A “Guess Who’s” Perspective on My Marriage, Effort, and What It’s Worth

Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
In "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," the Monsignor cites the effort put into interracial relationships as a reason they work out more. But a reader's e-mail cited that extra effort as a reason to proceed with caution -- or not at all. (Image from ticketstubz.blogspot.com)

Last night, I saw the movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. I expected a relaxing evening with some of my favorite actors of all time — Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier — but ended up with more than I bargained. Especially when I heard these words from Monsignor Ryan:

I’ve known a good many cases of marriages between the races in my time, and strangely enough, they usually work out quite well. I don’t know why. Maybe because it requires some special quality of effort, more consideration and compassion than most marriages seem to generate these days, could that be it?

I just wanted to hug the Monsignor after he said this, and couldn’t help but agree with the character Christina Drayton, that they were “beautiful thoughts.”

But the more I thought about this, the more I was reminded of an e-mail I received in January, which read:

I’m an Caucasian woman married to a Chinese immigrant. We will be celebrating our 36th anniversary. We were married before it was “acceptable” to marry another race, and have endured a lot of flack because of this.  To be very honest, it hasn’t been easy and I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart. Unless a woman has a strong sense of self, don’t go there.

Her words echoed much of Monsignor Ryan’s, the idea that a marriage like mine might involve more effort, consideration, compassion — minus the beautiful feeling. Still, I had to give this woman and her husband credit, because they’ve stayed through it, all 36 years of it.

If some interracial and intercultural/cross-cultural marriages really demand more out of a couple, and they get through it together, does that make it all worth it? Is it the beautiful adventure the Monsignor described? Or more like a gut-busting theme park ride that comes with a warning?

When I thought about it, my recent experiences with John sure felt like riding a roller coaster sometimes. We’ve both had to stand up to a lot. But I’d never ask for a refund, and never discourage anyone from lining up for the ride.

Maybe I’m too much of a “love conquers all” kind of a gal (not much of a shocker since I watched Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, eh?). But who can blame me? My love with John conquered my heart entirely, and it’s been worth every effort.

What do you think?

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22 Replies to “A “Guess Who’s” Perspective on My Marriage, Effort, and What It’s Worth”

  1. Of course all relationships require effort, consideration and compassion but I do think that a cross cultural marriage will require, as Monsignor suggests, a higher level of all of these than a regular marriage might. Someone whom I respect very much who is himself in a cross cultural marriage once told me that it takes two very mature people to make it work. I think he might be right. He’s been married for about twenty years or so.

    Sometimes it’s a beautiful adventure, other times it is a gut busting ride. It’s always worth it though. I think it’s the combination of love and determination that conquers all.

  2. Of course, cross-cultural, interracial marriages require more effort from both parties to make them work. When they work out fine, I think the rewards are more satisfying to the parties. You gain the best of both worlds. But a strong foundation – mutual love – would certainly help.

  3. I think it depends on the culture and whether it’s WM_F or WF_M. I for one, find that it’s very easy to date Norwegian men because our ideals are more compatible. Even though I have dual U.S. citizenship, I find it very hard to date American men because our worldviews are just too different. Similarly, my single Chinese girlfriends say that they prefer dating Westerners because their ideals are more similar to Western men’s than Chinese men’s, particularly concerning housework and childcare. I very rarely hear that from Western women say that. (Your blog is the big exception.) Instead, the problems that the differences bring are emphasized.

  4. This blog and other blogs are mainly about western women loving their Chinese/ Asian husbands. Sometimes, a marriage like a roller coaster ride is good because you’ve endured alot of things already. You have tested everything also like who are your real friends and families! The foundation of a marriage is LOVE and without LOVE everything is fade way. It’s all worth it let me tell you. We really need more comments from men here though.

