Talk to your partner and kids about cultural differences.

How to Get Over the Self-Consciousness in a Mixed-Race Marriage

by Alana Vye

Race relations have eased over the past half-century. The Pew Research organization's report "Marrying Out" shows that interracial marriages have been increasing exponentially since bans were eradicated in 1967. But interracial relationships and marriages are still seen as contentious by some people in the United States. For those who are new to the scrutiny that an interracial partnership can provoke, this condition can be deeply disconcerting. It's important to familiarize yourself with the types of scenarios you might encounter. Preparation will make these scenarios make more sense and enable you to manage them so you don't feel as self-conscious.

1. Meeting the In-Laws

Dealing with in-laws is stressful enough as it is. Cultural differences will make your encounters with them that much more complicated and decrease your self-consciousness. The best course of action to smooth things over is to be as genuine as possible. Bring out those good manners, too. You need to hope that your spouse's parents want the best for their child. If they see that you treat your partner with respect and love and that you extend the same courtesy to them, then it's easier for them to accept any culture gaps. Acceptance will be much easier for them if you extend an olive branch first. Dr. Phil recommends not blaming yourself if your family is putting pressure on you. Their judgments are their decision and not yours to take on. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the support your family refuses to provide. Finally, keep an open heart toward unsupportive family. You have the right to live by your convictions and your family has the same privilege, even if you feel they're wrong. You'll feel less self-conscious if you focus on taking care of yourself and living by your own standards, not those of others.

2. Discussing Race With Your Partner

York University associate professor of psychology Kyle Killian advises that interracial couples talk about their differences. You're likely to notice culture clashes, some of which are fresh and exciting and some which you won't immediately warm up to. It's important to chat about these differences so that you feel less self-conscious about them. Even better, make sure to include both traditions in your relationship. Minimize friction to ensure your relationship will have a better change of surviving.

3. Dealing With Harassment

In more conservative areas, you might be openly harassed in public for being part of an interracial couple. Likely you'll feel very self-conscious and you may want to argue with them in retaliation. Just keep in mind that intolerance is ingrained and likely taught from a young age. It will be difficult to change their perspective. While you don't need to accept harassment in the least, neither should you be called upon to justify your choice to marry your partner. While it may be difficult to avoid the self-consciousness this type of behaviour can cause, it may be some comfort to know that the general mindset is changing. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the majority of millennials, or people born between 1981 and 2000, would accept a family member's marriage to a person of another race or ethnic group.

4. Raising Multi-Racial Children

If you decide to have children, it's important to communicate with your little ones. Don't dismiss the fact that mommy and daddy are different. Your kids will hear about it soon enough at school so it's best to prepare them with answers to their schoolmates' questions. They'll feel less self-conscious if the issue is openly discussed. Choose a balanced neighborhood and school that includes children from a variety of races and backgrounds -- this will be more comfortable for you and your kids. Areas or educational centers that don't include a variety of people tend not to be as enlightened about race and racial issues. Finally, celebrate both parents' backgrounds at home. This can include celebrating traditions and holidays of both parents. Display art, take vacations, or get involved in community events as a family.

About the Author

Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.

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