Interracial Relationships: Can It Work?

by Asma Hassan

Note: The names in this article have been changed to protect the interviewees.

As if “normal” relationships aren’t hard enough as it is, a long distance relationship takes bonds to the next level by testing trust, longing and patience. Making matters worse are relationships of lovers with a large age difference, causing problems related to maturity, understanding and commitment. Then there are the relationships with the “unfaithfuls,” the “hopeless romantics,” and the list goes on.

Whatever the case and background of a relationship, there is really no such thing as a “normal” relationship. Our elders assure us that “it is okay,” that a little bit of lover’s quarrels here and there are actually healthy for any relationship. Interracial relationships, though common, also have their own trials and tribulations for not only the lovers, but their families as well. The most common element of obstacles in an interracial relationship includes the following:

Cultural differences – This being anything from family (think wedding) traditions to lifestyles (think clothing, family gatherings, family politics, politics politics, etc.).

“Culture was not an issue for me when I met Sean because I am pretty Americanized – considering I was in the states permanently since I was six,” said Aaliyah. “Our generation is one of the most culturally accepting – and I am all about bringing races together and I connect with Americans way more than Desi’s or people that hang out with “their own kind” – and I just do better around people who are different.”

Religious differences – Though this obstacle may be mutually overcome between the lovers, it will usually be the families who have issues with the differing religions.

“Sean and I understand each other’s religion,” said Aaliyah. “I have gone to church with Sean and his family. When my friend passed away this year, Sean was comfortable about coming to the Mosque to mourn her death. We are accepting and understanding and even interested in each other’s religion. We are both very open minded, I don’t ask him to convert, I just ask him to understand and appreciate and vice versa.

However, though Aaliyah and Sean understand and accept each other’s religious differences, the parents already have preconceived notions of how their children should be living.

“On Father’s day I mentioned to Sean’s mom that it was my friend’s wedding and I would have loved for Sean to dress up in a traditional Pakistani outfit – and she was very upset at that notion. She didn’t want him to dress up in that outfit, and also mentioned and clarified that she wanted her grandchildren to be raised Christian,” said Aaliyah.

But the parents can say what they want, according to Aaliyah and Sean, Aaliyah says that “As far as religion is concerned, Sean and I have agreed that when we have children – it will be their decision as to which religion to follow.”

Language barriers – Love knows no boundaries, unless of course you can’t understand each other. Even if the couple understands each other’s words completely, there may be certain phrases or tones that have cultural influences and significances that one may find offensive or unacceptable

Aaliyah claims that “Sean and I have not had any problems related to language barriers. We have fights all the time, but luckily we mostly understand each other – and Sean even loves to learn a few words or lines of Urdu here and there to impress me.”

Aaliyah and Sean have had to keep their relationships under wraps from Aaliyah’s parents. Aaliyah said, “I haven’t told my parents that Sean and I are together because they would not accept it. When I do tell them beginning of next year, the only thing I know is that I will be very scared of their reaction.”

Sean’s parents are well aware of the situation and slowly have come to terms with it. Aaliyah now has a very healthy relationship with her future in-laws and she has already picked her absolutely gorgeous wedding dress and stunning ring. Aaliyah is willing to accept whatever reaction and decision her parents make regarding her white American fiancé, be it ‘disowning’ her.

Not all interracial relationships are as seemingly as calm and close to perfect as Aaliyah and Sean’s. If both parties are not 100% committed to sacrificing a lot of themselves and accepting the grey that exists in black and white, it’s most likely not going to work out.

What do you think of interracial relationships, their obstacles and their chances of survival? Do you think color matters or is love blind to it all?

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