Being in a relationship can sometimes be challenging. In addition to this, an interracial relationship brings specific troubles, from learning to respect unalike traditions to dealing with narrow-minded grandparents.
Being myself the fruit of interracial marriage and currently, in an interracial relationship, I have experienced a different level of difficulties coming from the union of people of various backgrounds, origins, and cultures.
Here below are some tips on navigating an interracial relationship, giving you an insight into what you could face. Keep in mind that I am speaking from my mixed-raced point of view, but I do believe that these ideas and examples could help anybody.
1. Have an honest discussion with your partner
Communication is key. Acknowledge and talk about the interracial aspect of your relationship and what it means to you.
It is important to talk about your roots, what you have faced in the past, and how you feel about it. Sharing your experiences, opinions, and fears will help you understand each other more.
2. Help them to educate themselves
Be ready to give answers to your partner. Sometimes it will be easy and fun, like explaining the ingredients of a popular dish, but some questions will be harder to answer, especially when they relate to discrimination, racism, and misrepresentation.
Sharing different resources on the subject could be a good way to support what you clarified and help your partner enrich their knowledge through various sources and opinions.
Use the formats you prefer: articles, videos, movies, series, podcasts… It’s also a great way to introduce the subject to them if you don’t feel comfortable enough to bring it up by yourself.
3. Discuss boundaries
You should feel safe and supported in every aspect of your relationship. Be clear about what is okay and what is not from the get-go.
I feel proud saying that my boyfriend has no patience for ethnic jokes, but in some situations, you may have to explain why a certain behavior or a specific word or expression is crossing the line.
4. Prepare for problematic situations
I am lucky enough to never have been in a situation where I feared for my life due to my race. Nevertheless, I have been called racial slurs, I have been followed by security guards in stores, I have been treated badly.
Go through the different situations you could face with your partner, and discuss what to do in case there is a problem.
Some of the scenarios you touch upon might not seem as grave as others, but it doesn’t mean they are not important.
For example, I have come to the point where I am sick of people asking me where I come from, especially if they did not even bother to ask for my name first. After explaining it to my boyfriend, we agreed on an answer to give if people were to ask him where I was from.
5. Have realistic expectations
You cannot expect your partner to be aware of every issue, to be well educated on all race related subjects or to perfectly understand how you feel. You should come to terms with the fact that you are different and that your experiences and opinions may differ.
Race has become a complex matter and the ongoing injustice is both tiring and infuriating. But do not lose patience with your partner, be aware of the learning curve, and forgive clumsy behaviors.
6. Do not give friends and family a free pass
Your friends and your family (including your partner’s friends and family) are most likely the people you will spend the most time with, apart from your colleagues.
Do not put up with behaviors and comments that make you uncomfortable for the sake of being polite or avoiding family drama, it will only postpone the problem.
Feeling integrated into your partner’s family is hard enough, and having to explain to your partner why their uncle’s remarks hurt you may be tough, but is necessary.
7. Fight your own fights
With that being said, do not expect your partner to become a feisty anti-racism advocate. Being in an interracial relationship is not a political stand.
I have been in situations where I hoped my partner had said something about an invasive question a family member had asked me or a careless comment a friend made. But even if we should support and defend each other, it doesn’t mean that what bothers me should be his responsibility.
8. Build your support system
I have learned in the past few years that there are some things you cannot truly understand until you have faced them: sometimes your partner will have a hard time sympathizing with you.
This is why it is important to have a good support system, to have friends or relatives with similar experiences you can go to rant and talk about your life. Your support system could also take the form of a blog where you find information and stories that will make you feel less alone. Find a system that works for you.
In conclusion, like with any other relationship, it all boils down to communication and knowledge. An interracial relationship just amplifies the necessity to be open-minded, respectful, and caring. Being there for each other no matter what and always trying to understand your partner is the best way to overcome obstacles together.