In my last blog entry, I touched on the effect of interracial dating can have on mental health. I felt it was important to discuss since interracial dating has become more common through the years. Generations are moving beyond staying bounded to their past. I encourage, and reiterate, the concept about- “you love who you love.”
There is a darker truth that can surround interracial dating, and that is the trauma that comes with it. Sometimes it isn’t physical trauma, but it can be mental or emotional. Physical trauma obviously being that there was something physically done to the individual. Whether it be bruising, hitting, spanking, etc., physical trauma in an ANY relationship should never be okay.
I feel as though there is more emotional or mental trauma that comes from interracial dating than physical. This does come from lack of understanding about race, and lack of communication. Including the family, the cultural differences, and the rest of the burdens that come from interracial dating it is isn’t easy for either couple.
I can really speak from experience when I dated my ex who I also mentioned briefly in the last blog post. He is of both West Indies and African American descent, but in America that only registers as black. I don’t feel as though I need to go into detail about being a black male in America, so I will cut to having to learn about that burden through him.
My ex would constantly go into detail about the struggle and how dating him would also put me in the line of fire. After 4 years being with him, I was enlightened to all that came from being an interracial couple and the struggle of being black in America. The aftereffects have still left an impact on me. I am skittish around cops, I’m aware of my skin color and what it can imply to others, and I am fully aware of how awful people can be.
It was a mental and emotional burden to have to keep up with my culture but also adapt to my ex’s culture. Knowing I am seen different and have to take upon his struggle was also a lot to deal with at times. Knowing I cared about him a lot, I knew that it would be worth the time to learn and be there for him the best I could. The biggest thing I learned from being in an interracial relationship is, just because you are dating someone of a different race doesn’t mean you get to associate to that race. I dated a black man, but I knew that didn’t mean I took on the black struggle or fully understood what it was like. I did my best to understand, and that is what anyone can expect being in an interracial relationship.
Besides the trauma of racial differences there is the trauma that comes with dealing with the family. I feel that trauma can come in two forms, where the first is if the relationship doesn’t work out because of family, or the family causes trauma throughout the relationship. Before I get into it, my only comment to it is that families need to understand the couple rather than project onto the couple.
In the first circumstance, which I believe is worse, the family causes the couple to split. My family may not have caused us to split, but I do remember my parents telling me to either chose them or him. I was young so I foolishly chose my ex but looking back at it my parents didn’t choose the best way to disapprove my relationship. It was my first relationship, and it ended up being interracial and quite traumatic.
I felt after my ex, I would never be allowed to speak to anyone outside my South Asian community. While I date, I am now very conscious of how my parents would feel, even if it was the first date. I am normally nervous if I date someone that was the same race as my ex because it feels like it would be an instant “no”. I know I will love who I love, but with what I had gone through, it is almost PTSD that it will happen all over again.
I gained a lot of strength after my last relationship, but I doubt I have the strength to deal with my parents and their approval/disapproval again. I encourage anyone in the same situation to understand that not all relationships are meant to be. Don’t be completely sueded by your family, but don’t also ignore them. You make your own decision, and from there you just learn and grow.
In the circumstance that you face trauma throughout your relationship because of family, I can only say to continue to be strong. If you truly believe in your relationship and know it is strong, your family will come to understand and eventually support it fully. Before my ex and I broke up, my family did accept him after a few years, and it was worth the wait. Granted the breakup didn’t help, but that is beside the point.
I can speak again only on my trauma I faced during my past relationship. After I chose my ex, my family and I didn’t talk for almost 2 years. I was alone, I was miserable, and I felt I lost a bit of myself. I believed if I had my SO’s (significant other) support I would be okay. I will say for anybody in an interracial relationship that is close with their family: your family is very important. Do not choose between your family and partner. Talk it out and come to a sort of arrangement, but do not push your family away. Depending on your relationship with your folks, they will be there for you over anything and everything and your partner may not.
A relationship is never worth sacrificing your family over. If anything, I know I had experienced internal trauma adjusting to not having my family with me during my relationship. I feel if I had their support, or advice, my circumstance would have been different. But without them, all I had was my significant other and it wasn’t always the best advice to listen to.
Interracial relationships can be hard, but it is all about understanding and communication. I stress communication the most. Talk, talk, always talk. Ask questions, be open about your feelings and thoughts, just in general about anything you have questions on. It will make the transition easier, and acceptance easier.
Believe in yourself and the rest of it will always fall into place.