culture

Interracial Dating: Six Women Share Their Experiences With Mixed-Race Relationships

Interracial Dating

You can’t always choose who you fall in love with — when it happens, it just happens. Couples can share many differences, and one that continues to be a topic of discussion is race. Dating someone outside your race (interracial dating) can be a new and enriching experience but it can be met with adversity from family, friends, or society itself.

We interviewed six women about their experience with interracial dating and these were their thoughts:

Interracial Dating

1. Ariona Thompson (Half Black/half white and Italian/French/Chinese/Filipino)

How did you meet your partner?
I met my partner in junior high school. We became friends through choir and theater and started dating my senior year. We’ve been together for over four years now.

What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced in your relationship?
I think family is a higher priority for him due to his culture. He was raised to be very helpful and respectful of his elders. He also learned to cook growing up which I did not, I believe also due to his culture. Since these are things that were not instilled in me growing up, we sometimes have conflicting views about them because it’s something that is just expected from him.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?

Our families have always supported our relationship. However, I think my grandma overdoes it at times regarding his ethnicities. She often makes assumptions about the food his family eats or the way he and his family do things based on their culture. I wish she would not make such a big deal about the fact that he is a different race than us. I believe our friends support our relationship even more so due to it being interracial because our group is pretty diverse. I also think dating another person of color has made my mom’s (Black) side of the family appreciate and accept my relationship more.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
We have not received explicit positive or negative reactions from people on the street, but we do both feel watched when we are in establishments and stared at very often when out in public. We live in Washington state and when we travel to Arizona where my mom lives, the area is predominantly white. There, we always catch people staring at us, and it sucks that we know it’s most likely because we are both brown. Even in predominantly white areas of Washington, it happens more often.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship?

My advice for people newly in an interracial relationship is to make sure you understand each other without overstepping. You do not want to appropriate the others’ culture. You will most likely have to learn about differences in the way you each were brought up, and come to an understanding of how that’s impacted each of you.

2. Jocelyn Rogers (Latina and Black)

How did you meet your partner?
My husband and I met on Tinder. He was visiting family that lived near me and we matched.

What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced in your relationship?
We don’t have a lot of cultural differences. Both of our families have get-togethers and play games, listen to music and eat food. The specifics are different like the games we play and the food we eat, but they aren’t major differences. Relationship-wise, his thought process is way different than mine but I don’t think it’s due to race, I think it’s because I’m from the West Coast and he’s from the Midwest.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?
Our families and friends are happy we seem happy together.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
When we first started dating, we got looks from a lot of Black women. My partner says he got a lot of looks from older Latinos.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship?My advice for people who are new to an interracial relationship is to just go for it. You love whoever wants to love you back and race shouldn’t be something that holds you back from that.

3. Andrea Telson (Latina and White)

How did you meet your partner?
Rick and I were actually set up by a mutual friend. He knew what I looked like and I had no clue what he looked like.

What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced in your relationship?
One cultural difference we’ve experienced was after I gave birth to my first child. My grandmother said I had to stay home for at least a month. She got so upset when she found out we went out to dinner three days after getting home from the hospital! The other cultural difference is our family gatherings almost every weekend with my family. It’s either someone’s birthday or a BBQ to spend time together. On my husband’s side, we gather mainly for holidays.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?
Let’s just say I no longer speak to my father because he didn’t approve of my relationship. I tried to introduce Rick to my dad one day at my sister’s house, but it didn’t go over well because my dad ended up walking out. Since that day he’s never called me to apologize or to discuss why he walked out. It hurt me, but I was and still am in love with my husband and I can’t imagine my life without him. Other members of my family didn’t like that I was dating Rick, they just couldn’t get over our age gap. But after about a couple of months, they realized we were in love and he wasn’t going anywhere so they started to accept us as a couple. My friends accepted us as a couple immediately which made me happy considering they didn’t like my ex.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
We’ve been married for eight years and we have two children. At times honestly, I feel like people think I’m my kids’ nanny because they are fairly skinned and I’m darker. Or the look when people can’t figure out if I’m the wife or daughter, it’s like mind your business people. We get dirty looks and stares when Rick and I are alone. It’s mainly from older women judging me for being with an older man. So frustrating! I always make it a point to show my wedding ring to signify it’s not a one-time date, but that we’re happily married. For this reason, I never judge a book by its cover.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship?The advice I’d give a newly interracial couple is to make each other happy and stay together. Yes, people might try to break you up, but in the end, live your life and do what makes you happy. If your family and friends respect you they will respect your decision to date whoever you want.

4. Rimsha Subzwari Bright (Pakistani and White)

How did you meet your partner?
Ryan and I actually met at a Walgreens. We were both looking at cough medicines and my indecisiveness resulted in me asking his opinion on which one he was going to pick and we ended up talking and exchanging numbers. We met up again two or three months later after texting more and getting to know each other. Dated for about five years (four in secret) and got married in November 2020.

