Before we answer how to make an interracial relationship work, first, we have to ask why interracial relationships fail? Why do relationships fail at all?
As a couple who has only been dating for about a year or so, we do not claim that we have the ultimate answer to why our relationship works. What we have are the lessons we took from our past relationships and our understanding of ourselves. We believe that before we let someone else enter our life and take part in important aspects of our being, each of us has to understand who we truly are, what we want in life, and what our values are.
Looking back on our previous relationships, especially when we’re both younger, it didn’t work because we want different things from our partners. Or worse, we didn’t even know what we wanted from them or the relationship. At first, the problem wouldn’t be a problem, because we were still in our honeymoon phase, and we wouldn’t be bothered asking the hard questions. As time went by, unfortunately, someone would feel dissatisfied because they didn’t get what they wanted. As a result, the relationship would fall apart.
Asking the right questions
To avoid that, in the early days, we started our relationship by asking brutally honest questions to each other:
- How do you define this relationship? What does it mean to you?
- Do you see us as exclusive? Do you want this to be exclusive?
- Is there a timeline/deadline for this arrangement?
By asking these questions, we took notes on what each of us wanted from one another, whether those things were aligned, or if we needed to compromise on. Answers to those questions led up to other questions until we both clarified each other’s intentions and needs.
Of course, asking those questions is only the first step to make the relationship work. We also need to address other important things which are essential for developing a working relationship.
Important things in our relationship
We realize that the joy of physical attraction and the insatiable craving of our partner will fade once we are out of the honeymoon phase of the relationship. At some point, those things alone are not enough to make the relationship work.
The basis of a relationship is communication. Even same-race/same-culture relationship can screw up communication. The problem with communications is not only finding the right words or delivering the right context but also understanding the nuance of meaning that the other person is conveying. And obviously, it’s not at all easy.
What we do is, we conduct a series of trials and errors. We do, we review, and we improve as we go.
Our life’s principles and values can consist of a lot of different things. It can be related to our religion, cultural upbringing, work ethic, and the list goes on. To structure them, we create a list of deal breakers: things that we have to have in our life which are non-negotiable.
For example, if you want a partner who shares the same faith and is actively involved in religious activities, but your partner is nowhere near that, then it can be a problem. One of you needs to change, otherwise, you have to end it. In our case, we are both atheists and do not believe in religion, so we don’t have a problem with that.
Compromise is a must. Both of us had surprised each other with things that we had taken for granted when we were single, with which we ended up offending one another.
One example. Jess is a very independent person. She likes to do things on her own: running errands, asking for directions, or completing a to-do list. Jess rarely asks other people’s feedback or approval because that’s just how she is. At the beginning of the relationship, because of how independent Jess was, Paul felt as if he was being left out because Jess decided on things and forgot that Paul wanted to be involved in the decision-making process. The good thing is: we talked about it, and we made compromises so it is not a problem anymore.
Resolving conflict is not as simple as, “okay, we have a problem, let’s decide on a solution”. The process of reaching a solution is just as important, if not more important.
Paul is a highly perceptive person. Jess, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. A lot of the time, it could be hard for her to sympathize with other people’s feelings. The good thing about it is that Paul always points out what’s wrong when our emotions and feelings are not in tune. He was also the one who suggested how we should resolve conflicts.
We believe in being brutally honest with each other. In this case, we agreed that we will say what’s on our mind when we were angry. No matter how difficult or painful it is. This would help us understand each other’s perspectives and lead the conversations from there.