Mixed Matches, Chapter 2

The next chapter of “Mixed Matches” focused on why a person chooses to be in a mixed match. The author’s idea is that sometimes people do not feel comfortable in their culture/family of origin.  They seek out relationships with people in cultures different from their own so they can experience what they think they are missing and create more balance.  For example, someone from a subdued culture might be intrigued by more expressive cultures and seek out relationships with people from expressive cultures.  The danger though, is that the very differences that drew people towards each other can also divide them later on after they have to live with their partner’s quirks day in and day out.  The author wants each partner to be aware of stereotypes they may carry about their partner’s culture/family of origin and to proactively discuss differences before they cause major difficulties.

 

At the end of the chapter, there are exercises to do.  Each partner has to discuss how they view and experience sex roles, religion, etc in their own family and in their partner’s family.  We did these out loud instead of writing down our responses.  I still don’t have any easy answer about what makes me an American of mixed Swedish-Slovenian-Swiss heritage.  Satya doesn’t know what makes him an Indian. 

 

So far, we didn’t discover any earth-shattering truths or huge roadblocks.  Both of us come from very practical, religious, quiet, close families.  Surprisingly, in some my family is more conservative and authoritarian than his-for example, everyone was required to go to church once a week, my siblings and I underwent the full Catholic initiation.  His family left religion up to personal choice, but both of his parents are firm believers.  Both of us had fathers that worked full-time and mothers that were homemakers and caregivers most of the time.

 

Both of us were willing to date outside of our cultures.  I had always been intrigued by India, but from a distance.  Satya was only the second Indian man I ever went on a date with.  I’d gone out on dates with a variety of others.  Satya had gone on dates with Chinese-Americans, Indians, and Caucasians.  

 

Before I met Satya, I just had a superficial appreciation of India.  I liked the music, movies, colors, food although I didn’t know much about it and most of what I did applied more to North Indian culture than to Southern Indian culture.  The close family relationships seemed familiar.  The rituals seemed fascinating.  The gods and goddesses seem similar to Catholic saints.  I guess you could say I had positive stereotypes about India before I met Satya and even now before I’ve been to India.

 

For those in mixed relationships, what did you know or believe about your partner’s culture before you started dating your partner?  What major cultural differences have you encountered?

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Reactions of Others to Interracial Couple

Being in a mixed relationship I expected some surprise from others.  Wikipedia notes the combination of white wife and asian husband is one of the rarest…174,000 compared to 50+ million of white/white so weird looks and stares are expected.  Here are a few memorable reactions…

We live in a large East Coast city.  A few times we’ve had African American women tell us, “You two are going to have such beautiful children.”  I think that is an odd comment, nice but odd.  Are most mixed kids gorgeous?  It seems like that is what the perception is.  I admit I’m curious to see what our future kids will look like as almost everything is possible.  Satya has very dark brown eyes and black hair, but says he has some cousins with blue/green eyes.

At one Indian restaurant, one of the owner’s (a middle-aged man from India) began to reminisce about his Russian ex-girlfriend.  He then asked me what my heritage is.  This all made Satya more than a little uncomfortable.  He thought the man was being too friendly and too nosy.

My mom met Satya for the first time last Christmas.  We met him near baggage claim and he chatted with us for a while before going to pick up his bags.  While he was gone, I asked my mom what she thought of him.  She said simply, “Good choice.”

One of my co-workers, a white middle aged divorced woman, said that she could never imagine dating or marrying someone of a different culture and race.  Some people may never think of the possibility until they see it, I think.

Two days ago we had a more depressing incident.  Satya went to switch over his driver’s license from one state to where we live now.  He brought his folder of paperwork, but the white man behind the counter said, “All the paperwork is too intense…take it to a different office.”  He wouldn’t even look at us and forget about smiling.  We don’t know if he was being lazy or racist or both. 

When I first met Satya I didn’t really think of our relationship being a question of race.  Indians seem to be a mix of nearly all races.  When we went to an Ethiopian restaurant, Satya couldn’t believe how similar Ethiopian food is to South Indian food.  He also has noted that Kannada has a few Chinese words and that fishmen in India use the same kinds of fishing nets as the Chinese.  Roman coins have also been found in his area, so who knows?

