As a hopeless romantic and new partner, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to maintain strong relationships. We all know it’s not. But consider adding yet another layer to the mix. different ethnicities, cultures, or beliefs. So I sat down with her three interracial couples and talked about what they learned…
Lauren and Hasan
Lauren and Hasan met in college. Lauren is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. Hassan is the son of Pakistani immigrants and was raised in a devout Sunni Muslim family. What surprised me was how these differences didn’t cross their minds when they embarked on their relationship, and it helped that Hasan’s family was so accommodating from the start. But Lauren’s family was a different story…
Lauren: I kept our relationship a secret for six years. We lived together but pretended to be roommates. I wanted to give my parents a chance to get to know Hasan. Then we got a dog and my parents suspected. Who gets a dog with a roommate, so I told her mom the truth—right down there in the laundry room. And she ran upstairs and told my father. From there it was like a scary scene in a bad movie. They opposed Hassan because he exaggerated his non-Jewish ignorance of Islam. There was a lot of yelling that day, followed by a flood of texts and emails. It was incredibly hurtful and traumatic. Hassan and I got engaged soon after, but they didn’t approve of it. My grandmother did.
Imagine how difficult it would be to try to build a life with your partner knowing that it might cost your family. She asked Lauren how she dealt with it.
Lauren: I felt strongly that their stance was wrong and selfish. I stopped responding to their angry calls and kept my boundaries tight. Years later, Hassan is now his beloved son-in-law. My parents know he is a great father and love our children to death. But they have not fully reconciled the trauma they caused us over the years.Luckily I have a good therapist! And I always admire how Hasan handled it. He was very patient.
I, too, marveled at Hassan’s calmness. Where there might have been resentment, there was an enormous amount of grace.
Hasan: Our relationship has made me more open-minded. I was raised to think that Jews are this and Jews are that. And in our culture, Pakistani Muslims think Hindus are this and Indians are that. When a Jewish woman married into our family, it changed my family and changed me.
Lauren’s parents, still wanting to clarify, sometimes ask, “Is this a Muslim home?” Is this a Jewish family? is it neutral? The answer is that Hasan and Lauren incorporate various traditions and holidays into their home to help their two young children understand and celebrate their identities.
Ailsa and David
Ailsa and David met while serving in the military. David is still a Marine and is currently stationed in North Carolina. Ailsa was raised in a large Dominican family in the Bronx, while David was raised by a single mother in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Immediately Ailsa told me: She always imagined marrying a man of her own culture who “understood” her. When she and David met, they were “no expectations” friends. David, on the other hand, has always been interested in other cultures. From Costa Rica to Russia, he has been stationed in dozens of countries around the world for many years.
David: My mother was surprised that I was with Ailsa because I hadn’t been in the military for a long time. It was less about race than her mother adjusting to sharing me with another woman.
Ailsa: Some of our biggest cultural differences center around expectations of family time. I have a big person I want to be with. Chaotic with lots of food. And David’s family vacation was quieter than usual. He’s German and more stoic.
As is often the case, another cultural learning about hair was born.
Ailsa: David couldn’t understand why I spent so much time straightening my hair. He loved curly hair. But I was told that he goes to the salon every week to get his hair done and chemically treated. Oh my God, we were trying to adapt. Even after I started to look natural, people around me asked me, “Do you walk with that hair?” But David helped me hold my hair. And now he spends 6-8 more hours in the salon.
Connecting with others can reflect your culture in a spectacular way. For David and Ailsa, it comes down to helping their daughters come to terms with being biracial. The children had to start a new school because the family moved frequently with the military. social groups are often segregated by race.
Ailsa: Growing up in New York, I knew I was Hispanic, but I never saw my friends as “white girls” or “black kids.” they were just friends. Then when I was 15 or so, oh, it seemed like we were really different. I worked hard to understand . But it was a challenge. We were stationed in Florida when the girls were young. I have a lot of Jewish friends and hi joined her on her holiday. When we moved to North Carolina, people asked the girls, are you Jewish or Christian? They said, “Oh, we are Jews.” And I’m not.
I was curious if David and Ailsa felt differently about their relationship in the wake of all the social upheaval of 2020.
Ailsa: I realized how much of an advocate David has been to me. He constantly listens, reads and tries to get better. I am the only woman of color at military events and sometimes I have microaggressions like, “Who are you?” I always felt safe and I am grateful for our marriage. I realized that it was because David had been showing up for me all along.
rakesh and john
A gay bar in San Francisco is the backdrop for this meet cute in 2012. Rakesh caught the eye of a handsome stranger. Rakesh is the son of Indian immigrants living in Ohio and John is white from Wisconsin. Two of his things that inspired them to fall in love with each other were that both families were supportive of cross-cultural connections, and that the two men already had diverse social circles. That’s it.
Rakesh: One of the things I appreciated was that John didn’t limit his relationships with people by race. For example, when I met two of his college friends with whom he spoke at length, they were Asian American. And it wasn’t like it was some kind of accomplishment, like emphasizing what he said, like, “Oh, so so are my black friends.” It spoke to the fact that having was so ingrained that I expected it to feel unremarkable.
John: I came out to my parents when I started dating Rakesh, so there was a lot to sift through with them. It was complicated, but racing wasn’t my number one priority.
We talked about this intersectionality, which is in the minority as both interracial and same-sex couples, and how people react, especially when couples leave the New York City “bubble” and travel to their hometowns in the Midwest. bottom.
Rakesh: People are always surprised that we are a same-sex couple. For example, when checking into a hotel, it can take a second or so even if people establish the connection. Race is more prominent when you’re in a place that doesn’t have a lot of interracial couples and we he could be friends of the two so what stands out is in our direction It’s not that I’m a non-white person in that space.
John: On the flip side, we’ve also had reactions from people who are happy to see us as a couple. Shortly after we started dating, we were holding hands on the beach when a white girl in rollerblades walked past us and said, “You guys make me happy.” It didn’t feel pedantic or othering. She found it cute that we were so affectionate, which was the exact opposite of what she was worried about.
This kind of celebration speaks volumes as we see the number of same-sex couples steadily increasing. Another demographic trend: Homosexual couples are more likely to be interracial than heterosexual couplesIn 2016, John and Rakesh decided to elope, but said the advantage of the big wedding was surrogacy.
Rakesh: An Indian friend of mine from Ohio, where I grew up, said he wanted a proper wedding for people to see. Same-sex religious weddings were a sight to behold for our South Asian community to attend.
John: When I visited Rakesh’s family after they eloped, Rakesh’s mother puja to celebrate our marriage. It really meant to me that it was important to her to spread the practice, because I don’t think the puja was given to gay marriage.
We left these conversations inspired by the apparent connection between these couples. . And for all the divisions we have, when stereotypes weaken and people tune in to the noise, love wins, there are no better lessons to be learned in his February of this year.
christine pride Writer, book editor, content consultant. her upcoming novel, you were always mineCo-authored with Jo Piazza, will be released this June. She lives in Harlem, New York. find her on her instagram @cpride.
PS More Race Matters column, and “Crazy Rich Asians Mistakes”.
(Portrait of Christine Pryde Christine HanAll other photos were provided by the couple. )