Intercultural Love Hack #108 – Movie Date Nights Can Help With Fights, Open Up Conversations

A few weeks ago, a fan wrote to me asking, “Do you and Jun ever fight?”  She mentioned fighting on occasion in her own intercultural relationship — her husband’s Chinese, she’s a non-Asian woman from a Western country — and sometimes it was not easy for her to resolve the tension because they had different ways of arguing. While she wanted to talk it out, he just stonewalled her.

She eyed my marriage with envy. While it’s true Jun and I don’t argue much these days (we’ve become“war buddies” united in our fight against injustice) like many couples, we’ve weathered our share of arguments early on in our relationship. (See Weathering Cross-Cultural Love in China and you’ll get what I mean.)

One thing I’ve never written about is that, in some ways, movies have helped us overcome fights and open up conversations, especially about cultural differences that could potentially cause a snag or too in a relationship. Call it my intercultural love hack, #108.

I’ve always been a huge fan of romantic comedies on TV and the big screen, which meant my husband and I would often watch them when we declared it a “movie night” (or “TV night”). In the early years of our relationship, we lived together in China, and at the time I was desperately missing my home country of America. Movies were a way for me to vicariously visit the US in the comfort of my own home, so I often chose titles set in America. And hey, it was great for both of us, since English is my native language and Jun’s second language.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but in choosing these English-language romantic comedies from America, I was inadvertently schooling Jun in dating and relationship culture in the US.

See, Jun and I had met in China, and while he’d studied European-American culture in college, he’d never traveled or lived outside the country before we met. Meanwhile, my two years of living in China, plus previous relationships with Chinese guys, gave me a leg up that he didn’t have when it came to my culture. (I’m the first and only woman he has ever dated, so it’s not like he had other women, or even foreign women, to compare with me.)

But movies stepped in to fill the gap, in ways I never anticipated.

The thing that first caught his eye in American movies? Kissing in public. Name me a romantic comedy from the US and there’s a more than 90 percent chance the couple ends up locking lips among a crowd of people (often their friends or family), and probably a more than 50 percent chance that said crowd showers them with applause. It was fascinating to Jun because…well…that’s not how it’s done where he grew up, where people prefer to kiss in more private places and spaces. And so it opened up a whole conversation about public displays of affection, and differences between our respective countries and cultures.

But of course, all movies – even romantic comedies – thrive on tension and drama. Which means many, many films had couples arguing about all sorts of things. Even stuff that was eerily similar to things we might have been hashing out on our own.

Here’s the thing, though. When you see people fighting about something that you’ve encountered, but it’s in a movie, it gives you a certain distance to talk about it in a more nonjudgmental way. It’s not the two of you doing it, it’s the characters.

Not everything is about culture, either. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personality too. But either way, seeing it reflected on screen can provide an opening to talk, where you’re discussing the characters instead of fingering the other person.

It’s also really helpful if you can find examples that encompass each of your respective “argument styles”, because everyone has a different approach. Bonus if they portray the fights in a humorous way, so then the two of you can laugh at them (and hopefully, later on, yourselves).

But if Jun and I were dating now, chances are I’d get even more specific and skip straight to movies about interracial and intercultural couples. They have plenty of arguments to go around, and they’re even more familiar to our lives than your average rom-com. (See Movies with Chinese Men and Western Women in Love and 11 Critically Acclaimed AMWF Movies Worth Watching for some recommendations I’ve made on this blog.)

While watching a movie won’t magically solve all your intercultural marital woes, it could raise the kind of awareness — cultural and otherwise — that opens up possibilities for resolution and understanding.  Plus, it’s fun and who wouldn’t want an additional excuse to prop up their legs, bring out the popcorn and declare it a movie night?

So maybe that old cliche should be updated to, “The couple who watches movies together, stays together”?

What do you think? Have you found movies to be a beneficial way of encouraging mutual understanding across cultural or racial lines?

Student Seeks Intercultural Couples Using Mandarin & English for Research

Susanna Wickes & Mr. Wang
Susanna Wickes and her husband, Mr. Wang

Are you part of an intercultural couple using Mandarin and English for communication? Susanna Wickes, a master’s student at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin (and the blogger behind the Inner Mongolian), wants you to participate in a simple online survey (takes 5 minutes or less to complete!) available in English and Chinese.