  5. I think they work out better long term because you can’t take anything for granted during the dating portion of your relationship. When I dated white guys, since we came from the same background, we didn’t discuss in detail, for example, how we planned to raise our kids or what our financial goals were. In my relationship with my Chinese fiance, since we were coming from two different backgrounds, we have had to discuss and negotiate everything. So we won’t have a blow up 5 years into our marriage when we discover that we have different views on finances because we talked about that before we got engaged.

    In a lot of ways the constant negotiation and discussion are more difficult (or just less easy). But I think it makes for a stronger and more grounded relationship.

  6. I have been dating a chinese boy for almost 2 months… and yeah Its taking a lot more of effort and consideration than with my other relationships… So if dating is this complicated I assume marriage is even more… but dont get me wrong… Even when im just in shock with the things he say/do doesnt mean that Im not enjoying being with him,he is really understanding with my way of doing things and he even came up with this rule “if we think that the other is doing something wrong,before getting angry and start arguing about it, calm down, analyze and ask if thats a “normal” thing to do” … LOL …
    I really hope we can make this work… I really like him 🙂 .. so Im open to any advice u guys can give, since I have been in China for ony 3.5 months I think there r a lot of things I still dont understand… like today he was telling me about this tv show where a boy has to choose between 10 girls he said one of them was a Russian girl..then He said “it was impossible for her to win” … I was like .. what? … then I remember that other Chinese friends told me that Chinese men prefer to stay with Chinese girls and they made some comments about how they and all their friends consider Chinese girls more attractive than a foreign girl so It was the other way around with the C.girls that when they have a foreign bf they like to show him around … do u guys think thats true?

  7. “Chinese men prefer to stay with Chinese girls.”

    With the gender imbalance you will be seeing less and less of this in the future. Either Chinese men will have to marry out or they have to remain single.

  8. The question is, “how many people should envy your marriage” – regardless the skin colors and what country one comes from, being in love is the man’s greatest blessing!!
    In any society, people put a subjective labeling on married couples – we have our own frames of references how one man’s wife should be, look, act and vice versa. When these “perceptions” are challenged, aka, the reality conflicts with what we see and think, we opine and try to justify, mostly, trying to show our limited knowledge how “love” should be.
    Well, to all the love birds out there, sometimes you need to fly across the continent to find your nest and build a home, take the courage and fly – let the heaven and earth envy your tenacity and strength. Love never fails!!

  9. I hadn’t personally been married, but I would guess that interracial relationships and marriages are both beautiful adventure and a gut busting roller coaster. My Korean ex is not an emotional or public type; for example, he doesn’t hold hands in public, he doesn’t call me honey or sweetie or any cute nicknames and he hasn’t said I love you. (I can imagine what that sounds like…) and from a Korean-American friend I had to endure that he doesn’t love me if he doesn’t do these things and at times I doubted as well, until I decided to step back and watch his actions instead of words. He always wanted my opinion on where to eat for instance, he always made me feel like a woman and gave me very memorable holidays and birthday. He also made sure to include me when he celebrated his own birthday, and he always used to tell me what is going on his life. In my view, those are signs of love.

    You and John keep going strong Jocelyn! I and the fans are rooting for you to succeed 🙂

  10. Stable relationship might have more to do with compatible IQ.
    An interesting finding from genetic research, which Mackintosh mentions, only in passing, as posing a problem in the estimation of the heritability of g, is that there is greater assortative mating for g than for any other behavioral trait; that is, spouse correlations are only ~.1 for personality and only ~.2 for height or weight, but the correlation for assortative mating for g is ~.4.

    Another study of hollywood stars also indicates the same finding.

    In USA, medical doctors have the most AF/WF couples than any other proffessions. Their relationships are quite stable and successful. Compatible IQ must be one of major factors.

  11. Correction:Oops, The correction should be AM(asian male)/WF(white female) couples.
    AF/WF sould be AM/WF.

    In USA, medical doctors have the most AM/WF couples than any other proffessions. Their relationships are quite stable and successful. Compatible IQ must be one of major factors.

