Walk through the mall or have lunch at a popular downtown restaurant, and take a look around. Aside from the sight all the fabulous shoes or the yummy goodness at El Fenix, you might also notice that some of the couples hanging out are interracial or intercultural. In 2005, interracial couples represented 7% of marriages in the United States, and it's most likely that this number has increased today. (Love to Know, 2008)
Interracial and intercultural relationships are like any other, with the same highs and lows, yet couples can experience special challenges due to differences in values, beliefs, or even traditions. Thus, if a current relationship has serious long term commitment potential, it might be worth investigating each other’s views regarding family values, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions. Many more areas can and should be discussed, but these are some suggestions.
Does one partner believe that close relationships with extended family are vital, while the other does not? Is family time versus couple time always at odds? The answer might highlight similarities or differences in each person's family values. This does not mean that if one partner is not so into family gatherings and game night that he or she does not value family or is a bad mate. It simply means that there are some differences, and family values such as closeness of extended familial relationships may be a topic for discussion. Perhaps set up some guidelines and boundaries that each partner is comfortable with, keeping in mind that family interaction is different for everyone.
What about religious beliefs? Relationships can take a turn for the worst if partners don't discuss what is and is not important to them. Even if marriage and kids are years down the road, discussing the subject now can help to alleviate those stressful discussions later. Is getting married in a religious rather than secular ceremony important? Will one person have to convert or become a member of the other's religion? What religion will children be raised as? Lots of questions that are not always easy to answer. Listening to the other's wishes and attempting to plan for the future, so there aren't any catastrophic surprises, is worth the time.
Being from different cultures or ethnic groups may also mean exposure to new traditions. Showing enthusiasm and support through participation in these traditions is great, but it is also important to speak up when you feel confused or uncomfortable. Remaining silent about these feelings only breeds misinterpretation or misconceptions about another groups' values, beliefs, or practices. Also, don't be afraid to ask your partner questions. Genuine curiosity and appropriate inquiry show a desire to develop a deeper understanding of the other person.
Remember that one person's experience and perception of the world is not like the other's, so it is important to recognize and appreciate differences. The bottom line: when in an interracial or intercultural relationship don't minimize or ignore the fact that the two of you are different, but embrace it, learn from it, and deepen the bond of your wonderful relationship.
For more info: 2007 Gallup poll, Celebs in interracial relationships, interracial dating Like what you read, check out some of my other articles - Relationship honesty, Date nights, or Taking back an ex