Here’s the story behind the project, straight from Susanna:

The idea basically came from my own relationship with my husband, and my interest in the strange, mixed-up language that we’ve made up over time as we’ve got to know each other and learned each other’s languages.

The project involves exploring in detail the ways that couples like us talk to each other in everyday life. The languages (English and Mandarin Chinese) and the intercultural dynamic are something all the couples have in common, but because each couple will have their own unique situation – where they live, their proficiency level in each other’s language, the length of their relationship, and so on – they will also have developed their own personal style of communication. And it’s this that I’m hoping to capture in the diaries and conversations that my participants create and send to me.

Being in a relationship with someone from a very different culture often means that both partners take on a new identity. Not just the identity of “wife” or “husband” but also aspects of the other person’s life and culture become your own. One of the main aims of my project is to look at how language use reflects the sense of “shared identity” that intercultural couples experience when they create a life together.

The surveys (in English and Chinese) are really simple to fill out. If you have five minutes and meet the requirements, Susanna would be enormously grateful for your help!

And if you’d like to be a more active participant in Susanna’s project — such as keeping a diary — you can leave her your contact information at the end of the survey to let her know.

Thanks!

Guest Post: Why We Are Not Married (Yet)

Betty of Betty Has A Panda has lived happily with Mr. Panda in Vienna, Austria for over seven years. But they’re not married — and it has led to lots of uncomfortable questions, including questions Betty has asked herself.

Do you have a story you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? We’re always on the lookout for terrific guest posts. Check out the submit a post page for more on how to have your writing featured here.
—–

3609054839_d44354ff41_z
(Photo by Nick Nguyen)

I am tired. Tired of all the ‘Why are you not married? Do you want to break up?” questions, or the pronouncements of ‘Oh, he is ONLY your boyfriend!’ Tired of explaining our allegedly ‘not-so-serious’ relationship and why we are not married (yet). While I think that this little detail of saying ‘I do!’ is not of any concern to anyone, I do not want to see others belittle our relationship just because we did not seal our relationship in front of a random registrar (yet). Is our relationship not worth as much as that of someone who is already married? This could be due to varied reasons, liberal worldviews, no bureaucratic obstacles, or bad role models. Beyond doubt, not being married does not make our relationship less worthy, and to answer all of those questions: we do not plan to break up. Not now, and also not in the future. Why would we date and live together for more than seven years now? Mr. Panda and I have our reasons to shack up.

Let me start at the beginning. Parents’ relationships can sometimes be a disastrous example to their children, which can make it hard for their children to connect with others – emotionally and legally. Mr. Panda’s parents are not exactly how I would imagine devoted parents. You could actually say they are as loving and caring as a metal scouring pad. Mr. Panda was the unplanned latecomer, and was therefore always made responsible for all troubles brewing in Chinese parent’s fragile marriage. Albeit they already split up three times before Mr. Panda was born, and came back together again. Mean teasing and verbal insults were on top of their daily agenda — not what one might expect in a loving and caring relationship. Of course divorce is absolutely prohibited. Instead, they continue to live with each other, leaving both their children emotionally crippled und almost unable to be in a working relationship with someone.

On top of that, only soon after Mr. Panda and I started dating, another event aggravated Mr. Panda’s beliefs in the whole social construct called marriage. As another blow of fate, Mr. Panda’s older brother, married to a woman from the Middle East with two children, filed for divorce due to cultural and personal disagreements – and told his parents only six months later. He had been married for quite some time, but sadly, in the end, it did not work out. While both of them separated without any bad feelings, the parents’ world collapsed. Mr. Panda’s mom cried for weeks, begging and commanding them not to separate, but naturally nothing helped. Soon after, the former wife moved out, and cracked the last intact pieces of Mr. Panda’s mom’s picture of a perfect family. I consoled her for weeks, trying to put her sorrows about her grandchildren at ease. Her faith in functioning marriages was busted, and as a result Mr. Panda is even more scared now. He is not scared that our relationship will break apart. But the only two marriages around him just did not work out. The reason why he did not propose to me so far? He is scared our relationship might end after marriage, and to a certain degree I can understand his (baseless) anxiety.