  12. to pamela
    i guss to great extent that is not true .
    a chinese girl having a western bf shows him around ,possiblely with an intension of show-off.you know some of the chinese girls tend to think the wesern men are the best of all .having a foreingn bf is really something that they can be proud of .they just think owning a bf from the west means more money to have(since we think they are coming from a rich country),more mianzi(face) and so on .as for that tv show of one choosing from ten ,chinese guys take it seriously when deciding to marry a girl.they wil not choose the russian girl because they think things will become complicated if they marry the girl .like language barriers , culture differences and so many.as far as i know we chinese tend to think the yangniu(foreign beautys ) are more attractive and hotter than chinese girls and of course there are still a great many chinese beautys who are hot and sexy.

  13. In a way, love conquers all. When couples go through rough times, whether between themselves or external environment, and still together, their bonding is stronger than ever, especially when they resolved the problem together and building a future together. I view maintaining a relationship as running a corporation, in that love is the equity of a corporation. The more it has, the less possibility it would bankrupts. The more it grows, the more the equity grows. Economy may put dent on the corporation, but enough equity will help it survive recession.
    I value roller coaster ride as an important life lesson a couple can live and tell their future children. We all know the gut bursting feeling can be scary, but the very excitement is why we get on it the first place. After a few of rides, it becomes an enjoyment and it is no longer scary.

  14. “In USA, medical doctors have the most AM/WF couples than any other proffessions. Their relationships are quite stable and successful. Compatible IQ must be one of major factors.”

    They also produce some of the smartest offsprings in the country. Mixed Asian-white kids are represented disproportionately in top colleges…never comes out because they are classified Asians. I have not seen one average or below average, Hapa female to this day. Had one working for me when I was at the University of Hawaii. She was only 16 and already a freshman at the University. She is 20 and just graduated from college..among the top students. Her sister graduated in 2009 and she was only 20, both finishing with a perfect GPA of 4.0 as math/science/business majors.

  15. @lipli. You are right. It takes a lot of discussion and give and take. But at the end of the day, the relationship becomes stronger. Like Bruce like to say, a relationship is like a roller coaster. And in an intercultural, interracial relationship the ride will be even more challenging.

  16. I agree that cross cultural relationships can be a bit challenging at times. Though I feel that discussing more in depth about issues (like family, finances, and lifestyle) and being able to understand one another is the key to these things. Personally, I am also currently challenged with a cross class relationship and even though I love my boyfriend very much, I know that my family has a hard time accepting it. Does the cross class require an extra dose of compassion, consideration and effort or is it just something that’s labeled “mission impossible”???

  17. @Pamela: I think I watched that episode on youtube before. Does the Russian girl speak Chinese fairly well? The one I recalled did and she’s a student who lived in Shanghai. Btw, she also got picked. The guy had no hesitations when making the decision although the hosts tried to change his mind. His reason? She’s different!

    @lipli: Honey, I agree with you completely. No relationship is easy and the moment you stop communicating to each other with respect and love the clock starts counting. I do want to know what you mean by constant negotiations make things more difficult/less easy. I see that’s something we need to figure out before it blows.

  18. Jacqueline – Assuming your “cross class” means rich you and poor him in economic term, I would say it depends mostly on your BF.
    Your parents may have easier time to accept him that if your BF has all the good qualities: charming, diligent, intelligent and responsible. Poor people can become rich people and vise verse. It is your job to show your parent the growth potential of him. I have gone through the process from penniless to 1% in a fairly short period of time, all because I realize that potential. I could have done much better, should my parent be rich and show me the ways of making a living though. Learning everything on my own is hard and cost a great deals of opportunities.
    If you love a person who does not have all the good qualities, it can be difficult. Your future may not be as bright as you think, your parent will have hard time to accept that. In that case, you really need a lots of love and lots of pray …

