The other day I was thinking about what it takes to keep a relationship going strong-especially when it’s intercultural or interracial.
The following are my own opinions and based on both personal experience and observations. They are merely suggestions on what can be done to help make not just an interracial relationship better but a relationship period. Feel free to add your own advice as well if you’d like.
Leave the bags at the airport– In other words, if you’ve got old relationship baggage, don’t bring it into your current relationship. You’ll have enough to overcome without adding extra fuel to the fire. It’s not fair to either of you if the other is constantly reliving the mistakes of another person. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t remember the experiences because they may have very likely shaped you into who you are now. However, instead constantly carrying around the weight of a previously broken relationship, use it to make you a better and wiser person the next time around.
Don’t chase your tail. – Sometimes the situation will arise where one person in the relationship may decide they are not ready to fight for the relationship against family or society the way they thought they were. I’ve heard absolute horror stories from people whose families are badgering and threatening them day in and day out if they don’t make the decision that is alignment with what the family wants. If you’ve talked to your SO and they are not willing to choose the relationship over the family, then accept that and move on with your dignity intact. You want someone who is going to stand strong for the relationship, so don’t beg, don’t plead and don’t cry (in front of them). State your case once (maybe twice if they didn’t get it the first time) but don’t keep putting yourself in the position for continuous heartbreak or false hope.
Be Sympathetic– If your SO is catching hell because of their relationship with you, try to place yourself in their shoes. They are likely trying to please everyone under the sun. Remember that their family values may be very different from your own. For example in India, they are raised that the family (mom, dad, elders etc) makes the major decisions and you are not to go against family. Can you imagine how heart wrenching that is to go against the very thing ingrained in you? Now, that being said, to avoid this situation, if they know their family is going to give them hell about their relationships then perhaps they shouldn’t start relationships if they know they will never go against family wishes.
Be Honest Even It Hurts Like Hell. – I have this thing about liars. I can’t stand them. It’s so frustrating to find that someone has been lying. For, me it feels so insulting-as though the person didn’t trust me with the truth or thinks that I’m naive enough to believe anything. Lying is disrespectful not only to you, the recipients of the false information but the person lying is disrespecting themselves. The way I see it, is that we are all adults. If we can’t communicate with one another in an honest fashion, why even deal with one another? I know that people are sometimes less than honest because they want to avoid hurting the person they are lying to. However, nine times out of ten, the person is going to feel even worst when they find out they’ve been lied to. At the end of the day it’s really not worth it.
Communicate Even When it’s Tough.- One of the biggest problems that I’ve noticed in intercultural relationships that don’t work out is that there are usually lots of unanswered questions. For some reason people are afraid to ask the hard questions associated with other cultures. They don’t want to talk about the uncomfortable issue of race, the role of family and the expectations each have for the other. One of my first serious intercultural relationships taught me this lesson. I asked very few questions about the person’s culture and the few I did ask, he lied about. Had things not wound up the way that they did, I could very well be married to another man, living in Saudi, having to dress in an abaya everyday in 1000 degree heat with no way to come home to the US if my husband didn’t give me permission. … which leads me to my next tip.
Do Your Own Research- Embracing your SO’s culture can be a beautiful thing. It will help you understand more about what makes them tick. I know that I was blessed to be able to live in India and to be able to go back and forth as much as I did. Not everyone has these resources, however, if you have the opportunity to experience your SO’s homeland, do so. I promise it will be a real eye opener. If you aren’t able to travel to their native surroundings scour the internet and library for information on their culture. If you area has some activities related to their background..go..learn.. and have a good time. For example, if your SO is Jewish, visit a synagogue or a Jewish cultural event.
Offer Support– Rocky times in a relationship are inevitable. Like a tide they will ebb and flow. It’s part of the growing process. How well you and your SO deal with your problems says a lot about how well the blossoms of your relationship will bloom. You’ve chosen one another because there was something about the other person that attracted or intrigued you. Always remember what those first moments together were like and why you chose one another. If your SO is having a rough day, be the ear they need or the shoulder they need to cry or lean on.
Stop trying to breathe life into a dead corpse-Know when the finish line is in sight- If we all looked back on our failed relationships, if we’re honest with ourselves the writing was probably on the wall long before we let it go. If the handwriting is on the wall for your relationship and you see that things are not working out and you’ve tried without success to repair things.. it’s time to let go. Often we get settled into a comfort zone that is hard to break free of even if it doesn’t feel so good. We’re afraid of the unknown and what it may bring so we stay in relationships we know are no good for us. If you know you deserve better and you’ve asked for it and haven’t got it…let it go.. If you know you are no good for your SO and you are holding them back or causing them a tremendous amount of pain.. let it go.
My blog readers, I’m not a guru, nor do I claim to know it all. The advice I offered above is all gleaned from my own personal and sometimes very painful experiences. If just ONE person walks away from reading this with a new and improved perspective on how to make their relationship better, I’ve done my job and the two days it took me to write this post was worth it. Until the next blog..
Copyright © 2009
I think that’s really great advice.
As an IR couple you have to be solid together so that when others try to brain wash you into thinking its unnatural you can stand strong.
Thanks homeless girl. Being an IR can have its difficult days but I’m thankful that M and I don’t put much stock into what others think.
Really great post!
I feel you on this. The person I love is from Ghana and I’m American and even though we are both black by society standards – our skin color surely doesn’t unite or define us. His family is not keen on me either; mainly because they want him to marry the person he used to date when he was in Africa – so they can unite the clans and all that.
We’ve been together for 2 or 3 years and I’m at the point of “what will be, will be” but I’m going out and living my life. 🙂
I’m sorry to hear you are going through this. It never ceases to amaze me how things like caste and culture can separate people so much. Good luck on everything.