Being that I am biracial (half White and Half Thai), I always knew I was going to be in an interracial relationship. Throughout my few experiences with dating, and hearing about my close friend’s experiences I’ve made a list to share some of the struggles that people in an interracial relationship have more of a chance of going through compared to a relationship that consists between two people of the same ethnicity. I wanted to write this to bring awareness and to help people connect like myself who don’t have many friends who are in an interracial relationship.
These struggles are in no particular order.
I also just wanna say relationships are a lot of work! They are not always easy breezy “I love you and we’ll be together forever.” It’s learning about one another and trying to grow together while still connecting with each other and supporting one another. I don’t wanna say that interracial relationships are harder than regular relationships however, there are issues that non-interracial relationships hardly experience and experience quite differently.
Religion. Within interracial relationships, it is most common for there to be a conflict with different religions. I know that’s a pretty normal struggle when it comes to relationships in general but with my own experiences, I can say it’s not your average conflict. Being that I don’t believe in God, I took it upon myself to learn about Catholicism because that’s my boyfriend’s religion. I wanted to know what to expect later down the line for events and what not. I’m a Thai Buddhist which is more philosophical so it’s really hard to explain when people ask me about my religion. It’s also difficult for me to explain because I didn’t grow up very religious.
From what I’ve read and seen interracial relationships usually result in one person converting to another religion so the couple can stay together because faith is such a huge issue to not compromise on. Personally, throughout my own relationship and my friends’ we’ve both compromised while still staying within our own beliefs. I think it is more of an issue for the couple’s parents to respect since they are more old fashioned and believe in carrying on their beliefs and traditions.
With my parent’s marriage, my father converted to Buddhism which I think is pretty cool because he can speak Thai and he was very well informed on Thai Buddhism. I don’t agree that a person should have to change their religion to stay with someone they are in love with. I don’t think it’s as big of an issue today compared to 20-50 years ago since people are more understanding today.
For instance one of my friends isn’t religious, but she was baptized and her parents would like her children to be baptized while her fiancee is Atheist and does not want them baptized at all. I could tell it hurt her because it is a part of her faith, but since she doesn’t practice the religion they agreed not to raise their children with any faith so they’re not going to baptize their children which is a huge thing.
I would rather raise my children with both religions not forced. My explanation would be more along the lines of “here is how your mother and grandmother grew up” and “here is how your father and his parents grew up” and have them decide on their own if they’d like to continue with a religion or not. I’d like to show them different aspects of their culture which includes religion so I’d like them to be well informed on both religions. I also believe religion helps build character so I’d like my children to learn from both mine and my boyfriend’s religion.
Parents. Asian parents, in general, are very strict, mine aren’t only strict but GREEDY. There’s a Thai tradition called Sin Sod (which you can read more about here) where the future husband has to pay a fee to the girl’s parents before the parents give their blessing to the couple. First off the payment is NOT A DOWRY, let’s just get that straight. The amount is decided by the parents and it’s seen as paying the parents back for raising their daughter and losing a source of income. The agreed amount comes from virginity, education, appearance and how much they value their daughter. I personally thought this was a common tradition among wealthy families only, but apparently, it’s a really common practice. My parents had never brought it up with me until I started dating my boyfriend. They also said they would disown me if my boyfriend doesn’t pay them. My parents demanded $10,000 which I found appalling and offensive. I didn’t think much of Sin Sod because I thought it was more of a made-up tradition that was being sold like a Hallmark holiday and not a real thing. So there’s a conflict you don’t see in everyday relationships. By not paying my parents they see it as a sign of disrespect and I wouldn’t have minded following the tradition if for one they had brought it up to me before I started dating and two they weren’t greedy. You can learn about how greedy they are here and here. This practice also varies by different Thai families, I’ve asked a few friends I met through an online group and they told me that some parents expected the money while others see it as an old tradition and would rather their daughter and son-in-law use their money for more practical purchases like a home. Since it’s been a little over a year of when my parents brought up the issue with me, I think my mom has come around since then. I think she sees where I’m coming from since I am half Thai, but I wasn’t raised fully Thai so I don’t think it’s fair for my parents to push this tradition on me after all these years of never bringing it up.
