Interracial Relationships Advice – Interracial Relationships, Everything to Know

Despite how many times you’ve heard claims from people who “don’t see color,” (This! Is! Called! A! Microaggression!) race exists. And whether we like it or not, it’s ingrained into so many facets of our society. Even if you had the privilege of not realizing it before, you’re hopefully definitely realizing it now.

With protests against police brutality going on their third month, a new election cycle underway, and a global pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities—it’s getting pretty difficult to go around claiming race doesn’t matter.

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And for some people—because of who they are or who they choose to love—race is the most significant aspect of their lives. Especially for people in interracial relationships.

While you might think it’s easy enough to just say “you love you who love” and leave it at that, interracial relationships, like any relationships, take a lot of work and a whole lot of understanding. With everything going on, it really comes down to communication and being open about how you perceive the world. But don’t just take it from me.

These eight couples told me what it’s like being in an interracial relationship, how they work to better understand each other, and what advice they’d give to others learning to navigate their different backgrounds, cultures, and traditions. Read on for all the love and inspo.

Jennifer Marbella, 22, and Izabella Morris, 22

interracial relationship couple

Jennifer Marbella

What they learned

“With Izabella being Black, Puerto Rican, and non-binary, it was important for me to understand their different cultural experiences, including the prejudices they faced. This ranged from natural hair care, to police brutality, to the higher mortality rate for Black people with ovaries. Understanding these fundamental differences were key in our relationship and allowed us to grow and flourish. Izabella has spent years constantly having to second guess how to present themselves in public settings such as to speak (code switching) or even how to style their natural hair and not face backlash, all of which I had never had to second guess for myself. It was important for me to understand and appreciate Izabella’s culture while learning the length they go to preserve their cultural identity while facing discrimination.—Jennifer

What you can do if you’re navigating an interracial relationship

“A person needs to have interest in their partner’s culture first and foremost. Being with someone of a different cultural background than your own takes some self-education along with the help of your partner. This consists of reading, asking questions, and participating in cultural events both large and small. Communicating with you partner about their culture allows you to gain new knowledge and a deeper level of appreciation for the culture. Developing this knowledge and understanding of your partner’s culture ultimately leads to better communication and understanding within your own relationship.” —Jennifer

Advice they’d give to others

“Be honest. When building the foundation for your relationship, it’s important to communicate to your partner when you’re confused or simply don’t know about their heritage or other cultural differences. The most impactful thing in our relationship is being able to communicate our differences and understand why we have those differences. Communicate to your partner how these issues affect not only yourself, but your community. It’s easy to disagree or brush it under the rug because you don’t fully understand its context. We would challenge any other interracial relationship to have an open discussion on culture, race, and how the prejudices they have faced impacted them. By taking the time to acknowledge your differences and understand them, the relationship will be stronger.” —Jennifer

Nada Ibrahim, 24, and Daniel Riccardi, 26

interracial relationship couple

Nada Ibrahim

Their biggest challenges

It’s been hard trying to break the news to my parents that I am dating outside of both my ethnicity and religion, but, customs are changing. And my siblings are helping them understand his great qualities as a person. I’m excited that I’ve been teaching my partner Arabic. Neither one of us is interested in having children, but if we do, I’d like to pass down the language to them.” —Nada

What advice they’d give to others

“It’s important to take things slow. It’s okay if either one of you is unfamiliar or nervous about your different cultural customs. Introducing each other to little aspects of each other’s life day-by-day will help reduce confusion or hesitation from a partner. At the end of the day, this is something new to them and they’ll make the effort to incorporate it into their lives as well.” —Nada

Anqa Khan, 24, and Futaba Shioda, 26

interracial relationships couple

Meg Bird Photography

How they make it work

“I think we have created a language of being honest if one of us feels that the other isn’t taking the time to learn about the things that are important to us, both culturally and beyond. I took it upon myself to read the Quran and Anqa created a study group so that I could have a community learning experience. We do random activities like having dates where we learn one thing about each other’s communities, watch Bollywood or Miyazaki movies from each other’s childhoods, or cook each other recipes we were raised with. If we enter spaces that are specific to one of us, we try to prepare the other for what to expect of the people and environment. And we try to voice our opinions on those experiences without criticizing or making bold assumptions or statements about the other’s culture. Being queer and transgender, our entries into cultural spaces are usually also queer and that gives us a common ground.” —Futaba

What others should know

“Being with another person is about being genuinely excited and curious about them as people and to naturally expand both of your worlds. It requires an understanding of dynamics and privileges both outside and inside of your relationship.” —Futaba

Maheen Epstein, 30, and Joey Epstein, 30

interracial relationship couples

Maheen Epstein

Their biggest challenges

My parents and I didn’t speak for nine months when I told them that I wanted to move in with Joey before marriage. They wanted us to get a Nikka, or an Islamic marriage contract, but the timing didn’t feel right for either of us. It didn’t help that he came from a different background. But we stayed firm in our stance and wanted them to be understanding of cultures outside of their own. Now, we’ll have been married for five years in November. My parents finally came around and see Joey for the caring, helpful, friendly, and hilarious person that he is.” —Maheen

