief, or preference doesn't mean telling them they're wrong, overly sensitive, or crazy.

Acceptance and unconditional respect in communication is the only way any relationship lasts.

And remember, they get a turn to speak, and you do, too.

RELATED: 7 Subtle Destructive Things That Happen When You Avoid Awkward Conversations With Your Partner

2. Advocate

You can bring them home to dinner or to drinks with friends, but don’t expect complete acceptance.

"When I brought him home, my family didn't accept him," says Renee, herself both white and Arab American, who dated a biracial guy, with a white parent and an African American parent. "We didn't understand why, we didn't really think we were all that different from each other. We didn't think about it.

"Why would anyone else? But eventually, we self-sabotaged the relationship. We're still in touch and wish it could have been different. It might have been if we'd had a long talk while we were together instead of saving it for after we broke up." 

Stay aware of how your family, friends, or colleagues are affecting your date or partner. Watch their reactions and body language. Don't brush it away.

Even if it's not the time or place to defend them, make sure you mention it and talk it out after you leave the gathering.

If you can say something in public, do. It will buoy their self-esteem and will bring them closer to you.

Find out why he feels the way he does, and then explain that to people, not just about his perspective but about true kindness.

Sometimes it's not as simple as that "do unto others" thing, because what a friend might think is a joke can hurt if you're another.

Diplomats know this. It's time lovers do, too.

RELATED: The Simplest Way To Know When To Compromise … And When Not To

3. Trust

All of this requires empathy, changing your perspective, and curiosity about what it's like to be them.

Yet empathy leads to more open communication, and that leads to mutual trust. Relationships take two. It's not only about you.

When you both realize you've got each other's back, you start to stand on the same solid ground.

Using these skills (which need to be developed together) will lead to the next date and the next. If you make it to another side of meet-ups from exclusive dating to a monogamous partnership, your relationship will be too strong to care what anyone else thinks.

So much has changed and yet so little. People will stare. Acquaintances will talk behind your back. They may even insult you or your date or partner.

It comes from all sides, and just when you least expect it. But if you withstand it, you'll be on solid mutual ground.

You don't have to bear the world's racism and prejudice all on your own. Because you have each other.
Spoiler alert — I didn’t end up with any of the men. 

The challenges just became too much for them to bear. I felt betrayed, but actually, I should have realized that if I was having a hard time in a society that liked labels and joking at others' expense, it was so much tougher for them.

Every. Single. Day.

RELATED: When Do Racial Dating Preferences Become Racist?​

Kathryn Ramsperger is an award-winning author and coach focusing on relationships and cross-cultural communication. Her writing has appeared in Nat Geo and Kiplinger. More info can be found on Twitter and on her website.