What is my excuse? I was busy with my studies, and time just flew by far too fast. Just in a blink of an eye, many years passed by. Up until now, I did not really care whether we said ‘I do!’ or not. We had no need to rush because we are not in desperate need of a visa. We are not pressured to do so because of some religious beliefs. We just spend our days happily together.

But this year, one thing led to another. I found out about the big AMWF community on the internet, which was all about happily married (intercultural) couples with their beautiful wedding photos. Furthermore, we were invited to a summer wedding by one of my friends, and another one of my good friends got engaged. Thanks to these events I also developed an urge to marry Mr. Panda, and I started to believe that it would actually draw us closer together.

It is a fact that nothing in our relationship will change after we marry. We will both live our lives together as we did up until now. We will both be just as serious about us being happy together and passionate about our relationship as we are now. We both will be the same individuals as ever. And still, here I am, apparently forgetting my liberal beliefs, letting my modern world break down over a marriage certificate I don’t need, while I am waiting for him to take the first step.

The last few months, we talked elaborately about this topic, I tried to discuss his fears and about how we both felt about marriage. But as expected, he did not want to talk about his feelings. Our conversations were rather rational. However, some time ago, he confessed to me that he was thinking about us and our future very hard for quite some time now. He asked me to be patient — that I should wait a little more — making me all excited. Hopefully, traumatized Mr. Panda can gather all his courage soon and will finally propose.

Betty and Mr. Panda live in Vienna, Austria, where she shares fascinating stories about their more than seven years together at www.bettyhasapanda.com.
—–

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

People Who Feel Like They Own the Opposite Sex of Their Race and Culture

mmexport1439450389962
This photo of a marriage registration in Beijing was taken two days before the woman was stabbed to death by a Chinese man who hated Americans. I wondered, did he mean “American men” by that, and was he another example of someone who thinks they own the opposite sex of their own race/culture?

It’s funny how things in life mysteriously collide – that two seemingly unrelated events I’ve heard about recently actually have something in common. Specifically, the concept of people who feel like they own the opposite sex of their race or culture.

The first is the stabbing murder of an innocent Chinese woman in Beijing just married to a French man, a confirmed hate crime prompting my recent post, Is Beijing Becoming Dangerous for Couples of Foreign Men and Chinese Women?

In the discussion in the comments section, I noticed that people started linking this murder to the idea of people who feel like they own the opposite sex of their race/culture. See this comment from A. Madhavan:

I can’t help but notice the deep misogyny in this murder – many times when we date out of our race/nationality, men of our race will try to “claim” us and shame us for dating/marrying outside of it. As if we are pieces of property and only belong to them. I have seen this happen with white men to white women; black men to black women; Indian men to Indian woman – how dare a [sic] we women marry outside her race and have complete autonomy over our decisions? It is threatening to A LOT of people…

And this comment from R Zhao:

This sometimes happens in America, too. It happened to me when I was dating a black American man. I was accused by a small group of black women (who I didn’t know) of “taking one of theirs.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think there is a lot of frustration. Black women face a lot of discrimination while dating and have a significant smaller dating pool than white women do because of cross-race dating preferences. This happens to Asian men as well.

To be sure, there is a shortage of women here in China because of the gender imbalance, leading to a growing population of unmarried bachelors in China’s countryside known as “bare branches”. According to this article from Tea Leaf Nation, “an estimated 12 to 15 percent of Chinese men — a population nearly the size of Texas — will be unable to find a mate within the next seven years.” Personally, I’ve even heard Chinese men who lament that China is “exporting” far too many of its women overseas.

The Shanghaiist confirms in a recent story that the Sanlitun killer “said he ‘hated Americans’ before attacking Chinese-French couple in Beijing,” specifically asking the woman’s husband if he was an American before stabbing him and his wife. And while it’s never explicitly stated, I can’t help but wonder, does this man represent the anger and frustration of millions who feel a certain entitlement to Chinese women over foreigners because of the shrinking dating pool?

Obviously, this is an incredibly complicated and potentially delicate issue, depending on who you are and whether you’re one of the folks facing a more limited dating pool simply because of your race and/or culture.

What’s your take on this? What do you think about the idea of people who think they own the opposite sex of their own race/culture? Is it ever justified? Sound off in the comments.

