You’re Marrying Who?

Back in the early 1990’s when my husband and I got married, intercultural relationships and marriage were not as accepted as they are today.  When we would walk together in the mall, or eat at restaurants, white people’s heads often turned, sometimes shaking with disapproval. I had a friend who, knowing my husband was Hindu, actually came out and asked me, “How can you love someone who you know is going straight to hell?”  Needless to say, my answer to her was to turn my back and never look back in her direction again. My family, though openly loving and accepting of my husband, had a hard time understanding why I wanted to marry and raise children with someone who is from a different background.  But, in time, they respected my freedom to marry who I chose, honoring the American tradition of marrying for love.

Among Indian circles, we received even more resistance to our marriage.  At Indian social gatherings, on more than one occasion, elderly men would walk over to me and stare unabashedly at me, certainly discussing the peculiarity of my presence amongst them. My husband was pressured by family to have an arranged marriage, instead of committing to me, to follow the cultural norm of marrying within their community.  I was excluded from conversations because of the language barrier, and excluded from women’s social circles, making me feel like a sore thumb in the crowd.  But gradually, just like my own family did, my husband’s community warmed up to me, and respected his choice of me as a wife.

Today, interracial and intercultural marriage is much more commonplace and accepted by society in the U.S.  according to a article entitled, “Interracial marriages at an all time high, study says,” the rate of interracial marriage in the country has increased from 6.8 percent in 1980, to 14.6 percent in 2008.  An individual interviewed in the article claimed that she felt like she and her husband get the best of both worlds in the marriage. The article sheds light on the trend in the U.S. for cultures to increasingly assimilate into greater American society, a fact that  the majority of people in their younger twenties today accept .

Although the fight for acceptance of our love, of our union, from both white society and Indian society was a difficult one that we had to endure, I feel like the struggle resulted in a unique bond between my husband and myself, that grew into our ability to weather any hardship, to weather whatever storms that life might blow in our direction.  I also hope that he and I served to pave the way for others who might seek to marry outside of their culture or race.

I am interested in hearing from your readers about this subject.

Do you agree that interracial and intercultural relationships are accepted more these days?

Do you have a personal experience you would like to share on the subject?

Do you agree or disagree with interracial or intercultural relationships?  Why do you feel the way you do?

If interested in reading the full article referenced here, click on the link below.




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10 thoughts on “You’re Marrying Who?

  1. Great post! And certainly rings true with me and my husband’s situation as well. My husband is of Pakistani origin but the same traditions abound. Years ago, I never considered “interracial” anything but a case of black and white. Boy was I wrong! I’ve come to find out its not at all about color but about culture! I believe interracial/intercultural relationships are more “common” as a whole these days. BUT not sure about the “accepted” part. I, too, live in the South. And my hubs family is from northern Pakistan. You can imagine the prejudices! Some issues stem from a cultural viewpoint, but mostly from a religious perspective. I am Christian and my husband is Sunni Muslim. Some of his family thinks I’m gonna leave him and drop him like a blueberry hotcake, that I go out clubbing every weekend, and wear short skirts. And then others in my family think he’s out to win jinnah by converting me, will make me wear a burqa, and is a militant waiting to strike America. Ha!

    How to deal? Patience, tolerance, understanding, and prayer. Lots of prayer…. And time. Time will tell. I am slowly showing his family that not all Americans are attitude-givin’, club-hoppin’ hoochie mamas. And he is showing my family that he is a man of principle and character; and the biggest terrorist activities don’t happen in America, but on their own soil and to their own people.

    • Time will tell. That is so true. I don’t know how long you two have been married, but I can say from personal experience that time heals all wounds. I agree whole-heartedly that you need patience, tolerance, understanding, and prayer. You wouldn’t be in this marriage if you didn’t feel like it was worth it and I’m sure you didn’t go into it blindly either. Patience has been so key for me. Slowly my in-laws came around to accepting my role in their son’s life, and slowly I came around to accepting their role in his. I think it is awesome that you and your husband are showing your families the best of yourselves. I think you are right that with time and patience, and lots of prayer, things will be all right.

  2. Hello! I just came across your blog. I actually think that interracial and intercultural relationships are becoming more acceptable, because how people put it ” The world is becoming smaller”

    I met my boyfriend when I was an undergrad at college, and frankly I saw a lot of interracial couples walking around. As opposed to where I went to high school, I never saw any.

    For me it was a bit of a roller coaster, which I’m still going through now. I had one friend tell me ” So are you still dating that indian guy?” or ” Oh, I still see you have curry fever”. I’ve also heard some meaner things like ” So you’re going to date that brown guy? Bet he’ll make you and feed you curry all the time.” I just looked at that guy and said ” Actually he’s a really great cook.”

    So I’ve had trials with a few people I was friends with, and especially with my parents. They were afraid that I would be taken advantage of, give up my religion and become Hindu, so on and so forth, but when he and I got more serious they were like ” He’s hindu right? If you get married what will your children be?” ( My family and I are Roman Catholic) To this day, going on 3 years of dating, we don’t know. Don’t get me wrong my parents are wonderful people, they just want me to be happy. And once they got to know him they fell in love with him 🙂

    With his parents, its really hard because they wanted him to have an arranged marriage also…. but when he told them last year, when he was visiting, that he and I were dating…. didn’t go over as he expected. ( I got a very upset phone call from India that day/night). But we were strong,and there for one another. His parents just came this month to stay with him, and I met them for the first time. From what he’s told me, they are slowly but surely coming around. So I’m guessing that they sort of like me 😀

    Just now though my parents are still bombarding me with ” Do they like you? Is your boyfriend going to take them out anywhere? Why haven’t you met them again?” Fun never seems to end. But I believe in the end its worth it. He’s a great guy.

