If Your Family Doesn’t Like Your Interracial Relationship: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself (written from personal experience…)

Imani’s Articles

This current anti-racist movement is changing the way many people are looking at their lives: how race has impacted their lives, how they’ve interacted with people of color (or other POC if you are a POC), how they’ve judged others, how they’ve stood up for others or sat back for too long. It’s impacted many areas of our personal and professional lives and as I’ve said before – I’m here for it. However, these challenges can be particularly challenging if you are in an interracial relationship. This challenge can give you a unique perspective when it comes to the interpersonal, cultural, and familial aspects of racial and ethnic prejudice.

If you or your partner’s family members are not fond of you being with your partner, I understand your frustration.

Interracial Relationship

I’ll write a bit about my and John’s story regarding how we navigated my families “problem” with our interracial relationship. Then, I’ll share some guiding questions that should help you navigate your feelings, thoughts, and potential action steps for addressing this outdated-yet-still-somehow-occurring issue.

If you are looking for ways to support your POC partner outside of your family situation, you may find these questions helpful.

Our Situation:

If you have non-Western parents or are close with people who do, you’ve might have heard the humorous but slightly serious “you can’t date until your married” rule. This isn’t far from the truth. Seeing as that I was only 20 years old and still in college, I was not looking to get married ANY time soon. I was definitely nervous to tell my Nigerian-born parents when I starting “seeing” someone, let alone that I was falling in love. Naively, in fearing that they wouldn’t be happy with my decision to date someone, I had completely neglected to prepare myself for what the real problem was:

“John? Is he white?”

”Uhh… yeah? He’s white and Asian. Why does that matter?”

*No answer*.

And *no answer* would become a pattern in my and my father’s conversations. Whenever I dared to bring the topic of “boyfriend” back up, or even mention John as a natural part of my life updates. *Silence*. He did not want to speak about the fact that I was dating someone. I, perhaps naively – assumed that it was just because I was dating someone at all, not because of race.

Until he finally brought it up – at an airport of all places. (Fair enough – airport boredom inspires all sorts of conversation you don’t really want to have, so alas). My dad finally admitted the problem – he was white. He was Asian. He was not black, and he certainly wasn’t Nigerian, and even more definitely was not from my dad’s village (which was SOMEHOW the goal in mind for my dad). My father would not accept this interracial relationship which he considered wahala (trouble). My father’s dream was to have and raise children in the United States, who will then find their way to a soulmate from his village in Nigeria (Okay, dare to dream, fair enough).

10 Questions To Ask Yourself about your Interracial Relationship

You may be in a similar predicament as I was years back: falling in love, excited about this new prospect in your life, but saddened by the fact that your loved ones are cautious about accepting this person due to something as superficial as the color of their skin, or as misunderstood as where they are from.

I know what it feels like to not want to care – after all, you’re a grown person that can make your own decisions. But I also know how annoying it feels when you still do care.

Frustrated with family

For people who haven’t experienced this, it may seem like an easy answer – do what you want. Keep dating your partner. And I agree. You should certainly NOT stop dating your partner just because of your family’s disapproval of an interracial relationship.

But the reality is, the specific way you approach this situation may not be that simple; your answers to these questions might depend on how long you’ve been dating your partner, how you feel overall about your relationship, how close you are with your partner, how close you are with your family (using “family” for simplicity, although it might be just your parents, or specific relative, or even a close friend), why your family feels that way, and various other factors.

So here are 10 questions to ask in order to be honest and transparent with yourself about this potentially sticky situation, and evaluate what this means for your relationship (both with your partner and with your family) moving forward:

1. Why does my family think the way they think about my partner’s race?

Sometimes it’s just plain and simple racism: they think your partner’s “race” (skin color), ethnicity, or nationality makes them “less than”.

Sometimes, it’s (what my dad calls) “race consciousness”. It’s not that they think your partner’s race is inherently worse, but that there is particular pride, history, and honor in maintaining the legacy of where you come from and an interracial relationship would dilute that sense of self. It’s a long-game: it’s not just about you and your partner, but your potential children, and their children. Will they acknowledge where they came from? Will they even know? The fear of a lost identity may be the problem your family has.

It could also be fear for your safety, comfort, status, etc. – anything involving how other people might see or treat you by being with that person. If you’re fortunate to have parents who love and care about you, that may come with them caring in ways and about things you don’t particular find useful, relevant, or worthwhile in your opinion. They may have fears that you find unjustified, or that you believe you can handle. But it’s still different than simply being racist.

There are a number of reasons why your family/parents/etc. may disapprove of your relationship due to racial or ethnic reasons, and it’s important to figure that out before moving forward.

2. What is the best way to interact with my family regarding race / our relationship?

Following the last question: The specific reason why your family disapproves of your interracial relationship is important to identify, because that will dictate further discussions with them.

If you call them racist without considering their background and where they are coming from in their thinking, that might not be a very productive discussion.