UPDATE: I’ve edited this post because that some of the content was inappropriate and insensitive towards the Jewish community. I made some poor choices in what I had written and failed to consider how my words might actually come across to readers (including the individuals I had specifically mentioned in this post). I want to apologize for this mistake.

Thank you to those people who were courageous enough to reach out to me to point out the errors in the original content. I wanted to append this apology to let you know I’ve learned a tremendous lesson in the importance of being sensitive about how groups of people are portrayed on this blog, as well as what should and should not be quoted in posts. 

3 Myths About Failed Interracial & Intercultural Relationships

(Photo by siti fatimah via Flickr.com)
(Photo by siti fatimah via Flickr.com)

“Oh, I knew it would never work out…”

It’s a familiar phrase we’ve all heard time and again applied to relationships that failed. He wasn’t good enough for her. She couldn’t commit to anyone. They were always arguing.

But what if someone says this ONLY because it was an interracial and intercultural relationship?

Yikes.

Yes, when you choose to date outside the lines, even your breakup attracts a level of scrutiny that nobody should have to endure during this painful time.

What are some of the myths about failed interracial and intercultural relationships? Here are three major ones:

Myth #1: Racial and/or cultural differences mainly caused your breakup

Back when I started dating Chinese men years ago in China, I didn’t just encounter surprised looks from fellow foreigners; I also learned that many foreigners assumed it could never work out. Why? Because they believed the cultural differences were too great and would eventually bust our relationship.

Just substitute “racial differences” for “cultural differences” – that’s what you’ll hear back places like the US (and other Western countries) for relationships like mine.

Can race or culture play a role when interracial and intercultural relationships fail? Yes, sometimes. Race might get in the way if, say, your girlfriend’s racist grandpa won’t leave you alone about the fact that you’re Chinese. And I’ve met many a yangxifu (foreign wife of a Chinese man) griping about how their in-laws or even husbands don’t agree with them on how to raise the kids (sometimes, to the point of a divorce).

But it’s wrong to assume that race and/or culture is always the culprit for a breakup or divorce.

Sometimes, it’s just an issue of personality. After all, I’ve met so many yangxifu here in China – and every one of their husbands (and relationships) is unique and different. I think Susan Blumberg-Kason – author of the terrific memoir Good Chinese Wifeputs it perfectly in this interview about her book:

I wanted to show how people sometimes justify their relationship problems as cultural differences when they are involved with someone from another country. This happens with people from all over the world and isn’t unique to Asia by any means. What I’ve learned is that when something doesn’t sit well with someone, it doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t matter if this issue stems from a cultural difference or a personality one. Respect is crucial for a successful relationship.

Exactly!

Myth #2: You’ll never want to date someone else like your ex

Years ago when I first came to China, I fell fiercely in love with a Zhengzhou native who quickly became my steady boyfriend. I had never fallen so hopelessly in love with a man like this and I was completely charmed by him – from his rugged James Dean good looks to the romantic way he would wine and dine me out on the town. (For the first time in my life, I even pondered the prospect of marriage with him.)

Well, it all came crashing down on me months later when, while he studied abroad in Europe, we broke up. I wept for days over what I had secretly dubbed my first real adult love, asking myself again and again how this could have happened?

But not once did I ever say to myself, “I’ll never date Chinese men or Asian men again.”

You know, that wasn’t even the last time a Chinese guy would stomp all over my heart. I’ve had enough heartbreaking experiences to make one heck of a dramatic romance novel and then some. Still deep down I loved China so much and believed I would find a husband here. And sure enough, I did.

While I’m sure there will always be people who swear off dating someone from a certain race, culture or country, don’t assume it’s a given.

Myth #3: Your failed relationship proves why people shouldn’t date “outside the lines”

Remember the scandal a few years ago with Li Yang (the founder of Crazy English) and Kim Lee, where she posted the dramatic and frighteningly graphic photos of her bruised face on Chinese social media, putting a very public face to domestic violence. It was such a big story even the international news covered it, along with the divorce proceedings.

Yet I’m sure some folks read that story and concluded something like this: “Good god, why did she marry that Chinese man? She should have known it would never work.”

Yes, Kim Lee and Li Yang, a cautionary tale of why you should never date people outside the racial/cultural lines.

