Relationships aren't easy, and they can be even more challenging when you are dating someone who is a different skin color or ethnic background than you. Most interracial couples have eaten dinner while being stared at, glared at when they are out for a walk or enjoying each other's company, and encountered rude comments from total strangers about their dating choice. Couples have talked about police officers, teachers and otherwise outstanding community leaders negatively judging their choice of who they fell in love with.
Society has come a long way with taking a stance of equality and interracial relationships. However, couples who are involved with someone outside of their race report that society has a long way to go. A panel of couples who have experienced this first hand and are dating or married to someone from a different race than themselves joined me to talk about their experiences. These suggestions can help you if you are involved in an interracial relationship and/or if you are the parent or friend of someone who loves someone from a different race.
1. Great relationships are not about the color or race, but about shared interests. You fall in love with people who enjoy doing what you do, and share values you share.
2. Couples who fall in love with each other are color blind, and many times it isn't until someone from the family judges the race differences as being negative that they give their race differences much thought.
3. Parents have an opportunity to draw closer to their children if they remain neutral about the culture differences, and focus on how the person treats their son or daughter.
4. Stereotypes may have a bit of truth in them, but they are usually exaggerations of one small group.
5. Religious differences are more significant in their long-term influence on an interracial couple than the color of their skin. Getting help with these issues from a trained pastor or therapist prior to marriage is important.
6. Children born into an interracial relationship are likely to be teased for something they cannot control. They also benefit from being more color blind and more open to different cultures. Talking to your children and keeping lines of communication open is extremely important.
7. Celebrating each other's culture adds a depth to interracial relationships that enhances understanding and acceptance of cultures.
8. Interracial couples that share the ups and downs and share what they feel about the differences between their races create a tighter bond. Trying to spare feelings or keeping feelings to yourself to prevent pain for your partner will unravel these relationships.
9. Marrying outside your race may mean you don't understand the culture norms your partner was raised in. The more your partner can expose you to their traditions, child rearing and family traditions, the less likely you will react negatively to actions you don't understand.
10. Parents and friends help more when they judge less the color and more the acts of love they witness between the couple.
An estimated 4.6 million married couples in the United States are interracial, according to 2013 Census data released from the Current Population Survey. That number is expected to continue to rise with the expansive job market, the interconnectedness of the world, and social media's effect on communication with dating websites linked to other parts of the world. Love is colorblind until it is judged by its skin color or cultural differences. Focusing less on the color or differences and more on the undeniable actions required of love is good advice for all of us.
– Mary Jo Rapini