Hello everybody, welcome to episode 205 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is to do with a differing views in an interracial relationship.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Very happy to have you all here today – a pleasure as always! Today we’ve got a question that’s come in from a listener who isn’t quite sure that her boyfriend is standing up for her the way she needs him to. While she’s generally felt a lot of love and support from him, there are certain comments that come from his family that she feels are offensive to her, yet not defended by her beloved. Let’s see if we can help her out a little bit. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “I sometimes feel that my boyfriend doesn’t have my back and doesn’t have convictions of his own. I feel alone sometimes when either I or his family says something. I love his family and I believe we get along well, but they have different political views.
His family is white and since he comes from a small town and sheltered family, he is still learning things while I am brown and feel I did not have the luxury of being uninformed about how some people are treated.
At times I can’t help but wonder if I come second and he is trying to keep peace at the cost of me being unhappy. I have brought this up several times with him but don’t know how to proceed anymore. I understand that he cannot pick fights at home since he still lives at home and can’t create any sour feelings there. He understands his privilege but fails to stand up for me when micro aggressions get to me.
To me, this is a red flag and I’m not sure if this is something that a person can work on or this will be true of him for some time. I love him a lot and we have been dating for a year now. During this whole time I’ve felt so loved, learned so much about a relationship and felt so supported.
I can’t help but wonder if he will ever be able to fully support a brown child (if we have any kids). Am I prolonging this relationship a little too long?”
Interracial Relationship: Keeping The Big Picture In Mind
All right! Wonderful question. Thank you for sending this in and giving us a chance to discuss something that’s definitely a major hurdle for many interracial couples.
Each couple is different, though, and one key factor about your own relationship that I really want you to keep in mind as I answer this question is the fact that you’ve cited a lot of feelings of love and support from your boyfriend thus far, and the same seems to go for his family barring the different political preferences.
It’s important to keep this big picture in mind when trying to figure out one potentially problematic area, even if it does end up being significant enough to end the relationship.
But right now, I think there’s too much wondering or assumption in this for either of us to know if this relationship has gone on too long.
You’re assuming that the perceived micro-aggressions are indeed said with the intent of aggression. You’re wondering if your boyfriend doesn’t have his own beliefs. You’re wondering if he’s ok with you being unhappy, but not ok with his family being uncomfortable.
About The Uninformed
I almost worry that you’re assuming that at least his family is uninformed or unwilling to become informed simply because they’re white and from a small town based on how you phrased that sentence.
But I’ll do some assuming of my own and assume you instead feel they’re uninformed because they’ve demonstrated a lack of willingness to learn about or talk through these political issues with depth, concern and objectivity even if they come to conclusions different from yours – which would be a lot more reasonable than linking their heritage and hometown to their belief systems.
So there’s a lot that’s up in the air here. What I love is the fact that you’ve tried bringing this up to him and made that effort. That’s great, and I think we should focus on how it’s gone when you’ve addressed these concerns.
You mention feeling as though there’s a red flag because of what you brought up in your question. That’s fine with me, as these issues seem to mean a lot to you and you do deserve a partner who will stand up for you and be by your side when it comes to things like this, should it be a lasting relationship.
Red Flags, Conversations, and Concerns
But with the information you’ve given me and how much I think we’re unsure of, I’d only put the red flag up if your boyfriend has come off as cold, dismissive, or defensive when you’ve tried to have these conversations with him.
Because of that love and support you generally feel from him, I take it he’s not acted this way, and rather that the conversations have just never materialized much, been delayed, or something else.
And maybe that’s his way of dodging an uncomfortable subject, but to develop more certainty around that maybe and all the others, let’s talk about a way to address these concerns that gives you more information about him, his family, how deep their love for you runs.
Consider the way you’ve brought these concerns up to him in the past. Have you done so with a sense of urgency and demand, focusing only on something you’re owed (again, something that’s understandable for you to feel you’re owed as his girlfriend)? Or are you also making time to ask him where he’s at and how he may feel stuck in between to parties that he loves very much, but don’t see eye to eye?
He’s quite possibly feeling opposing noise from each side, even if that noise is just a vibe he gets from either you or his parents.
It’s challenging enough to feel stuck in the middle of two things you love, but it’s especially challenging if you feel that neither side if making an effort to understand any of your own complications or inner turmoil, and instead tugging you in two different directions.
For more insight and tips, refer to the following two articles:
- How to deal when you and your partner are political opposites (Today.com)
- How to Talk Politics With Your Partner (Better.net)
Mutual Respect and Breathing Space
In order to give both of your concerns a chance to breathe, I encourage you to talk to him about how he’s feeling, where he’s at, and the difficulty he might be facing in loving you but somehow not wanting to disappoint or go against the grain of the family he also has close ties to.
Will he eventually need to step up more and make your feelings more of a priority if this is going to work long-term? Yes.
And if he’s the right person for you, he’ll get there. But I believe you can move that process along by showing him the same love and support that he’s shown you, and shifting the conversation to his own distress. This will give him the opportunity to be heard (again, something he may not feel he’s gotten yet) and likely encourage him to be more respectful of your concerns once he’s assured that you’re respectful of his.
I might also recommend approaching these micro-aggressions in the same way. As you inform your boyfriend of specific things that were said, what you believe the subtext was and how it’s problematic or offensive, be sure to give him the same space to explain how he felt about it or what he thinks his parents might have meant.
Conclusion: Discussing Politics and More in an Interracial Relationship
You did say his family was nice, yet uninformed. That’s different from being insensitive or from being racists. It’s probably very unlikely that they mean to offend you, so this may be an opportunity to hear how another family (family, not culture) conceives of certain issues and translates those thoughts into words.
And most importantly, if this is a family that will be tolerable for you to potentially marry into, they should also be willing to hear how your thoughts differ and listen to you with the same respect.
Addressing your concerns with both him and his family in a way that invites them to share their own thoughts and feelings is the best way to gain more clarity on what they’re made of, how tolerant they are, how communicative they are, how respectful they are, and ultimately, if they’re right for you.
Sure, it’d be nice if they were initiating this dialogue with you first, but someone has to do it, and the most active and responsible role you can take for yourself and your own wellbeing is to be the one to start that process.
Thanks again to the asker for being vulnerable and submitting her question on discussing difficult topics in an interracial relationship. If you’ve been listening for a while, you may be starting to see a pattern here when it comes to the communicative process, a process that needs to be done correctly in many areas of life.
It’s very easy to develop uncertainties and concern as it is. These troublesome feelings can easily get extrapolated wen we don’t communicate them and go directly to the source to confront the issue. It’s on us to do this. When we do, we may not get hard answers to the questions we have, but we learn a lot in simply observing how cooperative and willing to communicate the other party is. This alone often tells us a lot of what we need to know and can give us more clarity in the absence of specific answers.
Time for me to get out of here now, folks. Thanks a lot for coming today and supporting the show, and of course for sticking to the end. Come on back next time where we’ll take a look at a question about supporting someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, while also supporting ourselves. I’ll see you all then.