You could arguably say the same about Susan Blumberg-Kason’s memoir Good Chinese Wife, the heart-wrenching tale of her own personal “love affair with China gone wrong.”

But is it fair to come to these conclusions? Personally, I don’t think so.

It’s always a foregone conclusion that when people get together, a certain percentage of them will eventually break up or divorce. It happens all around the world. I’ve seen it happen in the yangxifu community in China over the years too (including this very public divorce).

While I’ve come across articles reporting divorce rates as higher among interracial and intercultural couples, I’ve also met many Western women who found their happily-ever-after with a guy from China. (John and I have passed the 10-year mark in our marriage and I still love him just as much as when we first met.)

Divorce or breakup doesn’t have to be the obvious conclusion to an intercultural or interracial relationship. So why should anyone use a broken up or divorced couple to represent every intercultural or interracial relationship?

Meanwhile, those people who do break up or divorce have enough trouble to deal with – heartache, stress and, in the case of divorce, all sorts of unpleasant legal issues that will keep you up late at night. The last thing they need is someone holding them up as a “bad example” or another “I told you so!”

Ugh.

As I often say on this blog, love just happens – and sometimes, it happens to create an interracial or intercultural couple.

Whether you’re happily coupled up, contemplating a split, already apart, or hoping to land your perfect partner, here’s hoping for a little less judgment and a little more understanding in the world for all of our messy, imperfect but ultimately beautiful lives.

3 Challenging Things About Meeting the Parents for People in Intercultural/Interracial Relationships

IMG_3837

When John first told his parents about me, here’s what his father said: “You can be friends with foreign women but not date them.”

Anxious doesn’t even start to describe the way I felt after John said this to me. And, believe me, I had reason to worry. My previous relationship with a Chinese guy ended in an ugly breakup simply because he could never take me home to meet the parents. He said his mom and dad would never accept having a foreign woman in the family. Ever.

Yikes!

Growing up in a very white, very middle class suburb of Midwestern America did nothing to prepare me for surviving meeting the parents in China. It’s the complete opposite from the casual way I used to shake hands and chat with a white guy’s mom and dad back in America, even on the first date! How was I supposed to know that meeting the parents in China was as serious as an engagement announcement, a promise of wedding bells in the near future? For that matter, how could I have ever guessed on the many other cultural pitfalls on the pathway to becoming the foreign wife of a Chinese man?

Here are four things that I’ve found challenging about meeting the parents and family in intercultural and international relationships:

1. When the Family Doesn’t Want You to Date

When your boyfriend’s father says you should be friends but not date, it’s the polar opposite of getting that ever-coveted family blessing. And even if your boyfriend smiles and reassures you it’s not a big deal (like John did), in your mind you’re envisioning all of the future family feuding over your relationship. And, quite possibly, a breakup on the horizon.

Sigh.

Yes, it’s a huge headache and then some. Still, John and I survived it, all because he insisted on staying by my side. (Never thought I would say this, but thank goodness for John’s stubbornness!) We’re living proof that you can indeed overcome this, provided you and your partner are totally committed to the relationship. Just realize you might be in for a very bumpy ride if the parents initially say “no” – the kind that could make the movie “Meet the Parents” look like kindergarten stuff.

2. When Relatives Say Totally Inappropriate Things About Your Relationship

Back in May, I ran a guest post from the blogger behind Big Asian Package, a Chinese American guy who shared his crushing experience meeting the family of his white girlfriend:

“Are you happy about those secrets?” said a voice from beside me.

“What? I’m sorry?” I said. It was my girlfriend’s grandpa.

“The nuclear secrets. I know you came here to steal from us,” said her grandpa,

“I go to school…” I say, protesting.

“You’re Chinese, I know you are,” he says quietly, triumphantly, like he’s got me checkmated.

“Yes,” I say, now seriously confused, not quite believing what I’m hearing.

Oh my. There’s nothing like a racist comment or two from grandpa to turn meeting the family into one of the most chilling experiences you’ll ever have.

Sometimes it’s not even a direct attack, but an assumption based on stereotypes or prejudice. Like how I’ve heard some relatives praise John for being great at computers (because, of course, all Chinese are that way….). If only they knew that my husband calls on me for all things computer and tech-related. (I’m the one who just set up his new smartphone!)