  19. Everyday is a constant battle out there. It doesn’t matter if it’s your relationship, job or business , you have to make it better. The secret is DO NOT BE LAZY! We should help our spouses on their careers out there and help out with house chores (anything and everything). Time is changing , stop being OLD FASHIONED. In some cases, women (any ethnics) will make 10 times more than you but if you have common goals and you are on the same page with her. She won’t leave IF SHE IS A GOOD WOMAN. Let me repeat again if you have a good woman! As men , we must be supportive whether your women get sick or get deadly diseases or help them to lose weight, change their diet (LIFETIME COMMITMENT, THERE IS NO SHORTCUT). When things work for you, then it only works for you only. You can not use your way of life in your relationship and tell your friends and relatives to follow your techniques in order to have a successful relationship. Like we all say ” every family is different. Do not compare! ” Everyone is a shifu here :). Chinese saying ” women are afraid marry the wrong men. Men are afraid to be in the wrong career.” hint hint hahahahah

  20. @stukadax

    Oh please don’t worry. I think we got most of our negotiations done. I was more thinking of my cousin who got in an argument with her Japanese-Korean wife because the ‘no’ she used was too abrupt.

    I was reminded of something I read in an interracial marriage book. You have to 100% know who you are before you enter a relationship like this due to the negotiations. That is the one thing I like about my fiance is that he knows and is comfortable with his Chinese-ness. Our kids will be 1/2 Chinese and while I intellectually know a lot about China/culture, there is a huge gap in my knowledge on how to live as someone who isn’t white (just like I would have a gap in living as a man). It’s comforting to know that he has a handle on what parts of his culture he wants to introduce the kids to. Because it would be very difficult for me to not only have to teach them the important things from my culture but also determine what are the most important pieces of Chinese culture they need to know.

  21. Thanks cvaguy, it’s always more comforting to hear other similar stories and get other opinions from people in the same situation. We’ve only been dating for about 4 1/2 months and I think we are still in the honey moon stage so I think it will take some time to really get to the nitty gritty stuff and figure out if his background/class/education can complement with mine to eventually get married and have a family together. I guess when that time comes, I will know but meanwhile we are just enjoying each other’s company!

    By the way Jocelyn, do you know how I can also link other people’s blog pages to my home blog page? I would really like to refer and expose my readers to other great bloggers out there!


  22. Quite frankly, I agree with Kath, the very first line she wrote: “…all relationships require effort, consideration and compassion.”
    I currently work in the Superior Court in California in the family law department where we handle divorce cases, child custody, etc., and I see many divorces occur not based on race, but based on SAME RACE couples who, for a myriad of reasons, simply cannot and will not get along.
    I don’t think it’s the color of a person’s skin that is a factor. I think it’s having things in common that is the factor. You can marry someone of your same race, same socio-economic background, same upbringing, same religion and STILL do NOT get along. This used to puzzle me because of the talk among all races that it’s “best to stay in your own race”, but in recent years I have found this NOT to be the case.
    What matters in a relationship is not just having things in common, but to ask yourself: Is this the person that I want with me by my side when the side falls over or under?? Is this the person that I want in the trenches with me when all hell breaks loose and there’s fire all around?? Is this the face that I want to wake up to EVERY morning for the rest of my life?? And most of all, is this the person that I LOVE above everyone else????? I think when you ask yourself that question, COLOR does not come into play as much as CHARACTER does.
    Before my sister married her husband (who happens to be from another race) she told me that she prayed this prayer: “Lord, I don’t want a Black man, I don’t want a White man, I don’t want a Hispanic man, I don’t want an Asian man…..Lord, I want a GOOD man.” She was willing to accept whoever, no matter what color he was….and guess what? Her prayers were answered almost 10 years ago, and, yes, they’re still married today.
    Society has it’s opinions and beliefs, but society isn’t always right. Remember when some in society said that we were never meant to fly in the sky like the birds???? Well, PLEASE tell me…..exactly whose footprints are those on the moon?????

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