With my boyfriend’s parents, it was much easier being accepted into his family. His family consists of mostly Mexican couples except for one other interracial couple which is my boyfriend’s cousin and his wife who is also White. I didn’t think I would be as accepted as I was so early into the relationship, but I was. I feel bad that my boyfriend doesn’t get to have the same experience but at the same time, I know he has a very supportive family so he’s not missing out on being a part of a family like I am.
Culture. Adapting to different cultures and trying to accept what’s normal in your partner’s life. This is a pretty common thing I’ve noticed, but for my relationship, it’s been a real eye-opener because I don’t have a large family, and I’m not religious so seeing my boyfriend’s culture was a whole different experience for me. I’ve become a part of his family and it’s changed me for the better. I like the addition of my life because I like learning about new cultures and feeling like a part of his family. A big thing in Mexican culture is to greet the owners of the house when you enter and to say goodbye to them before leaving no matter what they’re doing. It’s not just saying “Bye” and then walking out, it involves walking to the owners and politely informing them you are leaving and thanking them for the invitation. Sure that sounds common right, but another thing is shaking everyone’s hand in the room if possible EVERY SINGLE PERSON, maybe it’s such a big thing to me because I don’t have a family or else I would do this more often. Fun fact: when my boyfriend and I started dating I would forget to say goodbye and hello because I would go to my boyfriend’s parent’s house all the time I forgot how it’s a polite thing to say hello and goodbye. I don’t know why it was just a big deal for me because I don’t normally do that. I’ll say hello and goodbye but now I have to announce it at events if I’m leaving so every person that is present can acknowledge my absence.
Perspectives. Having to compromise on perspectives often because you or your partner don’t understand the perspective you grew up in. We are entitled to our choices and opinions and I can’t force someone to become interested in what I’m interested in. It all comes down to compromise and respecting each other’s opinions.
Not having anyone to confide in because not many understand what you’re going through in your relationship. I don’t know many bi-racial couples and don’t have many people to confide in who would actually take the time to listen to the struggles my boyfriend and I are going through.
Being seen as normal and breaking through traditions. My boyfriend is the first in his family to bring home a girl who isn’t of the same race. I was honestly worried his family wouldn’t accept me because I believed it was easier to accept their own ethnicity since that’s all his family mainly consists of. I can’t say much for my boyfriend’s experience because my parents mainly go to the casino and they aren’t as open as my boyfriend’s family is so he doesn’t get to share the experience. I can say he’s not missing out on much because my boyfriend’s family is the family I never had growing up.
For me, it’s also different, because in my family (my mom’s side) also consists of only Thai couples. There’s no one from my mom’s side of the family who married someone who wasn’t Thai except for her. As for my father’s side of the family, I guess I’ll never know to be honest. I don’t have a relationship with my father and have never met his side of the family. It’s different for my mom’s family to respect how I live my life like that fact that I live with my boyfriend even though we aren’t married. My mom has explained to her family that the culture is extremely different here in the U.S. especially in California. It’s a culture shock for them to see how I live my life. It doesn’t bother me much honestly because I don’t have a strong bond with my mom’s side of the family to be bothered by their opinions.
I highly recommend watching the movie the Loving which you can read more about in the article I linked. If you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s about the first interracial couple who became the reason we see interracial couples today. This couple fought for their relationship back in the late ’50s when it wasn’t allowed and made it all the way to the supreme court and won. Their journey resulted with the law Loving v. Virginia allowing interracial relationships. I watched the movie with my boyfriend during our first Valentine’s Day last year and we loved it! The journey they went through was unbelievable and the fact that their last name is Loving like can it be more meant to be? Ugh I couldn’t get over their journey and can’t thank them enough today because without them my world and our world as we know it would be incredibly different
Although relationships aren’t easy, especially interracial relationships I just want to add once you get past compromising on the big issues and working through the bumps along the way it’s all worth it. I wouldn’t trade my relationship for anything. I’m proud of everything we’ve overcome together and I can’t wait for our future!
My friend also wrote about her own personal interracial struggles which you can read here.
If you’ve had similar experiences please share. 🙂