INTERRACIAL/INTERCULTURAL DATING LESSONS LEARNED…
My husband is my BFF, other whole, and King, etc. However dating and being married to him has presented a myriad of “interesting” familial experiences. These are familial experiences that are rarely if ever seen on US sitcoms that love to bring humor to family situations. Nonetheless these are realities that many of us in intercultural/interracial relationships may encounter/or have already encountered.
EXPLORING FAMILY DYNAMICS
What am I talking about? Well here is my take as an African-American woman that has dated and is married to an Indian man of 7 interracial/intercultural relationship dynamics. These are family dynamics that you too may experience/may have experienced and advice on dealing with these dynamics, where applicable:
1.) You are sitting down and conversing at dinner with your significant other’s parents and all of sudden they start speaking in their native tongue/Hindi. You find yourself in a quandary because you understand some or none of the words. They know you speak English. Intentional, who knows and what did they just say?
Advice: Ask your significant other later on what their parents were talking about. In order to find out why they felt the need to exclude you or test your knowledge of their language. It may not be intentional because sometimes expressions can be lost in translation or they just maybe more comfortable saying certain things in their native tongue.***However, and unfortunately this is not always the case (more to come on this).
2.) Adding on to#1, you may find yourself visiting with your significant other’s family and always watching television in their native tongue/Hindi. Their family may feel the need to encourage your (Hindi) language skills and you find them turning on the newest (Bollywood) movie(s) without subtitles.
Advice: If they ask you if you understand the movie without subtitles tell them what you understand. If you don’t understand anything tell them and politely ask them if they can turn on the subtitles. ***For humor, if you want to act like you understand even when you don’t, just act like do. How? Simply by laughing when everyone else laughs (laughter is contagious, isn’t it).
3.) Your boyfriend/husband will be seen as the dominant figure in your relationship and subsequent marriage. I know girls rock but most Indian families are very traditional.
Advice: Understand that some practices are socially ingrained.
4.) You may find yourself having to serve your future in-laws at their home during your first meeting. Of course you don’t know where the glassware, cutlery or dinnerware is they enjoy using.
Advice: Leverage your boyfriend/their child for help locating these items ahead of your meeting at his parents’ home. He did after all reside at this parents’ home or still lives there; if not, he will still have an easier time of figuring out where these items are than you will during a first meeting.
5.) You may find yourself never feeling equal to what could/would have been his Indian girlfriend or wife.
Advice: You aren’t Indian, you are you. Your significant other is with you because of whom you are. So be yourself! No one can ever take that away from you!
6.) You may find yourself needing to learn how to cook your significant other’s familial cuisine. If you have never cooked this particular cuisine (Indian food) before don’t worry. I hadn’t either. All things take time to perfect.
Advice: Have your significant other be your food critic for both your benefit and if all else fails get carry out. Yes, FAKE IT, until you can make it. Just make sure you know the ingredients that went into the dishes if you are serving it to others outside of your significant other. How do you figure this out? Ask the restaurant chef/staff/waiter what the dish or dishes are made of. A secondary option is to google the dish or dishes to find out the ingredients.
7.) You may find that there seems to continually be a need for another family discussion about something concerning his family and/or your relationship etc.?
Advice: Family discussions can be prevalent. See it as a positive and not a problem because it can be a great way for everyone to clear the air about something that is bothering them and it keeps the lines of communication open. If it becomes problematic lean on your significant other to nudge their parents on this in a constructive way.
OTHER FAMILY DYNAMIC TIPS
The above advice for #7 is also applicable to differences in religious practices between you and your significant other. If you don’t feel comfortable with performing certain familial rituals let your significant other know why etc. The lines of communication between you an your significant other are critical(e.g. the ultimate guide to meeting the parents).
Are you in an intercultural/interracial relationship? Do you have tips that you would like to share on this? Write us/post a comment. We would love to hear from you.