How Are Interracial Couples Different?
When two people meet and form a partnership with one another not only is it a time when we may feel our relational needs and wants are met, but there are also challenges that inherently arise. For interracial couples this is even more complex. Not only are the two individuals completely different from one another, but their racial and often cultural backgrounds are as well.
As individuals grow up, a good deal of our identity in society and in family comes from our race. It often dictates the place we hold in society and how others have treated us, and it also shapes how we have experienced our family life as well. When the racial backgrounds of two people differ, this is a space to grow as individuals as we learn about a different background to ourselves. However, relationships where our races may differ may also be a place for couples to have misunderstanding, miscommunication, and lack of empathy for another and his or her experience.
When we partner with somebody who is not from the same racial background as ourselves, we are opening ourselves up to not only learning about the other but we are also called to take on a curious position regarding understanding another through their own racial lens of experience and then incorporating both into the new relationship you are forming with the other.
Common Challenges of Interracial Couples
Some common challenges that interracial couples face include:
- Different values that are hard to bridge and understand
- Different ways of resolving conflict
- Different experiences of how we have been treated in society
- Different notions regarding child-rearing
- Different ways of living out life — from what to eat to how to have fun to who should clean and more
- External pressures from society that result in prejudice
- Different ideas on how to interact with extended family and friends
- Different sexual roles and expectations
How An Interracial Couples Counselor Can Help
Interracial couples counseling can help a couple begin to explore these differences between the two people that may be based in race and cultural background and begin to create a third path of the interracial couple’s own choosing. This path may be one that honors both races and cultures in the relationship. By having a safe space to explore individual expectations, experiences, values, and more, couples can begin to appreciate their differences and strive for something new together.
Also, if an interracial couple is considering having and raising children together, counseling can help frame the complexity of two people who experience their race in a very unique way, but a racial experience that will be very different to the race their children will carry. Interracial couples counseling can help a couple think about themselves and their experiences and gain an awareness and sensitivity to what their children may face as being bi or multiracial people walking in the world made up of both races of the parents. Starting to grow a curious stance regarding this potential experience of their children is another aspect that can be explored in interracial couples counseling.
My Approach to Interracial Couples Counseling
New Jersey Interracial Couples Counseling
As a child of an East-Indian father and Caucasian mother, I have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to experience a childhood skewed toward only being seen as a white person. We lived in the Midwest and rural Pennsylvania where being white was what counted to fit in. My brown father with his heavy accent never fit in, but I had bought the myth both my parents sold to me that we were a white family. I couldn’t understand, as a child, why my father and brothers, who looked far more brown than me, had such a hard time at work and school with others. For me, my biracial background was negated and only my being white was seen and honored. As a result, I experienced half of myself as null and void until I had the chance as an adult woman to claim my East-Indian side of myself and reconcile both parts of my racial identity.
From this personal experience, my approach to interracial couples counseling is to help two people find their voice regarding their racial identity and share it between partners. In addition, helping the partners hold a curious and open stance toward the experience being shared with them from the other. As shared understanding evolves, helping the interracial couple think through how they want to take their experiences and their differences and create a way forward that works for them both and honors who they are including their racial diversity.
If you’re interested in scheduling a session with me, please reach out directly. My practice is via telehealth so if you are in New Jersey, Washington, or Maryland, I can serve you. I also offer limited in person and walk and talk therapy sessions in Jersey City if you prefer. I look forward to hearing from you.