    So overall an interracial/ intercultural/ inter-faith relationship for me, is great. I like having the experience of getting to know my boyfriend’s culture and his customs and how similar and different we are 🙂

    • It is so great to hear from you and about your experiences in your relationship with your boyfriend. You have raised a lot of the concerns that I had when my husband and I were dating, and they are truly valid issues to explore. You addressed the issue of religion between the two of you, and in my experience, that is a fundamental element to forging a successful relationship. I know lots of couples who have been married for years and years, who are of different religions, and they have loving relationships and have created wonderful families. Some of them retain their own separate religious beliefs and raise their children knowing both religions, while some of my friends have chosen for one spouse to convert to the other spouse’s religion, so that the children can be raised in one faith. Before getting married, I highly recommend that you both do some soul searching to determine how open-minded you each are about the other person’s faith, and how flexible you can be with accommodating the other person’s wishes when it comes to practicing one or the other, or both religions in your marriage and family. My husband was raised Hindu, I was raised in a church called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (not your run-of-the-mill Christian denomination), and we both chose to convert to Catholicism so that our children would have one faith in their lives. We teach the kids to honor and respect their Hindu grandparents’ beliefs, and that each religion is just another path to God (a little bit of Hindu influence there). It doesn’t really matter what faith you are from, I think, as long as you proceed in an interfaith relationship with open eyes and open minds.
      As far as gaining acceptance from his parents, I feel your pain. My parents were pretty open-minded about my husband and I dating, though they had reservations due to lack of knowledge of his culture, but my in-laws had a much harder time accepting me. I won’t lie…things were rough in the early days of our relationship. He was torn between duty to family and duty to me. But over time, and with lots of compromise from all parties involved, we have all settled into good relations. My advice to both of you is to talk, talk, talk. Get everything out in the open, and enjoy being in love and getting to know each others’ cultures.
      Best wishes to you!

  3. I agree that the western world is becoming more accepting towards intercultural couples, but when it comes to Asia, things are exactly at the same place where they were ages back. At least, from my personal perspective.

    Sometimes I even think that cultures like the Indian one, are so scared of western influence, that people tend to take up a really thick layer of conservative ideas and practices, only to prove their point.

    In my opinion, intercultural couples, who have the support of their families on both sides, should consider themselves lucky.

  4. The discussion of religion is such an important one, it’s nice for me to see other people who deal with it too. I didn’t have as much trouble as others though so I feel quite lucky. I was raised Muslim, but in my late teens, I found myself gearing towards being agnostic. My boyfriend is non-denominational Christian, and I love the idea of any kids we may have attending a churn based school for their preschool years, as I attended those as a child in New Orleans, and the community element is strong there. My parents will most likely be upset even further, but those are my decisions to make, and I feel for anyone who has felt the disapproving pressure d their peer and families.

    • I agree that it is very hard to make changes in your life when it comes to religion. Religion can be so divisive, and yet it could be so uniting as well. As far as disappointing your parents about your decisions regarding religion, I feel for you. I think you have to be very secure with yourself to make the decision to deviate from the religious tradition of your upbringing. No one wants to disappoint their parents, and parents want the absolute best for their kids. It’s hard. But you are right that it is your own decision to make. Just know that it is not going to be an easy road ahead and you have to remain steadfast in your own beliefs in order to make it through the rough times.
      Church based preschools are wonderful for kids, because they give young kids a very basic message. “God loves you.” Of course, they intend for the message to be received as a Christian message, but parents and kids can take what they want from the experience. God is the basis for all faiths, so maybe your parents can just appreciate it on that level.
      Good luck!

  5. I dont know if being uncomfortable with other cultures is more region specific, because when my American boyfriend and I got married in the late 80’s, the whole thing seemed very normal, and not much to be remarked at by either sector of society. We were in a university town in the boonies in the NE, and beginning to embark on real life as poor-as-church mice, newly weds with our first professional “real jobs”. Perhaps no one said anything or thought anything was different or perhaps being young and hopeful we did not hear and did not care. Perhaps it was region specific. Perhaps it was because neither of us really viewed the other as an “other” and folks just picked up on that. Perhaps it was the kind of people we hung out with and the families we have. Perhaps it is because neither one of us put much stock in religion. Who knows… well perhaps only the shadow knows… or maybe not. Either way, we did not feel different and were not treated differently. And here we are 24 years later!
    So yes multicultural relationships can work. In my observation they work more seamlessly for partners who are comfortable and at ease with their own inherited cultures. Then the partners have less angst about “otherization” and tend to view their partner as more ally than something apart from themselves. When a partner gives up their own culture for another, I see signs of strain in the long run.

    • For us and our family, I definitely believe that our issues stemmed much from the region we were in. I have southern roots, and if you are familiar with the history of self-imposed isolation of the American South, says volumes. My great, great, great grandfather was a Union soldier in the Civil War, but returned to Kentucky after the war. Though politically aligned with the Union, Kentucky, in reality, was steeped in southern tradition. No diversity to speak of. My husband and I met in Memphis, Tennessee, in the heart of the Bible belt, and we now live in Georgia. To top it off, my husband is not only Indian, but South African, a product of Apartheid. Both sides of our families feared the unknown of the other. So, I believe regional culture has a great deal to do with acceptance of intercultural relationships.
      And I agree with you that seeing your partner as the “other,” or giving up one’s own culture can cause strain. Though it can be hard at times, love demands a give and take, and as well as self-respect. Culture is innately part of a person, and it’s all or nothing when you commit to a person for life. After all, the whole package is who you fell in love with, right?

  6. Pingback: Romance in the Garden of Good and Evil: Intercultural Love in Savannah | Southern Life, Indian Wife

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