People have even expressed concern about the fact that John and I have a bilingual relationship, and have cautioned us against speaking one language too much over another. (Insert image of me banging my head on a wall.)

What makes this super-hard is the fact that you’re often related to the people in question. You’re not exactly going to win points with family by calling grandpa a racist.

That doesn’t mean you always have to let these things go. Over the years, I’ve had some really thoughtful conversations with family about racism and prejudice. John and I have educated relatives about what modern racism actually looks like (it’s not what you think it is) and, in the process, become even closer as a family. Who’d have thought you could bond over stuff like this?

3. When the Family Gets Confused by Your Relationship

Yocelyn of My Chinese Boyfriend voiced another issue with meeting the parents:

I don’t think our families could comprehend our relationship at first. They were too confused by it. 😛

What happens if parents aren’t in opposition to you, but they just don’t understand why you would want to be with this person?

I’ve only ever experienced this with other expats – people totally mystified by how a white American woman would even think of dating Chinese men in China. Let me tell you, it already hurts even when someone you’re not related to suddenly thinks it’s weird to date this amazing person you’re deeply in love with. I can only imagine the pain you’d feel when people who you’re stuck with by marriage or blood think this way about your relationship.

Love just happens between two people for good reasons. Why can’t the people we care about understand why we love someone as well?

Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that everyone will always understand us 100 percent of the time, including relatives. Which means that some of us will get the questions and odd looks from family when we decide to date “outside the box”, so to speak.

I don’t know that I can say anything to make a situation like this better. I’d like to hope that things will get better for you with time, and chances are they will, but who really knows?

Still, whatever challenges you face with the family, remember that you’re not alone. There are lots of people out there in interracial, intercultural and (like in my case) international relationships who have survived all sorts of familial scrutiny. People like me, who have lived to tell the tale – and will be happy to listen to your stories, nodding as we say, “Yes, I’ve been there and I’m here for you too.”

How Could I Forget About the Cultural Differences in My Intercultural Marriage?

116The other day, someone asked me during an interview, “Tell me about some cultural differences between you and your husband.”

You would have thought I had a million things to say on the topic. After all, that’s a big part of what I blog about – the cultural differences between interracial and international couples in China.

But in fact, I couldn’t come up with a single decent example! (Crazy, I know.)

I mentioned what I thought were a couple of good ones – from differences in diet (I’m a vegan, he’s not) to those explosive arguments that my husband and I weathered early on in our relationship. Instead, the woman talking with me laughed in a lighthearted way – the kind of laughter that tells you that you’ve veered off course. “But those are personality differences, not cultural!” she said.

My face started to flush red. Had I just completely bombed this conversation? There I was, mentally lashing myself, wondering why I hadn’t prepared examples for this very important topic ahead of time?

Afterwards, I couldn’t help replaying the whole conversation in my mind – especially the part about cultural differences. Was it just nerves that made me forget?

But then I considered the most frustrating cultural differences in my marriage. You know, the “big fat Chinese wedding” Johns family insisted we have, which completed exploded all my dreams of having a small ceremony at their whitewashed rural family home. Or the way John’s relatives can’t stop pestering us about when we’re going to have a baby.

That’s when I realized why I had stumbled all over that question. The most obvious cultural clashes in my marriage weren’t between me and John. They were between me and his family.

When you think about it, it’s not surprising. John and I have been married for over 10 years. Yep, there’s more than a decade of marital experience between us – and if you’ve made it as far as we have, you’ve already worked through the major kinks in your relationship, including the cultural stuff. Cultural clashes? That’s like ancient history to us. I can’t even remember the last time we fought over anything cultural. Seriously.

IMG_2698

John’s family, however, is another story. I’ve written about challenges with weddings, things relatives say to us, pressure to have kids and more. And here’s the really interesting part – John feels that sometimes certain relatives don’t 100 percent understand him either.

John likes to say I know him better than anyone else in the world, even many close friends here in China. And you know what? I feel the same about him. He really gets me like no one else ever could — whether it’s how I can’t live without writing, my passion for birdwatching, or the fact that I secretly love really cheesy romantic comedies.

