Interracial Relationships can be challenging

Interracial or interethnic relationships are becoming more common in an interconnected world. Still relationships across race and ethnicity are not considered to be the norm. In the contrary interracial and interethnic couples often face challanges. These challanges are tied to issues of identity and inter-group relations. While dating a partner of different racial or ethnic identity can be exiting and interesting long-term interaction in everyday life may become more confusing.

Your own identity may be put into question when you face different ways of doing things and perceiving the world. You learned throughout your life how thing should work and now you find out that there is another perspective. This means you have to accomodate at least some of the culture specific values and behaviors of your partner. You don’t have to and you can’t leave your past ethnic or racial identity entirely behind. However, you have to negociate a common denominator of things you like and share with your partner in an interracial relationship. What do you have in common?

Like in every relationship both partners have to make consessions. Interethnic and interracial couples have some more relationship work to do. If you want to engage in a long-term relationship you will have to figure out in how far you are willing and able to bridge religious, linguistic, and sometimes class divides.

Interethnic or Interracial Relationships?

The terms interethnic and interracial are sometimes used interchangeably. So what do they actually mean? In Anthropology ethnicity is usually referred to as a principle of differentiation between “we” and a cultural “other”. It comes from the Greek term ethnos which meant simply people or nation. It was used by the old Greeks to differentiate their own nation from the Barbarians, the uncivilized people from other places. Today ethnic is usually used to designate a common cultural heritage. Religion, language, dress and life-style usually intersect and make people share a common cultural identity.

Race, on the other hand, is often used to refer to people with common biological decent. The word race goes back to the Arabic ‘ras’ which pointed to the ‘head’ of someone. In the 17th century the concept has been developed by European scholars to justify hierarchies between people with different skin colour. Although today there is no evidence for the existence of human races in biological terms, the word is used in sociology as referring to a social construct and not as essence like in scientific racism.

The ugly history of the term race may be one reason for why some people substitute it with ethnicity or ethnic group. Still race is commonly used to refer to people who feel something in common on the basis of shared bodily features, such as skin color, and the shared experience of being discriminated and disadvantaged on these grounds. The definitions of ethnicity and race in deed blur. Both point to a social group with members who feel that they have something in common.

Do never assume your partners or any persons ethnic or racial identification. Not everybody likes to indentify in these terms. Just ask! People belong to the group they self-identify with and their is no objective way to determine it. Second guessing and categorizing your partners’, his or her familys’ and friends’ racial or ethnic identity may or may not fit with their self ascribed identity. Interracial or interethnic relationships, as we understand it here, are relationships between people who see themselves as part of different race or ethnic groups.

Mixed Relationships?

When we talk about ‘mixed relationships’ what do we actually mean? Mixed can mean many things. We are all mixed up genetically as well as culturally. There is a lot of evidence that there is not pure essence within any culture or race. Within human genetic and cultural evolution there has been always a flux and flow, a continous exchange between people on many different levels. So if we talk about mixed relationships we have to take into consideration that each partner has already been exposed to different worldviews, life-styles, and customs througout the life-course over the internet or television. Moreover, culure and genetic make up change over time.

The cultural ideals as well as the genes you have been handed down have manifested in you in a unique way. People are not just copies of other people. Something adds or gets lost in translation. This is why mixed relationships are the most natural thing in human cultural and genetic evoluation. In an interracial, interethnic or mixed relationship you should always remember that your attitudes and behaviours as well as your genetic make up is already mixed. This is just something to think of in times you fear to loose your racial, ethnic, or cultural ‘essence’.

Can Mixed Relationships Work?

One of the most frequently searched questions concerning relationships is: do mixed relationships work? Mixed relationships do and can work if you are willing to put in some extra effort. Mixed relationships across cultural, racial, and ethnic divides face particular challenges. Although all relationships are somehow mixed, meaning non of the partners equals the other, some are more diverse than others. Diversity within relationships include religion, faith, or spirituality as well language, nationality, and race. Each of these differences are not absolute but may, nevertheless, pose challenges at particular points in your relationship.

Mixed relationships give you a unique chance to learn more about your partners ethnic or religious background. Moreover, the make you see your own culture with different eyes. By learning about the other you will be able to lean more about yourself. Thinks you have taken for granted, customs and actions that are common sense to you may turn out to be less self-evident than you thought. If you want to engage in a long-term mixed, intercultural, interethnic, or interracial relationship the first question you have to ask yourself is: Am I prepared to see the world with different eyes? Are you ready to put yourself into the position of your partner? This ability is vital in all relationships but particularly in interethnic and interracial ones.