Dealing with stares, whispers, derogatory comments, or other forms of discrimination can cause anxiety, stress, and sadness for people in interracial relationships, says Winslow—and it's okay to acknowledge that. Here, Winslow and woman in interracial relationships share their advice for how to navigate them. Though these tips won't make other people's biases go away, they can help you start to create a safe space within your partnership.
Not everyone will agree with your union, and it's natural for other people's opinions or negative comments about your relationship to get you down. But Ashley Chea, a woman who identifies as Black and who's married to a Cambodian and white man, says you shouldn't let others' opinions too heavily influence your own. "The most important thing is to remember that everyone has had a chance to live their own lives," she says. "It is your duty to yourself to do what makes you happiest—to be with the person who speaks to your soul and your soul alone." If you've found someone who makes you happy and is willing to grow and change with you throughout life, that should be plenty of motivation to drown out the outside noise.
Learning more about your partner's identity can help you understand them as a person—as well as how you can participate in their customs and traditions (when appropriate), says Winslow.
This is something that Sheikha says she learned the value of firsthand when she met her husband's family.
In Middle Eastern culture, she says, it's typical for families to have an incredibly tight-knit bond, so when a man marries the daughter of Middle Eastern parents, the man is considered a part of the family, too, and he is taken in right away. But Sheikha says it took a while for her husband's family to take to her, and not receiving the warm welcome she was expecting made her think that her in-laws didn't like her or that they had something against her.
Instead, she felt like they were standoffish and kind of "stiff." When she expressed her worries to her husband, he reassured her that it wasn't her and that instead the reason why she perceived them to be cold was that the level of family closeness she was used to...just isn't a thing in Norwegian culture. Sheikha says that though it did take a little longer, her husband's family did eventually open up to her. But having that conversation gave her clarity into parts of her husband's lived experienced that she wasn't aware of beforehand.
You won't always understand your partner's opinions on certain matters, but it's important to still make them feel heard. "Partners should seek to be understanding of the feelings and reactions of their partner, even if they don’t understand them," says Winslow. "They should let themselves be open to the idea that the life experience of their partner and their perspective will be different than their own, especially when it relates to different races and cultures."
For example, you may never have experienced racial profiling, so you won't understand the negative emotions that can emerge from those types of traumatizing situations. Don't invalidate emotions; instead learn how your partner prefers to be supported in those types of situations.
There is no specific formula for how to make your partner feel seen during rough situations because it varies from person to person, but Winslow does have a few tips: She suggests being as supportive as you can while giving your partner the space to process what just happened to them or what they're dealing with. "It's a delicate balance of being supportive while not trying to push the other person into reacting one way or another because it's how you think they should react—all while letting them know that you are there for them," Winslow says.
Make sure you are engaged in listening to what they're saying while being conscious of not minimizing the painful experience or the impact that it is having on them. "Actively listen to their responses and be sensitive to their experience and how it shapes their perspective," she says. Remind them that you are in their corner, that you love them, and that you have their back.
Winslow says you should also acknowledge your own feelings on what's happening. "I think it's also important for the partner to recognize that they may have feelings, as well: guilt, shame, not knowing how to help or what's the right thing to do/say, etc., but to recognize that they are not responsible for the actions of their whole race and this, at its core, is about supporting someone you love on a human level."
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