Talking to and Coping with Parents Who Disapprove of Your Interracial Relationship

Love conquers all, but your parents may require some convincing from time to time. When you find happiness in an interracial relationship, it can be frustrating not to have the support of your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on them. You can persuade them to look past their prejudices and respect your decisions in a variety of ways. To assist you, we’ve compiled a list of suggestions for dealing with your parents’ disapproval of your interracial relationship.

Collette Gee, our professional dating coach and acclaimed author, was interviewed for this article. Check out the entire interview here.

1. Talk to your parents before they meet your partner.

Be prepared for their reactions. Don’t put your partner in a potentially hostile situation. If your parents do not approve of your relationship, sit down with them and discuss their feelings as well as your expectations ahead of time. You’ll get a sense of how they’ll react and whether you’ll feel comfortable introducing your partner to them this way.

It doesn’t have to be overly complex. Keep it simple and say something like, “Hi, mom and dad, can we talk?” or “Hey, mom and dad, I need to talk with you guys.” “May I drop by this weekend?”

It’s not fair to introduce your partner without first determining how your parents will react. You don’t want to jeopardise their first meeting.

2. Be very direct when you talk to your parents.

Just come out and say what you’re concerned about. Discuss how much you adore your partner and why you believe it is critical for them to meet. Make it clear to your parents that it is critical that they treat you and your partner with kindness and respect.

“This is my boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé, and I’m going to be with them,” try saying. They mean a lot to me, and I’d like you to meet them. But first, I want to make sure you’re willing to be civil and respectful.”

Don’t be a wuss about it. Get it out in the open so you can discuss it with your parents.

Be firm but kind in expressing how you feel. Avoid alienating or isolating your parents. Discuss how important they are to you and how much you love them.

3. Remind them of the values they taught you.

Tell them that the person you care about shares your values. Your parents most likely taught you to be kind and accepting of all people, regardless of race or religion. Discuss how you’re only following their advice. Make them see that their disapproval isn’t justified or consistent with what they’ve always claimed to support.

“You always told me to love everyone equally,” tell them. That’s exactly what I’m doing!”

You could also say something like, “I thought you’d be more open and accepting than this.” That’s what you taught me as a child.”

4. Address your parents’ concerns.

Thoughts should be challenged, but feelings should be validated. Your parents’ objections may be illogical to you, but they are most likely very real to them. Instead of shutting them down or telling them they’re wrong, listen to them out. If you disagree with their concerns, explain why gently.

For example, you could say something like, “I see you’re concerned about our future children, but those attitudes are changing.” We can all help to ensure that those prejudices become a thing of the past.”

Some objections will be more difficult to address or “fix.” For example, if your parents truly believe that people of other races are inferior, you may have to accept that you will be unable to have a rational discussion with them about the issue.

Even if you are unable to find common ground, you can acknowledge your parents’ feelings. “I know this is very upsetting to you, Mom, but I just don’t agree with you,” say.

5. Let your parents know you’re willing to sever ties.

Your parents must understand how serious you are about this matter. Tell your parents that you will not tolerate it if they do not respect your relationship or your partner. Say you’re willing to distance yourself from them and their prejudices if it means you’ll be happy.

Try saying, “I don’t want to cut you out of my life, but I will if you don’t respect my decisions.”

You could also say, “In my family, there is no room for hatred or prejudice.” If that’s what you want, I won’t be around you.”

Reiterate your desire for them to be a part of your life. For example, “I want you to attend my wedding and meet my children, your grandchildren.” That is not possible if you refuse to accept my partner.”

6. Set some ground rules with your parents.

It is critical to set firm boundaries. Sit down with your partner and decide what kinds of behaviours from your parents you are willing to tolerate — or are not willing to tolerate. Once you’ve established your boundaries, make them clear to your parents. Be gentle, but firm—tell them what will happen if they violate your boundaries, and do your best to follow through.

For instance, you could say, “Dad, it’s very hurtful when you make jokes about my boyfriend’s hair.” If you do that again, we’ll have to end the call.”

If you have specific concerns about how your parents will act, discuss them with them ahead of time. For example, you could say, “We’d like to come over for spring break this year, but I need to know that you won’t try to argue with Abeerah about her religion.”

You can also set boundaries for how you interact with your parents. For example, if you notice that things become tense when you are around them for extended periods of time, you could agree not to spend more than one day at their house.

7. Get comfortable with talking about race.

It’s very likely that it’ll come up again and again. Your parents may make some awkward or uncomfortable remarks from time to time. Whether on purpose or unintentionally, try to be open to explaining cultural or ethnic differences to them. Don’t be irritated or offended. Instead, use any opportunity to educate your parents that arises from a race.

For example, if your partner is Middle Eastern and Muslim, and your parents are serving ham or other pork products, explain gently why eating pork is not appropriate for your partner.

This does not preclude you from correcting your parents if they are incorrect. If they have negative stereotypes about your partner’s race, point them out and explain why it’s not acceptable.

8. Don’t minimize your partner’s differences.

Share some of your parents’ cultural and ethnic differences with them. Allow your partner to become a part of your family and for your parents to learn more about them. Encourage your parents to try new things and educate them on some of your partner’s cultural differences so they can learn more about them and their origins.

For example, you could have your partner cook a meal for your parents or introduce them to some of the music and entertainment they enjoy if they have never heard it before. It’ll be a lot of fun!

Don’t make your partner hide aspects of their identity. Allow them to be themselves in front of your parents.

9. Be patient and willing to teach your parents.

It may take some time for them to change their minds. While you are not required to conform to your parents’ prejudices, try to be understanding when it comes to learning new things about your partner. Give them credit for their willingness to try!

Don’t be frustrated or angry if your parents have never heard of some of your partner’s customs or culture. Instead, give them the opportunity to learn.

10. Talk to your partner about the issue.

Tell them how you feel about your parents. Dealing with unaccepting family members can be extremely difficult for both you and your partner, but it is critical that you be open and honest with them about it. Explain the problem and state unequivocally that you and your partner are on the same team. Tell them how important it is to you that they feel at ease and safe.

For example, you could say, “My parents have some really old-fashioned ideas about people of different races and cultures, and they’re not thrilled with us being together.” But I want you to know that I love you and that I’m rooting for you in this.”

If you are concerned about how your parents will act around your partner, inform them ahead of time. Make a plan for what you’ll do if things get out of hand. For example, “If they begin to be disrespectful, we will leave immediately.”

11. Take care of yourself and your partner.

Dealing with prejudice is difficult, especially when it comes from family members. Even if everyone is doing their best, a situation like this is bound to bring you and your partner down. Make self-care a priority and encourage your partner to do the same. Focus on strengthening your couple bonds by doing activities that you both find relaxing, fun, and meaningful.

You could, for example, take a yoga class together, go on daily walks as a couple, or work together on creative projects.

12. Build a strong support network.

Make an effort to connect with other interracial couples. They will most likely sympathise with your situation and may be able to offer helpful advice. If you don’t know anyone else in your situation, look for interracial couples meetups and support groups in your area.

Even if you don’t know any other interracial couples, make an effort to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your relationship.

13. Let your parents go if they refuse to respect your relationship.

If all else fails, put your own happiness first. Allow your parents the chance to change and accept your relationship. It is their choice whether or not to do so. You are not required to put up with their prejudice. Continue on with your life and be content with your partner.

Perhaps your parents will see the error of their ways in time. But you don’t have to put up with their negativity until then.

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