When you’re in an intercultural relationship with someone for a long time, and things work out, I think both people eventually come to a consensus or understanding on these things. You’re not negotiating cultural stuff all of the time, because it’s now second nature to you. John’s culture has become a part of who I am, and my culture has become a part of him.

As for his family, god knows that’ll never happen. Which means I can expect a future filled with plenty of cultural conundrums.

(Now if I can just remember this for my next interview!)

P.S.: One thing I should add – it’s always important to recognize and understand your partner’s cultural background when you’re in an intercultural (cross-cultural) and international relationship. To learn why, check out my article on Why Ignoring Cultural Differences in Cross-Cultural Relationships is Harmful.

P.P.S.: To the interviewers, if you’re reading, thanks for the opportunity — and for making the conversation a great one!

P.P.P.S.: To everyone else, if you’re curious about the interview (as in, who did it and where it’s going to end up) stay tuned in to my blog for some news later this month! 😉

Why I’m tired of hearing “you’ll have a hard life” about interracial relationships

Not long ago, a white friend of mine moved back to America with her Chinese husband. They were happy with their decision to return to America, but it also meant living with her parents for a period of time. Which wasn’t easy…and lead to some uncomfortable conversations. She confessed that her mother (who she said wasn’t the most pleasant person to begin with) wasn’t thrilled that she hadn’t chosen an “easier life.”

In other words, the fact that this friend had chosen to marry a Chinese man – instead of, say, one of the white guys she used to date at university.

Ugh. I shuddered just thinking about it.

Obviously, her mom is not the supportive type. But the thing is, “you’ll have a hard life” (and all of its many variations) is something that many interracial/intercultural couples have to hear. Loving versus Virginia may have paved the way for legal interracial marriage in the US, but it sure didn’t stop people from telling you how “tough” it’s going to be.

Here’s why I’m tired of hearing this:

1. So what if it’s “tough”?

IMG_2865

Given the fact that interracial coupling was illegal for a really long time in the US (and, I would imagine, many other countries around the world), there’s no doubt that we’ve had to fight for the right to love who we want to.

Even now, we’re still fighting. From white supremacist hate groups who would frown upon my marriage to the continued discrimination against people of color (including people like my husband), it’s not always an easy ride when you date and marry differently.

Yeah, we get it. It can be tough. So what?

There will always be haters when you’re dating or marrying outside the box. It’s part of the package deal – and believe me, we already know.

2. It can be racist

(photo by Loving Earth via Flickr.com)
(photo by Loving Earth via Flickr.com)

Okay, I know that’s a loaded statement (I suppose anything becomes a loaded statement when you throw in the “R” word). But think about it. If you’re wishing that your white daughter didn’t marry outside of her race (and, for that matter, culture and country), that’s like saying that she should only date and marry white guys. Because, after all, life is so much easier when you’ve got the full benefit of white privilege, right? (Never mind that white privilege IS the problem, folks.)

Yeah, SO not cool.

3. Marrying within your race doesn’t guarantee an easy life

Just because you're white and you marry a white guy does not mean you're going to become the next picture-perfect William and Kate (Photo by geraldstolk via Flickr.com)
Just because you’re white and you marry a white guy does not mean you’re going to become the next picture-perfect William and Kate (Photo by geraldstolk via Flickr.com)

I grew up in a mostly white suburb of Cleveland, which exposed me to ALL kinds of white folks – and taught me that there are plenty of losers, scumbags and lunatics within my own race.

I know that marrying white doesn’t guarantee you some romantic Prince Charming who will sweep you off your feet for the rest of your life. I’ve seen marriages between lots of white people that have ended in utter disaster and ruin – including the folks who seemed to “have it all” (the money, the luxury cars, the beachfront property).

When two people from the same race happen to marry, they don’t necessarily have special “insurance” against a divorce or devastation. Crap can happen to any couple out there.

4. It ignores the fact that love just happens

As I wrote a while back, I never intended to marry a Chinese man. I had actually dated a steady stream of mainly white guys before I moved to China – where I was eventually swept off my feet by an extraordinary young guy from Hangzhou. I didn’t think about whether it would be harder with him…I just knew I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Period.

Sometimes love just happens – in the most unlikely and unexpected ways. Instead of worrying about how “tough” it might be, shouldn’t we be celebrating that two people have come together to share one of the most beautiful things in life?

What do you think?