The road to finding love is long, laborious and often times acutely painful, so when you finally meet the man of your dreams it can truly feel heaven-sent. As a savvy, modern-day woman, you probably expect to face the usual problems with your boyfriend (Why do you spend so much time with your friends? Turn off that X-box! Etc.), but dealing with the unanticipated ones that come with dating a member of another race or ethnic group can be completely unforeseen. Here are a few of the problems you may face, as well as some guidelines to help solve them.
- Feeling Unaccepted by His Friends and Family. Ask yourself: Do I feel that his friends and family (or Mom, brother Jake, or best friend Larry, etc.) do not like me based solely on my race? This is an important question to ask yourself because you wouldn't want to jump the gun by misinterpreting a personality conflict.
Sometimes we let our unpleasant past experience with others color our present day ones. Is it entirely possible that you, and say his sister Sara, simply do not get along? If this is not the case, however, and if you do feel that you are not liked because of a race or ethnic issue, then try to find some common ground with the person or persons that feel this way toward you.
In a nutshell, treat it the same way you would if you were in fact dealing with a personality conflict and realize that there must be something you and these persons (or person) have in common. Okay, by this point you're probably screaming, "Why do I have to do anything since they're the one with the problem?" The simple answer is that you love the man you are with and since his friends, family and you are not going anywhere, it behooves you to do everything within your power to make the situation work. If you and your partner come from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, try researching some of his religious practices or holidays. Better yet, enlist one of his family members (there's always at least one nice family member) to help you gain some firsthand experience. This will go a very long way in building an engaging and expansive relationship with his friends or family members, and your boyfriend will love you all the more for trying to understand his background.
- If Your Friends or Family Members Don't Like Him. This may actually be a bit better than his family and friends disliking you because in this situation, you're in the driver's seat. Be proactive and query them on their reasons for disliking him. If you find that it's a race issue (or an ethnic one), listen to their point of view, and try to treat their concerns with the sensitivity the subject requires. Bulldozing them into your point of view may only serve to alienate them, so try to listen patiently (yes, it's difficult, but try). Afterwards, address their concerns point by point while keeping in mind that they may be coming from a kind--albeit ignorant--place.
Chief among their concerns may be that others will look at the pair of you strangely, or if you end up having children together, that they'll be the ones to shoulder the burden of being the product of a biracial family. Ease their fears by explaining how society has changed and let them know that you'd prefer to stay in the here and now (instead of getting sucked into a conversation about children), and deal with this particular situation. If all else fails, explain that this is the person you love and as such, perhaps they could model the lessons they taught you so well in childhood (namely, compassion for your fellow man, politeness and sensitivity to others etc.) when your boyfriend is present, and if need be, let them know that you'd be more than happy to revisit this topic with them again some time in the future.
- The General Public and Dirty Stares. Enduring the stares and sometimes angry words from the general public can often be more hurtful when it comes from a stranger. Although no one would blame you for flying off the handle and exploding in anger, one of the very best things you can do in this type of situation is keep your cool. Remember that the general safety of you and yours should be in the forefront of your mind, and unfortunately some people can be very ignorant, belligerent and armed, all at the same time. It pains me to say this (as I'd rather tell you to stand your ground and educate the bumbling buffoon), but in instances where someone is shouting and acting threateningly towards you--just walk away. Allowing calmer heads to prevail is best in this type of situation.
More often, however, cowardly whispering and dirty stares may arise when you step out with your beau, and again it pains me to say this, but there really isn't anything you can do. The best piece of advice I can impart is something my father once told me; when you leave your home, you are a representative of your family, and by extension, a representative of your race. Lesson here? Always be polite (even to those who don't deserve it) and conduct yourself with dignity. Do this, and no one will be able to use childish tactics like staring, whispering and pointing against you. No one.
- Clash of Cultures. At other times, the conflict is not between you as a couple and the outside world, but between you and your partner. Some common clashes revolve around holidays/religious functions, food, music, politics, and/or language.
- Holidays and Religious Functions. Explain the significance of the holiday and its level of importance to you. Perhaps both of you can share holidays (e.g. he attends Christmas Mass with you and you support him during Ramadan). If friction arises (which is normal), calmly talk it out until you reach a conclusion that is satisfactory for both of you.
- Food and Music. These two topics can be barrels of fun to explore together! Take each other out to your favorite ethnic restaurant and recommend food you feel they'll enjoy. Music follows within the same vein. Swap favorite songs in a non-pressured way, such as playing it softly in the background while you enjoy a quiet evening in together, and in no time flat you (or he) will find yourself rocking out to the latest Israeli tunes, etc.
- Politics. Easy does it is the catch phrase here for couples just starting out. Outline your points, listen to his, and if need be, agree to disagree. You will probably revisit this issue many times in your relationship, so don't feel the need to be belligerent in getting your point across.
- Language. This can also be lots of fun! When first trying to learn your partner's language, keep the words and phrases simple. Naming (pointing and saying the word) is a great way to start. It may never get farther than this, but give it a go as you may be inspired to take up learning another language.
Falling in love is a truly beautiful thing, but there is no sense in pretending that the going can't sometimes be rough when trying to blend two different races or ethnic groups. Moreover, when the going gets especially rough, bear in mind that it is these very same differences that attracted you to your partner in the first place and when you hit the occasional snag, keep these guidelines in mind to celebrate and embrace those differences.