What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced in your relationship?
Besides food? That was Ryan’s first reaction [laughs]! In all seriousness, there are a lot of differences. When I was growing up I noticed my mom being annoyingly attentive to my dad and the same with my grandma but they’re just superheroes and attentive to everyone so I never thought twice about it. So when I started bringing Ryan around they questioned my attentiveness to him. For example, not serving him food first, enough or at all. Making sure his plate is always full, or even just picking up after him. Random things that normal adults do for themselves, made me feel insecure. It almost made me question how I treat him! And he’s amazing so honestly, he picks up after me and usually gets me food. I had to have a talk with my family about how Ryan and I are equals and how it’s disrespectful when they question me when he does nice things for me or takes care of me. I had to tell them how I deserve that and every woman does. But also to not put in men’s minds, that they shouldn’t be doing that and it’s out of the ordinary. It’s something small and something they appreciated but made them uncomfortable that he was doing things that usually were reserved for women. Also, just small differences like we don’t show a lot of physical affection. We usually never kiss in front of them and even holding hands is a lot. Language is also a barrier, we usually speak in Urdu. My grandma has very broken English, so we have to.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?
My family was very surprised and very upset at first. I had kept our relationship from them because I anticipated their judgment. I wasn’t sure when/if Ryan and I were getting married.  I didn’t want the repercussions of introducing him and us not ending up married. There’s not much of a dating scene in the Muslim community. If you do date, it’s not very public and usually not really for that long. Marriage is usually expected and I didn’t want those expectations until I was ready. Also, Ryan is not Muslim which was a huge problem. I don’t think most imams will even marry you if both parties aren’t Muslim. Eventually, my family got to know Ryan and completely approve of and love him. However, it was a process that involved a lot of tears and no budging from me.

We did end up going a little faster than planned — in 2019 my mom found out she had pancreatic cancer and everything was kind of go go go. I needed her to know Ryan. I wanted her to be at my wedding so everything was rushed and we all had to make compromises. Ryan does a lot for my family and religion; he takes part during Ramadan and fasts, he celebrates with my family at Eid, we go see my mom at least two to three times a week together for family dinners. He’s amazing! As for Ryans’ parents, they were very welcoming and excited to meet me. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person of color not only in his immediate family but also extended family. They are all so nice and welcoming and love learning and hearing about my culture. One hesitation on Ryan’s side was probably the religious aspect. Ryan was raised Christian and I’m assuming it was tough for his parents to see him participating in a lot of Islamic activities when he doesn’t practice Christianity as frequently. They know he does it for me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting a little. We’re actually very open with religion and his mom and I have discussions about it every once in a while; just differences and comparisons. I make it a point to participate in Ryan’s family holidays as much as I can as well. We’re there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter — you name it. We try to respect both families’ needs.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
We definitely get looks on the street. Double takes are pretty common. Nothing that I’ve had to fight anyone on yet but it’s annoying [laughs]. Like sometimes if I’m not holding his hand or making it very apparent we’re together, no one assumes we’re a couple. We get asked if we’re on separate checks a lot.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship?
I often point out how different Ryan and I are from each other. But it works. And usually, it’s even better because we aren’t the same. It’s weird to be with someone who grew up, looks, thinks, and even talks differently sometimes but we’re also so similar, especially how we view the world/big picture.

5. Mary Mumba (African and African American/Puerto Rican/Panamanian)

How did you meet your partner?
We met on Facebook Dating.

What are some cultural differences or viewpoints, you’ve experienced in your relationship?
In my culture, you don’t really tell your parents who you’re dating until it’s time for marriage. So it was interesting growing up in the U.S. and just thinking it was normal to bring home a guy, unlike my sister who was two years older than me.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?
Pretty welcoming but they did think we were moving a bit too fast. But that’s all a matter of opinion we’re happy and that’s all that matters.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
Not as much as when I dated white men but I did get a bit of pushback from his family early on. Once again they thought we were moving too fast! My family as well.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship? Just make sure to prioritize your own relationship over what other people think. When you let them get into your head is when you start to have problems. Follow your gut.

6. Sabrina Sayoc (Filipino/Mexican and Puerto Rican)

How did you meet your partner?
We met at a Philippine cultural club our first week at Penn State. I was there to find community through a shared culture/heritage, and he was there because someone had introduced him to the club and he really liked it. We’ve been pretty inseparable since.

What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced in your relationship?
We both came from very strong cultural backgrounds; I’m Filipino and my partner is Puerto Rican/Mexican. There’s actually a lot of interesting overlap due to similar colonization between these countries, but there was still a lot for us to learn from each other in terms of family dynamics, financial responsibility, and societal expectations, to name a few things. For example, both of our cultures have a coming-of-age celebration for girls; a quinceañera at age 15 within Latin culture and a debut at age 18 within Philippine culture. We’ve enjoyed embracing these differences and taking the time to think critically about what we want for ourselves in our relationship. Coming from different backgrounds has given us a greater perspective to make those decisions.

What are your families and friends’ opinions on your relationship?
We’re grateful to have so much love and support from my family and our friends. It was more important for those that care about us to know that we truly cared about each other, regardless of our cultural or socio-economic upbringing. With the love there, everything else fell into place and allowed us to explore each other’s cultures with a sense of openness and excitement.

Have you experienced positive/negative reactions from people on the streets because of your relationship?
We’ve had all sorts of reactions. It’s really sweet when someone stops us to share that they’re also part of an interracial relationship and they do so with overwhelming love and pride for their partner. On the other hand, we’ve also received comments about how we don’t love our own cultures enough to preserve the “purity” of our bloodlines. We like to focus on positive responses.

What advice do you have for people who are new to interracial dating or newly in an interracial relationship? You are individuals who love and care about each other so deeply before anything else. Keep that love the priority! There’s so much to celebrate from our cultural identities and even more from the complete intersectionality of who we are. With this type of honest love within a relationship, everything else really does fall into place.

 

Have you tried interracial dating or been in an interracial relationship? Let us know in the comments. 

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