Guidelines for Dating Outside of Your Race, Heritage or Background
Once taboo, interracial relationships are on the rise in the United States. Dating interracially is not without its unique challenges and my own experience is no different in this regard.
I am a Korean-American woman who grew up in Boston, with strict, conservative, religious Korean parents. Although educated in the US, fluent in English and with many close American friends, my parents reminded me often that I am more Korean than American. The all-White suburb of Boston where I grew up didn’t reflect the diversity my parents imagined existed there or that I see in New York City, where I have lived since college.
In high school, I had a boyfriend who was White. He was a good kid, smart, hard working and grounded. He was the sort of boy most parents would want their daughters to bring home. However, my dad wouldn’t have it because of his race. In fact, my dad disowned me and threatened to withdraw my college tuition so that I couldn’t move to New York City for school. Don’t worry, I harbor no negative feelings towards my parents today but back then, it was a different story.
Since high school, for the most part, I have been in interracial relationships. It’s not an intentional decision but that’s what I know and prefer. Correctly or incorrectly, I associate Asian men as more likely to be sexist and chauvinist because that is also what I know. My choice, however, is not without consequence. Even my American-born and raised Korean college buddies have made snide comments about how I abandoned our culture and men. Yes, it’s about their insecurity, not mine.
As a relationship expert and dating coach, I can only take you as far and as deep as where I have been and I have been to a lot of places. I can tell you to do the work and invest in yourself because I talk the talk and walk the walk. I have invested much energy, resources and hard work to become fully aligned with who I am today. You cannot disavow your history if you appreciate your present.
Here are some guidelines for dating someone outside of your race, heritage or background:
- Dating Pool: You can’t control whom you fall in love with (entirely – unless you ignore your instincts and pick someone wrong for you, willingly). As so many people remind me daily, it’s hard enough to find a “soul mate” without decreasing your potential dating pool by something as “superficial” as skin color. If dating a certain race only is a preference – we all have preferences – check yourself to make sure it is not rooted in a superiority complex or racial biases. So, the next time you want to complain about not being able to find good men to date, consider the size of your potential dating pool. What restrictions have you imposed, perhaps hastily and without much thought?
- Expect & Accept Differences: Even if you are dating or married to someone of the same heritage, race and religious beliefs, you’re still dealing with a COMPLETELY different person. Each of you comes to the relationship with a unique set of experiences, childhoods, personalities and relationship constructs. Additionally, you may have to learn about and accept some of these cultural experiences. Someone I dated in my twenties routinely brought home all of his dates to meet his parents. There were no expectations of him from his parents as they expected their son to date freely and that they would meet his dates. On the other hand, I could not introduce anyone to my parents unless I was sure I would marry him. Different culturally driven expectations are not a big deal in and of themselves. It only became complicated when that boyfriend became upset when I didn’t introduce him to my parents. He took it personally and made it about him instead of understanding that there was a bigger picture. BE RESPECTFUL even if you don’t understand. Realize that you might not understand unless you have walked in the other person’s shoes.
- Communicate Openly & Often: Talk about your differences openly and, more importantly, discuss your expectations and unspoken rules. On a recent episode of the popular television series, This Is Us, a misunderstanding arose between one of the White main characters and the Black woman he is dating. In the episode, her character didn’t want to get her hair wet. He thought she was being shallow about her hair and failed to understand that it went deeper than that. Don’t be ashamed of your culture and all that is you. Embrace it and help to broaden your partner’s perspective by talking about things openly. Introduce each other to the types of foods you grew up eating and the rituals you practiced. My White brother-in-law who grew up in Connecticut, bought Korean history books before meeting my parents. He even learned a few Korean words to impress them. He is a thoughtful, and wonderful husband, father and son-in-law.
- Create Your Own Tradition as a Couple: Yes, most families have their own traditions especially around the holidays. Some enjoy turkey at Thanksgiving but I prefer duck. Some families open Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, others on Christmas day. Some go to services, others don’t. Be respectful of your family’s traditions but do also take time as a couple to start creating your own. You’re not wedded to doing things the same way your parents did. Really, you’re not. Ask yourself often why you are doing what you are doing.
- Be Open Minded: When you approach life with zest and embrace all that comes your way, you’re not worried about limitations or perceived limitations. Set an intention to try things outside of your comfort zone. Maybe dating someone of a different race isn’t for you. That’s OK, it’s your life but ask yourself why that is the case. Is it because you’re afraid that your parents won’t love you as much or you’ll bring shame to your family? I get that you want to please your parents but you have to live your own life and create benchmarks for happiness that make sense FOR YOU. These need not be what you learned during the first 18 years of life nor what your friends and social circle says is acceptable. Live your fullest life by being open to the world. There is so much to experience, beyond the cocoon in which we shelter ourselves. Discomfort is the price of growth.
As for my parents, they changed their minds about disowning me eventually. Sure, as a 17-year-old about to embark on college life, it was traumatic to realize that everything I did was conditional for my parents. No child wants to feel that they don’t have a safe and secure place to fall.
I have spent thousands of dollars seeking professional help, reading hundreds of books and continually learning and working on myself. All of my experiences make me who I am today and I embrace myself with all that I am. I had to learn the hard way that I had to envision what my life would look like and create it for myself. My parents’ perspective was and still is very limited. I eventually found a way to divorce myself from the spoken and unspoken expectations that my parents and culture had placed on me for years. This state is where true freedom lies.
At the end of the day, you’re all you have. Love yourself enough to create the life that you envision and become the person you choose to be every single day. As my Instagram post says, “I’m not a gambler, but if I had to bet, I’d bet on me.”
All content on this website is the property of The Art of Dating, LLC and is copyrighted and trademarked. Permission must be obtained before republishing any content.