These days, dating sites are bringing together more and more people from diverse backgrounds. The proportion of interracial marriages in the United States has grown from 7% in 2000 to 10% in 2016 and dealing with discrimination and inappropriate remarks as a couple is unfortunately common.
However, there are specific ways in which you and your partner can rebalance your energy, create a space in which you feel safe, and explore each other’s backgrounds with excitement and curiosity. Let’s start looking at the 10 specific dating tips interracial couples should keep in mind.
1. Have an Understanding of Your Partner’s Culture
Dating is hard enough already, especially where there are differing relationship objectives or communication styles. Interracial dating, however, presents the added challenge of bringing together two different lived experiences.
From food and family dynamics to how their local community has shaped them, exploring your partner’s culture is key to understanding them as a whole. It not only shows curiosity and a desire to bond, but it may also help both partners navigate each other’s family gatherings or reactions to global events.
It can additionally make both of you better at managing conflict. For instance, accepting that your partner’s community places great emphasis on family relationships could lessen your annoyance at the fact that they have dinner with their parents several times a week.
2. Create a Safe Space for Discussions
Having uncomfortable conversations is inevitable in any relationship, but when partners come from different cultures and life experiences, they may hold fixed ideas that are hard to challenge.
A safe space, however, allows you to ask questions without fear of judgment, while also enabling you to call out inappropriate behavior, like a joke made by your partner that was offensive to you.
For a safe space to work, you should set principles and boundaries that protect the relationship from heated remarks. For example, both partners could enter the conversation in a calm state of mind by doing a short meditation for a few minutes, or you might agree that certain topics are off-limits on a specific day.
Ultimately, it’s about staying open. In all discussions, it’s not about trying to be right but, rather, improving the quality of the relationship.
3. Practice Deep Listening
Recognize that your less-informed take on a racialized issue may not be helpful when it affects your partner more than it affects you. First, listen. Then, validate your partner’s experience or opinion. If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to contribute to the conversation, then say so, and make a commitment to learning about the issue further.
It’s often the case that one person will experience race, and the interracial relationship itself, in a different way than their partner. For example, if a person of South Asian heritage and their white partner walk hand in hand, they may have vastly different experiences when being stared at by passers-by.
Both partners’ feelings about a specific event can be valid, which is why it’s vital to accept the other’s story without minimizing it. Finally, deep listening needn’t only happen in person—if you’ve just met a love interest via a dating site, such as eharmony or SilverSingles, you can begin to validate their experience without a “right or wrong” mentality.
4. Address Inappropriate Comments
Whether you said something you shouldn’t have, or have heard it said about your partner, it’s important to nip inappropriate remarks in the bud.
For example, racial stereotyping can be found in questions like “But where are you really from?” or statements such as “You sound very articulate.” Equally, a microaggression may take place when a neighbor expresses their view on immigration by generalizing the characteristics of a certain group of people.
If, whether subtly or explicitly, someone hints that “you two shouldn’t be together,” remember that others’ opinions do not reflect what you have with your partner.
At the same time, where possible, try to address racially motivated comments by keeping the offender accountable, or at least remove yourselves from aggressive spaces. Otherwise, one or both partners may start to struggle with their mental health, which hurts the relationship.
5. Be Aware of Your Privilege
While privilege can relate to one’s race, it can be further amplified by gender-based, economic, educational, and other factors. Your goal is to create a safe haven for yourselves as a couple, but ignoring the presence—or lack—of privilege in either partner can lead to problems further down the line.
For instance, if you go out on a date and the waiter treats your partner differently from how they treat you, you may ask yourself why. If the same pattern of behavior keeps repeating, you can share how you feel about it with your partner or a trusted friend.
You can’t control how the world treats you, but you can choose to be aware of it and discuss the implications with your significant other. Sometimes, saying “I’ll never understand what it’s like to be you” is a good place to start the conversation.
6. Make Time for Joy
Focussing on joy and creating fun memories together should be a priority, especially since interracial couples might be more prone to microaggressions from the world around them.
Try to have some dedicated time without any drama. Getting those endorphins flowing by playing a sport together, going out dancing, or taking a trip somewhere. These are all good ways to loosen the tension. Encouraging each other to practice self-care is part of shared joy, too.
If you’re not in a monogamous relationship, you can meet new dating prospects on community-focussed platforms—like Black dating apps—and organize fun, no-strings-attached activities.
7. Manage Family Expectations
In a society where discrimination is still commonplace, people in interracial relationships may well find that certain family members don’t fully accept their chosen partner. They might try to find fault with your significant other, citing family expectations or even engaging in racial stereotyping.
In the UK, a study commissioned by the dating app Inner Circle found that 9 out of 10 people are, have been, or would consider being in an interracial relationship. But only 36% of respondents said they’d start a serious conversation about race if their own parents treated their partner differently.
However, having a conversation with your family about boundaries is key, including how much you want them involved in your romantic relationship, what comments are unacceptable, and why.
8. Don’t Fetishize Your Partner’s Race
It’s unfortunately not uncommon for specific ethnic features to be fetishized, particularly in a Eurocentric dating culture. For instance, non-Black dating prospects might fetishize Black women by repeatedly mentioning the color of their skin when admiring physical qualities, or by assuming they are “hypersexual.”
Other daters meet partners who say “I’ve always wanted to be with someone of your race.”
However, this is a form of fetishization, as they’re not choosing someone due to their personality but, rather, due to preconceived notions about race.
Try to remain aware of whether you have done this, and commit to resolving it together. If your partner appears to be fetishizing your race, then have a conversation about it—but if their behavior doesn’t change after that, it may be a red flag.
9. Make Time for Self-Care
While self-care helps regenerate partners in any relationship, people in interracial relationships may find it particularly nourishing. It’s easy to feel misunderstood when your partner has a different lived experience, but alone time can allow you to give yourself kindness and validation.
Whatever your downtime of choice is, make sure it allows you to process any negative feelings and leaves you feeling calm. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, suggests taking solo “artist dates” that include creativity-enhancing activities, such as nature walks, listening to your favorite album, or trying a new recipe.
When you feel grounded and content with yourself, your confidence makes you more attractive and rebalances the relationship.
10. Build a Support Network
Being surrounded by like-minded people that fill you with energy can end up serving your relationship goals. You start to realize that your partner can’t fulfill all your social needs—and they don’t have to, because your friends can step in as well.
Whether you share the same connections with your partner or not, your support network is the family you choose—which is particularly empowering if your family or long-standing friends are causing you to doubt the viability of your relationship.
Most importantly, choose to be around people who are open-minded, make you feel good, and, ultimately, know when it’s time to mind their own business.
Being in an interracial relationship can be immensely fulfilling. Learning how your partner’s community has shaped them, listening non-judgmentally, and creating a safe space away from the noise of the outside world can help nurture the connection you’ve already built with this person.
While there are certain idiosyncratic difficulties related to interracial relationships, it’s important to focus on the joy you’re creating together, the supportive network around you, and the opportunities to practice self-care. Also, don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations with or even cut off certain family members or friends who express disapproval of your significant other due to their race.