10 Common Problems Inside Interracial & Intercultural Marriage

The number of interracial marriages has grown in recent years – in fact, more than any time in history. A growth of 17% was observed from 1967 to 2015 in the United States alone. According to Pew Research News, one in every six marriages in the US are mixed marriages and 39% of adults believe that intermarriages are a good thing for society.

There is no doubt that the acceptance for this kind of relationship has increased throughout the years. With the increasing global acceptance, it’s not surprising that more interracial marriage problems start to appear on the surface as well.

My husband and I are both an interracial and intercultural couple. He is French/German American and I am East Asian. I was raised half in China and another half of my life in America which gave me a very interesting perspective identity. Despite the fact that my hubby and I get along fairly well in pretty much everything, I do make a mental note whenever we encounter problems. Occasionally there are some martial disagreements that wouldn’t have to happen if we had similar backgrounds.

As a controversial subject, a lot of people usually find it hard to talk about these kinds of subjects. Just off the top of my head, hubby and I disagree about the belief of what happens after death, how to properly discipline children or care of elderly parents, etc.

Here are the ten most common mixed marriage problems encountered all around the world.

1. Interracial Marriage Still Not Widely Accepted In Some Areas

It has been more than 50 years since interracial marriage became legal in the United States. This change hugely affected the number of mixed marriages in the country and in the whole world. However, five decades after the anti-miscegenation laws were abolished, there is still a stigma for this kind of relationship. In a study conducted by YouGov, almost 20% of the respondents think that interracial marriage is “morally wrong.”

Disapproval is probably one of the biggest interracial marriage problems even in modern society. Friends and family members will likely cut contact if they don’t approve of such relationships. In response, the couple and their children will also avoid contact with their disapproving family and friends to avoid unnecessary fights.

Either way, this is not a good thing for both the couple, their children, and their relationships with family and friends.

There’s also the slight handed comments and gestures that are expressed through passive racism. I have received my share of subtle racism as an Asian American, especially in older generations (born and raised before interracial marriage became legalized.)

2. Problems In Communication

Another example of common interracial marriage problems is the difficulty in the interaction between the two families. Reconciling differences between two families is already challenging for a lot of couples. What more if both families came from different parts of the world and are using a different set of culture and moral values? Who will adjust for the sake of the other?

One of the biggest problems when it comes to culture clash is the language barrier. It’s a tricky problem because one simple misinterpretation can mess up future relationships between families. Communication is very important, especially when dealing with people that are more accustomed to a very different culture.

3. Unwanted Attention

Although the acceptance of mixed marriages are now higher than before, there’s still the fact that a lot of people would still give unwanted attention to your relationship. Whether the attention is because of disapproval, curiosity, or intrigue, the fact that it is unwanted can cause a negative impact on mental health. In addition to feeling uncomfortable, there are some cases where intimidation/hostility is also observed.

Things don’t necessarily get better with mixed-race children because I noticed mixed children get a lot more curious glances and lots of side glances from other adults – most of them simply curious to see – what mixed-raced children look like.

Instead of focusing on this unwanted negativity, focus instead on things that strengthen you and your partner. Work on your goal as a couple and improve your relationship by avoiding unnecessary stress. Remember that a relationship is based on two people with separate identities, and ethnicity is just one of those identities. It should not really be a big deal when it comes to marriage.

4. Marrying With A Wrong Motive

One of the biggest interracial marriage problems right now is marrying with a wrong motive. Just like Friedrich Nietzche said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” You can also apply it to marriages with wrong motives. The longer you stay in a relationship without genuinely caring about the other person, the longer you would feel unhappy.

The most common of all wrong motives in mixed marriages are gaining social status by marrying someone with a different race. Another one is because of rebellion against parents, family, or friends. Feeling of inferiority could also be one of the reasons why someone marries another person of different ethnicity. Being Eastern Asian, I am often mistaken as submissive by ignorant men who hit on me. Thankfully I would never marry a man who thinks I’m so submissive kitchen wench!

