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3 Things to Remember When Dating Outside Your Race

by Eharmony Editorial Team - March 20, 2011

Of course, there's no one guidebook that applies to every interracial relationship out there.

Of course, there’s no one guidebook that applies to every interracial relationship out there. The challenges you’ll face, as well as their intensity, will depend on various factors: whether you grew up with similar socio-economic backgrounds, if you live in a big city or small town, and which races are involved. Some interracial relationships are bound to be more racially charged and “eventful” than others, like when a Caucasian man dates an African-American woman in the South, or a Mexican woman falls for an Indian man who comes from a traditional family.

With 1 in 7 new marriages in the United States today being between people of different races or ethnicities, however, it’s quite possible you’ll find yourself dating someone of another race. Here are three tips should you go down that potentially bumpy, yet rewarding path:

Be sensitive to their feelings

We can never fully understand someone else’s life experiences and how those situations led to their unique point of view. For example, if an African-American man grew up with salespeople following him around stores as though he might steal something, do you think that affected his opinions and beliefs about how the world works? We’re guessing it did. On the flip side, a white man raised in the suburbs probably didn’t have to think about race every single day, so racial issues aren’t likely at the forefront of his mind as an adult.

Just be aware that the person you’re dating may be sensitive about subjects to which you just can’t relate. A woman of color might take offense if you refer to her as “exotic”, even if you just thought you were giving her a compliment. She may have had previous experiences that make her think you just want to fulfill a fantasy or aren’t taking her seriously if you use that particular word.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid assuming your partner feels a certain way just because of their race. They may react strongly to certain things you don’t, and could care less about others you might expect them to. Instead of judging how your significant other feels by how you think they should feel, accept it as it is. There’s no need to walk on eggshells – and why would you want to in a relationship anyway? – but being understanding about their point of view can only strengthen the relationship.

Focus on the thickness of your skin, not necessarily the color

You may want to work on toughening up for the inevitable issues you will face together. One day, someone will surely make an offensive comment, or you’ll hear from an extended family member who doesn’t fully approve. It can help to remember that you two are a team, one that requires the support of both its members. You want to be there for your partner and stand up for them, just as you’d want them to do for you.

The truth of the matter is, Joe’s great-aunt may never accept you.  If Ravi’s parents grew up in India and have high hopes for him having an Indian bride, they might never change their minds.  The sooner you can learn not to take things personally, even though it’s not always easy and may take some time, the happier you will be. Hopefully, you’ll get to the point where you’re so strong in who you are as a person, as well as a couple, that it won’t matter what other people think. You can just chalk it up to their ignorance with a, “Well, we’re so happy, who cares?”

Talk, talk, talk

This is great advice for any couple, but particularly an interracial one. If you don’t tell your partner when his friend’s racial comments make you uncomfortable, he’ll probably have no idea. But if you tell him how you feel, you can both figure out how to handle the situation should it arise again. You may decide that your guy will take the lead and say something to his friend next time, or maybe you just won’t hang around with that particular friend together anymore.

Yes, being an interracial couple will affect how you interact with the world, since you’ll deal with it together, yet from two different perspectives. Your eHarmony matches were sent to you based on compatibility factors, however. These common similarities suggest you two have a foundation for a successful relationship.  So, focus on the reasons you fell for your guy or gal in the first place. Your different racial backgrounds can even make you stronger as a couple if you let them. Besides, at the end of the day, your partner is just a person. Just like you.