Did you know that research has found that people in interracial marriages report that marriage is more difficult than they anticipated and are slightly more likely to divorce? As someone in an interracial marriage, I can tell you why that is. Our normals are different. And that causes problems.
By normals, what I mean is what we each assume is right, good and normal. All couples deal with this. You think it’s normal to walk around the house in your undies and your beloved wouldn’t dream of walking out of the bedroom with out his shoes on. He thinks spaghetti is served with velveeta melted on top and you’re not a lunatic, so you recognize crazy when you see it.
Most of the time we are able to adjust, compromise and accept that each of us thinks the other person is certifiable in some way. But people who marry people from other races tend to face much deeper differences in what they think of as normal. African American’s relationship with authority is much different, more complicated and often more rigid than a white American’s. (Oddly enough, attitudes towards authority just don’t come up much while dating.) A woman I know married a man from Peru and was shocked to discover that he expected her not to speak with men she didn’t know when he wasn’t present. He was shocked that she would even consider doing such a thing. Another woman I know married a man from East Asia and learned that they had very different ideas about secrets – he felt perfectly comfortable telling their children lies about some important things to protect them from hard realities. Authority, gender, secrets – when people from different cultures get married, they often discover that they are in conflict about some very deep things.
What makes interracial relationships so difficult, I think, isn’t just the conflicts that come out of these differing ideas of what’s normal. It’s that you are constantly being forced to examine and question the underlying assumptions you have regarding really deep things. And we’re not good at that. We can barely admit when we’ve taken a wrong turn and gotten ourselves lost. Considering if maybe your entire concept of the role of fairness in relationships and society is off is painful and confusing. Add in the fact that there isn’t necessarily a “right” answer to questions you always used to know the right answer to and . . . . arrrrgh!
Sometimes you just want to tell the other person to leave you alone – life was just fine before you came along with your crazy ideas and made me question the existential meaning of housekeeping! (And yes, I do know that in my case, some of this is driven by the fact that my husband and I are very intense people who completely over-think everything. But really, that just means we can define what we are arguing about in greater detail than most people!)
I happen to think that as hard as it is, couples in interracial relationships are doing hard, but good, important work. The sort of work the heroes of the bible did, in fact. Wait . . . what? Interracial couples challenging each other’s ideas about normal is just like the bible heroes? How’s that for a complete non sequitur! Allow I to explain. Continue reading