Either way, marriages with wrong motives will usually fall apart sooner or later because the reason for marriage was wrong.

5. Difference In Cultural Values

A marriage within two people with different ethnicity is not just a marriage between families and two individuals. It is a fusion of two different culture, which might or might not have a lot of differences. In a marriage ruled by two different cultures, a clash on what culture should be dominant is inevitable. Both would want to make sure that their culture would not be overshadowed by their partner’s culture.

To overcome this problem, both parties should make an effort in learning each other’s cultures and understand their importance. Culture is not something that can be removed from someone’s identity. Instead of fighting for dominance, use the best of both cultures to enhance your experience in daily life. Create opportunities that demonstrate the good things in each other’s culture to improve your life and your relationship.

6. Conflicting Parenting Approach

Parenting is one of the biggest interracial marriage problems encountered in the world, especially in places like the United States, where different cultures meet each other on a daily basis. Biracial children will grow up in different cultures trying to make sense of things based on how the parents act around them. Both parents would want to raise their child the way they are raised. This might become a challenging aspect of mixed marriage life, especially if both parents cannot meet eye to eye when it comes to their children’s needs. The difference in parenting style might also bring difficulties in finding self-identity later on in life.

A good example of this problem education. Western-style parenting is more laid-back, letting the child learn from his or her mistakes and discover things with individual pace and term. On the other hand, Eastern-style parenting is focused on discipline and structure, telling the child what he or she would be doing at a particular age. To get the best of both worlds, both cultures should be introduced equally. The child is a part of both cultures, and he or she should embrace both.

7. Negative Stereotyping

If disapproval is not bad enough already, an interracial couple can also receive negative stereotyping. Negative stereotyping happens when a person is attributed to negative traits and characteristics just because they are part of one specific group. Receiving negative remarks and judgments by people can give a mental toll to both parents and their children. This kind of stereotyping can change and affect behaviors for the worst.

Coping up with negative stereotyping could be hard at the beginning. But knowing and remembering what’s more important than other people’s opinions is a good place to start. Moving into a friendlier neighborhood can be a good step too.

8. Religious Divergences

Even couples who respect each other’s religions can sometimes find problems because of different views. There are holidays and celebrations that are different in each religion. Would your family celebrate the holidays for Roman Catholic religion or would you follow the holidays in Mormonism?

What is the food that will be forbidden inside your home? There are religions that forbid eating pork, which might be an issue for the partner who is not part of the religion.

Most interracial families choose to follow one religion, which means that one of the partners would have to abandon his or her old religion. However, if both the partner decide to retain their religion, each party should make an adjustment in order to enjoy each of their religion without compromising the other party’s belief.

9. Relocation Problems

Another issue that can affect the relationship is the relocation needed to start a family. Relocation is unavoidable, either one or both of them will have to relocate to start a new family. If you want to see your friends and family, the distance is larger than before. Instead of just an hour or more of driving from one state to another, you need to board a plane to see your loved ones. Homesickness would be hard in the first months after the wedding, but this problem can be solved by planning trips several times a year.

10. Culture Shock

And last but not least, an interracial couple might encounter difficulties in culture shock at the beginning of the marriage. Since there are different expectations in different cultures, the other partner might feel alienated by culture shock. A proper introduction to a different culture is a must. Learn the official and unofficial rules and language in your new home country. Try to make new friends and develop new relationships to learn more about the aspects of your new country’s environment.

Honorable Mention:

OH oh, and on the phone, my in-laws tells each other “love you” before hanging up. WHAT THE HELLO. Real Chinese people DON’T DO THAT. We just hang up; at least in my life. We are not the sweet, huggy type and we certainly will never say the word ‘Love’ unless something tradgeyly happened. So when my husband and I are getting off the phone with my in-laws who always say I love you – everyone says a round of “love you” and I’m like uh, OK bye-bye…?

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