On the other hand, if you’re discussing you and your partner’s similar cultural identity, but your family is indeed racist, that won’t matter much to them either.

Find out where they are coming from, and meet them where they are at.

3. Why do I care what my family thinks about my partner?

As we get older and spread our wings and create lives more and more separated from the ones we are raised in, it’s important to ask yourself this question about a wide variety of areas. Do I still care what my parents think about my achievements, my behavior, my hobbies, my social circle, my desires, (insert literally anything else here)? And if so, why?

So it goes without saying that your partner is included in this as well. Why do you care? Do you still feel like you need their approval? Is it because they will not like you as much, or they might actually disown you? Are you preventing yourself from becoming your whole, true self because of what your family thinks is holding you back? All of these questions may be revealing.

Carefully consider how your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and decisions when it comes to your partner (and other areas) are impacted by old attachments you still have. Then revaluate if you believe (as you should) that you are an adult who is capable of thinking clearly and independently!

4. What are the familial consequences of continuing to be in an interracial relationship?

I knew that my parents wouldn’t disown me for dating outside my nationality. But not everyone in this situation has this luxury.

Will you be disowned? Invited to fewer family events? Will they not come to your wedding? Will things simply be slightly uncomfortable during the holidays?

Consider the potential consequences, separate the real consequences from the imagined ones (and if you don’t know, ask for clarity), and be very honest with yourself about how those consequences would make you feel.

5. How much weight do those consequences hold for me?

Depending on your answer to the question above, you may realize that these consequences aren’t so bad, and that you can just go on living your life. You may think “okay, so things may be a little awkward for a while, but my family will probably eventually get over it, and maybe even learn about race and grow and become better, more understanding people”.

On the flip side, you may acknowledge more clearly that the consequences are greater than you allowed yourself to really accept up until this point.

Either way, this shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether to continue your relationship, but it may help you understand whether you are ready to take on those consequences. If you aren’t, you have to figure out what you need to do to be ready, or the value you place on your partnership outside of this issue (see question below).

6. How much do I value my relationship with this person, and why?

Recognizing the value you place in your partnership will give you strength throughout having tough conversations, hearing negative statements about them, and receiving general pushback.

You have to be ready to stand up for your partner, even in the face of loved ones you may not normally feel comfortable being confrontational with.

7. Do the known or potential consequences of being with this person outweigh the known or potential benefits of breaking up?

If you are not ready to fight for this person, then you may have to consider how much you truly value your relationship in the first place. If you are wavering in your relationship, this is not the type of fight you want to involve yourself in.

You should certainly still have direct discussions with your family about their racism, cultural divisiveness, identity-based ideologies, etc. REGARDLESS, but perhaps not in the context of being with this specific person.

Here’s the truth (or at least, was my truth): The silver lining of any type of push-back is that it can make your feelings, thoughts, and decisions more clear. It can wake you up to the fact that you don’t want to lose this person no matter what. But it can also make you realize that things aren’t going well with this person anyways, and if there’s no real future, neither you nor they should have to deal with the burden of a family who doesn’t want them around.

8. How can I let my partner know that they are loved and supported at this time?

If this experience has in fact been a love-filled wake up call for your relationship (as it was for ours), then make sure you are taking extra care to make that person feel loved, welcomed, appreciated, and supported.

You may have a host of negative feelings about your family right now, but remember – they are experiencing some form of racism, prejudice, or at the very least, misunderstanding. Counteract that experience with explicit acts of love.

9. How long am I willing to wait for my family to change their mind about this person?

Realize that years and years of a solidified mindset regarding an interracial relationship can’t change overnight. It took 2 years for my father to fully accept John in my life. It may take even longer than that in your situation, depending on the specific factors.

Patience is hard (trust me, I know), but it’s key.

10. Am I willing to accept that my family may never change their mind about this person or an interracial relationship in general?

The three main points of these questions are:

1) Recognition (of what the real issue that your family has is)

2) Acceptance (of the fact that they have this issue, and the fact that you’re in this situation), and

3) Action (taking intentional next steps after assessing the situation for what it is).

Acceptance is the most crucial part, because it solidifies the recognition and prompts whatever action you wish to take moving forward.

But it may also be the hardest to do. You may recognize that your parents/family/loved ones are likely not going to change their mind about your partner’s race, but that may be extremely hard to accept.

However, if you don’t, this will surely impact the beauty and potential of the relationship. You may feel like you have something to prove as your relationship continues. You may feel resentment in the future if your relationship with your family is ultimately ruined, because you did not accept those potential consequences for yourself at the forefront.

Whatever you decide to do, do it with acceptance set in stone. Acceptance of your feelings towards your family (whatever you decide those are), your feelings towards partner (however you’ve concluded you feel), and your trust in yourself.

Have you ever been in this situation? Let us know what sort of questions you asked yourself that might be helpful for others as well in the comments.

Did this resonate with you? Follow me on Instagram for more tips or apply for a free coaching session to talk through your unique situation.

Loving the old; exploring the new,


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