In an ideal world you should be able to date outside of your race and be able to apply the same rule of thumb to the relationship, but when it comes to dating outside of your race, the differences that make it an interracial relationship in the first place can sometimes make for tense times whether it’s between you and your partner or external ‘factors’ such as friends and family.

Interracial relationships occur when people from different races get it together. That’s black and white, white and Asian descent, Asian descent and black, Indian and Chinese, even African and Caribbean and much more.

There’s no legislating for personal taste whether you date in or out of it, but it has often been commented on that sometimes a driving force of interracial relationships is experimentation, sometimes rebellion, as well as preconceived notions that appear to make people from a certain race of interest. There have been times when it very clearly wasn’t the done thing and you were the talk of the town when you dated outside of your race and whilst it’s much more prolific now and most people don’t bat an eyelid (depending on the context of the cultural backdrop of where you’re based), being in an interracial relationship can still attract its share of problems from an ‘internal’ and an ‘external’ point of view.

Whatever relationship you’re in, there are three impacting points of view that vary depending on the type of and quality of relationship.

‘Internal’ refers to you and him, the couple.
‘External’ refers to friends and family.
‘Spectators’ refers to everyone else. The media and society in general.

Internal issues may be simply a case of ‘adjusting’ to each other. However secrecy, which often occurs with interracial relationships, can place a strain, particularly if it’s the state of play for an extended period of time. Nobody wants to feel like a dirty little secret and even if they go along with it initially, being a secret means that you don’t share in each others lives completely, even if you’re together for five years. Sometimes there are very clear cultural differences, which depending on how entrenched in their culture, can result in arguments if they aren’t acknowledged and incorporated into each other’s lives. Some cultures have a de facto respect thing where the man takes pride and precedence in the relationship and don’t be fooled into thinking that just because he’s dating outside of his race that he may not have these expectations of you.

Remember that a lot of our relationship values get built into us as children and can be deeply entrenched so communication and some honest talk about your respective expectations is key. Guesswork is not the way to go here!

External issues can weigh heavily on your relationship because people exist on two things in life – acceptance and fear of rejection – hence feeling that your family and friends don’t support your decision about your partner can be very hurtful, particularly if you are close to these people. Likewise, much as you may put on a brave face, it can be very hurtful to feel as if their [your partner’s] family disapprove of you and don’t consider you to be “good enough” for their son. Friends tend to be more open but if they aren’t, this may signal the demise of your friendship which can be very painful. I dated a guy whose mother made barbed, sometimes borderline, often full-on racist comments with a sweet smile on her face. It was all done with the ‘I don’t know any better; I don’t see it as racist’ attitude but it had a long lasting effect and the straw that broke the donkey’s back was when she said ‘”I allow you into my house” after a disagreement. I flipped and let her have a piece of my mind and put aside the respecting your elders malarkey to respect myself.

The key is to Give It Time and have a supporting partner. You don’t need your partner to beat the shit out of anyone who doesn’t lie down and tell the two of you that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but you do need to know that he has your back and that the two of you will work it out together. Let his friends and family get to know you. People that truly love and care about you, will be happy for you even if it takes a bit of time and it’s difficult to hate someone that truly does love someone that you care about. Try not to spring it on them and give them some sort of forewarning and maybe try and build them up to it. My friend invited her now husband of over a decade to meet her parents and because she didn’t want to spring it on them, she said ‘Remember that film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?’ and her parents nodded. ‘OK, well guess who’s coming to dinner?!’ Hilarious and it still gave them a bit of a shock but hey, they’re still together!

Spectators can unseat you because you don’t know that you even care what ‘other’ people think until someone makes an offensive remark when they see you together in a club or you’re walking down the street. Likewise it can be difficult to get ‘scorned’ men and women from your partner’s race that feel like you have robbed them of a fish from their pool. Race is a heated subject and for some people, marrying their ‘own’ is the only option they see for themselves and they may feel frustrated if they aren’t with someone, yet there goes someone outside their race with a ‘potential’. There’s nothing you can do about it – it comes with the territory. Don’t do a Jerry Springer and fight them; keep some dignity and move on. The portrayal of interracial relationships or racial issues in the media can often be enough to make anyone feel nervous and you may wonder what you’ve let yourself in for. As long as you have open and honest communication and you both get to know your respective cultures, there shouldn’t be anything insurmountable.

Relationships are hard and interracial relationships come with their own set of potential pitfalls. I would always remember this: Don’t pretend that your partner isn’t whatever race he is. Acknowledge that he’s black, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, {insert their race} because ignoring this and pretending that you’re both exactly the same, is like ignoring their heritage, their culture, their race, and their differences that make their race unique. And don’t get gangsta and go racist when you have an argument – hideously inappropriate.

Good luck!

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