Outside of the situation, it's easy to look at the idea of interracial marriage and brush it off, all the while thinking, “It's 2015, this isn't even a big thing anymore.” The truth, however, is that for a couple, it can be difficult for a number of reasons. For instance, if your marriage is inter-cultural as well, you might find yourself dealing with fighting families, feeling like you're being pulled in two different directions. As well, the differences that mean so little to you may still matter to other people – people who generally have no bearing on your happiness, mind you, but whose attitudes can make things tense and even toxic. The key to take away is this: other people's opinions don't matter if you love each other. If you're committed to your marriage and your partnership, you can make anything work.
Well, maybe that's not exactly practical. Okay, okay, so it's impossible. You can't ignore everyone. You know whose opinions matter, though, and the point is to focus on each other. This is your marriage. The two of you created this. Together you'll experience life together, maybe start a family – whether it consists of babies or puppies is entirely up to you – and grow old together. The two of you made this union.
The worst thing you can do is try to ignore your differences or act like they don't matter. I'm not just talking about skin color here, although that is a factor, of course, because your skin color shapes you. Different races have different experiences. Like say, you might also come from different cultural backgrounds. Maybe you grew up in the same town but lived in different neighborhoods, attended different schools, and practiced different religions. Go ahead and focus on those differences. Get interested in them. Use them as a means to learn about each other's lives, the triumphs as well as the failures. Trade shoes. Your feet won't necessarily fit, but you'll learn more about where your lover came from.
Most marriages have their pressures. In an interracial marriage, you face the pressure of fitting in but it's different. You're navigating brand new territory and family members might disapprove for any number of reasons. One of you might feel uncomfortable stepping into the other person's world. One of you might even feel unwelcome. That can have enormously negative effects on your relationship. You have to cross these hurdles somehow but don't let the pressure seep into your home. Your partner isn't responsible for his or her family. You're not responsible for yours, either.
You might think this is impractical advice as well since it's not exactly easy to pick up stakes and move. Still, the two of you can find a place that feels like home to you. It's a place where you're comfortable and happy with each other, where everything feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. It might be a different neighborhood in NYC, a small New England town, or somewhere abroad. It might be a new apartment in the same building or a house in the country. It might even be a new circle of friends. Home being where the heart is, there's no telling where you two will find yours, but you'll know it when you do.
I mean it, talk about any issues. The worst thing you can do is let something fester. It doesn't matter if you hate your husband's snoring or if your wife feels like your aunt made a really insensitive comment. Get it out, vent if you need to, and then discuss it together. Talk about how you can deal with whatever happened. This is tricky when it involves the behaviors and attitudes of others, especially family and friends, but it's best if you get it out in the open before you start feeling resentful. Just don't attack your spouse. Remember, neither of you are responsible for anyone else's actions.
Spouses stand by each other. Stand by yours. Spouses stand up for each other. Stand up for yours, even if you can't change opinions. Stand up for your wife when her boss treats her unfairly and when your brother says something ugly. Spouses stand for their relationship. Stand for yours. Stand for your beliefs as an individual and a couple as well. Create a united front and nothing can really get to you, whether it's a stressful situation at work or toxicity from within the family.
Going full circle back to number one, keep any toxicity away. No one else matters. You two are married. Your stereotype-spouting best friend and your judgmental grandmother can both take a long walk off a short pier, right? Maybe not, but you control what touches you. Focus first on your opinions of each other. Then consider the opinions of the people who matter most to you. If you can't reconcile their opinions, decide where to go from there. Beyond those people, seriously, no one else matters. Their opinions have no effect on your lives or the way you feel about each other.
The world has made a lot of progress, but there's still such a long way to go. I could fill up ten more pages with cliches about love and most of them would be true, but let's go with the Beatles: love is all you need. You can make your marriage work by loving, respecting, and supporting each other. Never stop learning about one another. Never stop discovering new things. Never let the opinions of others turn something beautiful into something ugly. If you're in an interracial marriage or relationship, share your thoughts. Tell us your love story.
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