It’s been over 50 years since interracial marriage was legalized in the United States. Since this momentous day, interracial marriage has become more and more common. As more couples enter relationships with differing cultural backgrounds, racial backgrounds, or faith backgrounds, it becomes more and more evident that intercultural relationships require a certain skill set and dedication to make things work.
Due to the obstacles that many interracial couples have to overcome in order to have a healthy, happy relationship, the individuals in these relationships often have specific traits that help make things work in their relationship. When entering a new relationship with someone from a differing background, looking for these traits early on can help determine if the person you are committing yourself to will be able to address your unique relationship needs.
This is probably the most obvious trait, but also the most underrated. Finding a partner that is open to dating outside their race is important, but it goes deeper than that. It is not uncommon to find someone who is open to dating outside their “comfort zone” as long as the other person is relatively similar to them. Being open to dating someone of a different race, only if they have the same interests, hobbies, and tastes as you isn’t really being open. One has to be open to more than just looking different than their partner. Openness in interracial relationships is so important because there are going to be MANY differences between two partners, and being open to trying new things and embracing those differences is a pivotal part of making a marriage last.
Now this is an important trait in any relationship, but it becomes especially important when two people may have different views of the world around them. Being able to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and influences on our behaviors can create room for understanding from our partner. Because their may be a missing component of similarity with a certain situation, being able to communicate how you experience something differently, and being open to that conversation is incredibly important.
That brings me to the idea of empathy in an interracial marriage’s communication. Empathy is often times lumped together with sympathy, but these are very different things. Brene Brown does a wonderful job of explaining these differences, so I’ll spare you my rendition. After watching that wonderfully illustrated video, think about how empathy may be an integral part of an interracial relationship. Because two individuals may have varying perspectives or experiences of the world due to their different backgrounds, there will be lots of opportunities for one to practice empathy with their partner. Being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes and sit with them in their emotion is an integral part of connecting even when we don’t experience something in the same way.
If you are unfamiliar with the idea of assertiveness, it is being “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior“. Assertiveness is important to interracial relationships because there is an increased likelihood of experiencing backlash for the relationship. Whether it is family that disapproves, friends that question your compatibility, or strangers passing judgment on the street…you and your partner may need to stand up for yourselves, your relationship, and your beliefs. Being assertive in these tense situations can create the opportunity for connection. When your partner feels you are on the same team, willing to stand up for them, and acting in the relationship’s best interest (not others’) you are setting a tone of togetherness.
Last, but certainly not least is flexibility. When different ideas, beliefs, values, or traditions present themselves in an interracial relationship it requires a good bit of flexibility to make things work. Being able to improvise in a tricky situation, break normal traditions to create new ones, or practice something new to bond with your partner, all these opportunities will need some flexibility. If one is inflexible or rigid in how they do things or how they view things, it will become impossible for them to connect with their partner in a way that forms a deeper attachment.
Finding someone who possesses these traits or is open to practicing these attributes, is the first step to creating a health bond with someone from another culture. As interracial marriages become more common, there will be limitless opportunities to learn about new cultures, practice new beliefs, and create a new normal for your life and relationship. Become more connected to your partner by showing interest and care in their unique experiences, and continue believing that love has no bounds.