Many couples come to me because they want to build healthier relationships than they saw in their families or communities growing up. They aren’t exactly sure what constitutes a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy interracial relationship!
Here are five components of a healthy interracial relationship:
#1 Embracing each other's cultures
This might seem obvious, but it doesn’t always happen! A lot of people are good at celebrating the cultural traditions of their partner's family. But being in an interracial relationship, your partner might have wildly different ways of communicating, expressing yourself, or handling certain situations that are also influenced by culture.
Perhaps your partner’s family is louder than yours. Or maybe they believe in modesty. While there might be ways you lovingly challenge each other to grow beyond the limitations of your family of origin, can you also seek to see the gifts or the reason behind why things are done a certain way.
#2 Asking questions
When your worlds are drastically different, it’s only natural to be confused. Sometimes when couples are confused about one another it can lead to criticism and finger pointing.
It’s really helpful to suspend judgment and get curious about things. Nine times out of ten, when I invite couples to be more curious about what they are seeing on the surface it leads to lightbulb moments and deeper connection. So practice turning your criticism into curiosity!
#3 Pausing before getting defensive
This is similar to the tip above, but in reverse. When you find yourself wanting to get defensive about something, can you first check in with yourself about what’s going on beneath the surface?
In Intimacy From The Inside Out, the Internal Family Systems Therapy model for couples work, we call this the You-Turn.
Consider what raw emotions your partner has hit in their comment or action. If you’re not familiar with Internal Family Systems Therapy or Parts Work, think of this as checking in with your inner child. First see if there’s anything this part of you needs from YOU. Is what your feeling familiar? If so, consider what self-regulation or self-talk you can give yourself before re-engaging with your partner. You can definitely consider what you want to share with your partner about what you’re feeling, or what questions you have for them, as well.
#4 Creating a shared culture
Work together to cultivate rituals and traditions that are unique to your relationship. What do you like doing together? What do you agree on? What feels special to the two of you?
I’m delighted that my colleague Nate Carela has written a guest blog on this topic where you can dive in for more.
#5 Engaging in anti-racism efforts together
Do things together that make the world a better place for your relationship (and your kiddos, if you have or plan to have them!). Go to protests together. Watch historical documentaries together. Phone bank together. Read ‘A Race is a Nice Thing to Have’ or ‘My Grandmother’s Hands’ together.
Bonus tip: Seek support!
None of us grew up in a perfect environment. Our culture is one where emotions are often avoided, needs are sometimes criticized, and generative conflict isn't usually modeled. So when it comes down to it, navigating challenges in our relationships is certainly never a simple or easy task, in part because we haven't been taught how to do so!
Maybe you are experiencing one of these raw moments in your relationship. Or perhaps you want to do the work of honoring and intentionally preparing for these dynamics.
You are in the right place.
I specialize in working with interracial couples, including Queer couples, mixed orientation couples, kinky couples, polycules, and those practicing or interested in non-monogamy.
I believe the relationships we choose are opportunities to practice new behaviors and values that weren't available to us in previous relationships. I promise you that with intentionality and skill we can welcome in your differences and disagreements to foster deeper connection and fulfillment.