For the future, we know that we will probably need to be careful in choosing a place to live.  We will probably stick to cities and nearby suburbs.  We’ve heard stories of people being harassed or killed in some areas just for being in a mixed relationship.  Some of my co-workers have warned me not to visit certain areas of the state with Satya.  We knew that the Southern US was out of the question due to its long struggle with racism.  It still shocks me to hear of incidents in the Northern US and Midwest, but guess I should be more realistic. 

Are we being too cautious?  I don’t know.

Intercultural Dating, Part One

I did not intentionally set out to date an Indian.  Most people in mixed relationships say they did not plan on marrying outside their group.  Both of us were looking outside our cultures due to location.  I did not meet any other Scandinavian American Catholics on the East Coast.  If Satya had stayed in India, he most likely would have married another Lingayat.

 

Below, is my dating advice and links to a few helpful resources.  Most of it applies to dating in general. I will write a future post about some of the specific challenges we’ve faced as a mixed couple.

 

 Be Open

At first you need to be open to know what you like, what you don’t, and what you can tolerate.  This requires you to meet different people.  One book that explains this well is “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

 

Neither Dr. Henry Cloud nor I recommend having a lot of relationships, but I am recommending going out on dates (just dinner or coffee) with a variety of people and getting to know them.  Of course, use your common sense.  If someone is dangerous or just seems “creepy”, just say no.

 

This also means that when you are on a date with someone, listen to them.  Don’t just talk about yourself and don’t judge people without listening first.

 

Have a Checklist

In my head, I had a generic checklist of qualities I was looking for: kind, intelligent, tall, non-smoker, no drugs, responsible, somebody with similar interests, etc. 

 

Satya’s list was a bit different.  He had some disastrous dates with Indians so he was mostly looking outside his culture.  He had some quirky (in my personal opinion) requirements.  One of them was that he wasn’t interested in dating someone in his same field.  His reasoning is that if the economy goes bad, the chances of both being out of work at the same time are decreased.

 

One book that advocates this is Neil Clark Warren’s book “Date…or Soul Mate?  How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less” His major piece of advice is to write down what qualities you desire in a partner.  He calls these the “Must Haves”.  Then, when you meet someone, listen to them carefully to try to discern if they have those qualities.  Even if only one or two are missing, discontinue the romantic relationship because that mismatch will just build a greater divide over time.

 

It may take more than two dates to decide if you’d like to persue a romantic relationship with someone.  That’s ok.  The point is not to compromise on things that you believe are important. 

 

Be Honest

Satya and I met each other when we both were nearly burned out of dating.  The hidden benefit of this was that we both decided we were tired of playing games and we both decided to be honest.  I think this is why people often say that you meet somebody when you aren’t looking…it is because you are honest. 

 

What does this mean?  First off, don’t lie.  If you don’t like something, say so.  I decided not to continue dating a man whose passion was baseball.  Baseball to me is one of the most boring things in the world.  I just couldn’t envision myself by his side at the baseball stadium.  Hopefully, he has found a woman who can share that passion.

 

Secondly, be honest about what you are looking for.  If you are interested in meeting lots of different people, say that.  If you are searching for a marriage partner, say that.  If you don’t know, say that.  Satya and I decided individually we were ready to marry and were looking for that type of relationship. 

       Be Strong

Dating is tough.  It is tough to go through the roller coaster of emotions and to keep your optimism and hope.  One of the books that helped me put dating in a better perspective is, “It’s not you, It’s him” by Georgia Whitkin, Ph.D.  If things do not turn out how you’d like, remember this.  Hopefully, in the future you will find someone.

 

This book does have some controversy.  Some people who read the book believe the author is advocating that women should be extremely demanding.  This isn’t the message I took from the book. 

 

The main message I took away from the book is remember, if things don’t work out, it isn’t always your fault.  I do think that women do take relationships too seriously and blame themselves needlessly.  Some relationships just weren’t meant to be.

 

Give everything your best shot, learn as much as you can, and then move on.

 

Conclusion

Dating is tough, don’t let anyone tell you different.  Hopefully, someday you will find your match and grow a lot in the process.