Advice they’d give to others

“Listen to the story behind why an aspect of someone’s culture is different from yours instead of assuming that it is antiquated or wrong. Try to find ways to embrace both cultures. Things may start off rocky at first, especially when families are involved, but if you’re meant to be together, you will power through and come out stronger on the other side of that hurdle.—Maheen

How they make it work

“We had very different upbringings and some of those upbringings we learned as kids are still part of our life. When there are differences, we will talk through them but go in with the understanding that the other person may not get it or agree, and that’s okay!” —Maheen

Saned Elfahmy, 22, and Mary Advincula, 24

interracial relationship couples

Mary Advincula

Their biggest challenges

“Our communication style is very different because of how we were raised. My partner grew up more rigid and closed off, while I learned to be more open and confrontational. This presented tension in the beginning because we both value communication, especially when other parties are involved that may be causing hurt feelings. When it came to the differences in our cultures, it used to be easy for him to sweep his feelings under the rug or for me to be upfront with him about it when he was not used to talking about things that bothered him. As time went on, we found ways to overcome these differences in communication so that we could get to the root of what was bothering us, which helped significantly when it came to the pressures we were receiving from our families.” —Mary

What they want you to know

“You won’t always find understanding people who will see your love for love and not as a stereotypical fad. This backlash will give you days that you wonder to yourself if it’s worth it. What they cannot take away from you is the love you share between you and your partner. But it’s important to communicate when you feel your worries may be consuming you. Through each moment when we received an ounce of backlash, it was validating at the end of the day to speak directly to my partner about how these moments made us feel and how we could work to not take outside opinions personally. Sitting down and talking about how situations make us feel and comparing it to how we see each other helps us not to lose sight of who we are together. It’s easy to succumb to the opinions and potential hatred others may push onto you; what you must focus on is choosing your partner every day and knowing that you two are in this relationship — no one else.” —Mary

Toni Wierig, 36, and Kevin Wierig, 39

interracial relationship couple

Toni Wierig

How they make it work

“We learn and embrace each other’s families, lifestyles, and cultures. We continue to learn. The recent years (and especially recent months) have brought new subjects for our family to discuss with each other and with our 7-year-old daughter. Being in an interracial marriage, you need to be comfortable talking about race… a lot. Kevin didn’t “have” to think about race the same way I did before, but that changed quickly for him once we started dating and especially when we had our daughter.” —Toni

What advice they’d give to others

“It takes a lot of patience and understanding each other. You need to understand that there are differences. It was very important for us when we had our daughter, Roxanne, seven years ago, that we really embraced our different cultures, so she could learn to love an appreciate each aspect of her heritage.” —Toni

Taylor Miller, 25, and Vlad Carrasco, 24

interracial couple

Vlad Carrasco

How they make it work

“I fell in love with the person, her character, and her passions. Filling an image that society portrays on us isn’t a priority. Acknowledging our narratives and levels of privilege was and is important to bring to light and remain aware of throughout the stages of growth together. We work to be open minded and are willing to try new things. Taylor has always made the effort to explore my culture. From eating traditional foods to visiting the Dominican Republic, she has done the work and as a result, has fallen in love. Who wouldn’t love some mangu or rice and beans? On my part, it also took effort. Part of being in a relationship is exploring each other’s traditions.” —Vlad

Their biggest challenges

“Like any other couple, you have growing pains, which come naturally when you decide to share your life with someone. Adjusting to each other’s lifestyles and traditions were challenges we took in stride. One of the biggest obstacles we faced was adjusting to each other’s communication styles. We were raised to express ourselves differently. Taylor is a considerably more open person than myself, whereas I grew up believing that expressing my emotions wasn’t acceptable. These traits were rooted in the gendered cultural norms of the Dominican Republic that contribute to toxic masculinity. Taylor challenged my ideas and with time, we were able to understand how to best nurture healthy communication.” —Vlad

Advice they’d give to others navigating an interracial relationship

“We want others to know the importance of listening and leaning into those differences. When you are coming together from two cultures, it offers an opportunity to learn about and immerse yourself in something new. Follow your heart, challenge the norm, and work to build a strong sense of communication with each other. Lead with love and everything else is superfluous. People will always have something to say, whether positive or negative, so remaining rooted in your truth is crucial.” —Vlad

Dorothy Magliulo, 60, and Greden Andrew Williams, 62

interracial couple

Greden Andrew Williams

How they make it work

“If two people of different races can learn each other’s backgrounds, it becomes a smooth relationship if you both understand one another. It’s about communicating with one another and getting each other insight and moving forward from there. We don’t allow others to interfere in our relationship when it comes to race. It’s a matter of accepting who each other is and growing from it.” —Greden

Advice they’d give to others navigating a interracial relationship

“Go for it. It’s always a tough battle being in a relationship with someone who grew up with different traditions and practices than you, but if you put the work in, it will all work itself out. Trust the god that you serve because he put you two together. The first six years, she wouldn’t give me the time of day. Now, it’s been six years of us being together.” —Greden

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