In recent years I've often had to answer numerous questions regarding this particularly captivating concern: "Why does it appear that relationships between most interracial couples do not last?"
My response has frequently been, "Fewer relationships today are able to stand the test of time--regardless of the partners' skin colour." The growing inability of folk to cherish and fight for what they have isn't similar across the continents of the world; people in the developed world take the unfortunate lead.
As Europe welcomes immigrants, creating an environment where races mingle, observers do not need to Google personal details of Alicia Keys or Aubrey Drake Graham for examples of the collapse of interracial relationships and marriages. It's everywhere. It's in their own cities and streets: western women-once seen gadding around town with foreign men--now seen alone, pushing their mixed-race kids' strollers. Perhaps walking alongside them are female compatriots who, if married to westerners, are more likely to have their men with them, helping to push the stroller.
The reality is that western women (Europeans in particular) who are involved in interracial relationships are often discriminated against-by friends, the community and even parents. Undoubtedly, the fact that the relationships are interracial is why people perceive their divorces and breakdowns as more horrifying than those among native-born citizens--ignoring the fact of their own, perhaps even more shameful, breakdowns.
For example, mixed couples are faced with strong cultural gaps to narrow and resolve. In due course they enroll in the two-person school of adjustments, while same-race couples fuss about minor matters such as how many pets can be kept, whose job it is to empty the bin, is she really supposed to cook for the two of them, and why does he drink to the point of needing help to get home so often?
The difference in problems faced by these two groups is so big that it isn't a sound idea to compare their performances. Could it be that the divorce rate for interracial couples is no different from the norm, but they, in fact, are expected to be doing better? The answer is "yes"--for many reasons. Although mixed couples may initially face attacks and rejections from their different parents' camps, they won't need to deal with some of the most common break-up reasons like "He suddenly started to bore me" and "I am not sure if she's what I want--I don't really know what I want yet." It is no secret that the interracial blend is often more exciting; why then the ugly collapses? Apart from reasons mentioned in my essay "In a Nordic Capital, Dating Goes by ID Type"--where the immigrant man needed the citizen woman as a means of securing himself residence rights--a few other difficult issues cause mixed couples to stumble and crash.
I believe, from a position of both observer and participant, that interracial relationships work only for people with certain traits. This claim isn't intended to dispute the truism that successful relationships work for people willing to make concessions. My grounds for concluding that this exciting venture, called "the interracial undertaking", isn't for everyone is because the people involved not only have to deal with everyday relationship issues-those that require mere indulgences--but also have to tackle matters that have to do with different cultures. This is the critical point, where the partner who was hoping for a bed of roses and crazy sex is bewildered.
Recognizing the importance of understanding the other person's culture and upbringing, and identifying with the fact that you are about to undergo a transformation that will see you become half-white, half-black (assuming a black and white couple are involved)--frightening as this may sound--are the chief starting points. Folk who find these two challenges exciting are ideal candidates for an interracial experience.
Some people in interracial relationships consider the importance of digesting the other person's culture irrelevant. They believe they are able to come together as a fresh entity, ignoring divergent histories, and merge flawlessly. No wonder many mixed children face an identity crisis!
As often seen, when vital factors are not seriously taken into account by the actors, the western mother is likely to encourage and, at times, even impose on the mulatto that he or she is white. And since the world is far from achieving a colour-blind Utopia--this ends up backfiring on the blameless offspring.
Europe is trailing far behind in dealing with the problem which seems to have long been resolved in American society. Mixed-race children in that country proudly identify with their coloured counterparts. I believe that in an ideal twenty-first century world people should not be concerned with appearances.
Returning to the question: "Aren't interracial couples supposed to be doing better than their opposites?" we can answer, "If their cultural gaps are tackled in such a manner as to entertain and enrich-not divide-the relationship." An African male, for instance, would happily fulfill his western partner's wish for him to "Kiss more gently and often, and in public places too" as long as she embraces his suggestion that they say Grace before meals and a prayer before sleeping.
In every relationship love alone is never enough; if healthy values such as those cited above are the norm, then interracial couples may be ahead of their opposites in survival prospects.
Most important is the western female's understanding of her black partner's background-where he was raised in a household with the father providing for, caring for and catering to the needs of the entire household, allowing his wife to assume the exclusive role of mother. She must come to terms with the reality of her African partner's inability to be another type of man--and not the fifty-fifty relationship that she grew up chorusing and cheering for. On the other hand, the African male must understand that his western partner has lived in a world considerably different to his own; in essence, he must be patient with the adjustments they both have to make. He should not expect to be reminded by a soothsayer of the need to forfeit a substantial degree of his traditional approach to relationships while accepting that he is now part of a society where precision is the norm and comments are analysed at the morpheme level.
In the end, one key sad truth is that a successful interracial relationship isn't for those staunch female advocates of the fifty-fifty split of relationship power. Rather it is for those who, despite what they have been taught, are capable of scrutinizing the entire package and clever enough to realise that two people can't captain the same ship simultaneously.
archive - issue 14