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  • Writer's pictureDeniss Pleiner, M.A.

Navigating Unique Experiences for Interracial Couples

by Deniss Pleiner, M.A.

 

We have had the privilege of supporting BIPOC and interracial couples navigate difficulties most couples face like communication, financial, intimacy, and other issues. However, there are a few unique challenges that interracial couples face that are a part of and influence the issues mentioned.


If you are in an interracial relationship and feel you have misunderstandings or arguments you don’t even understand, let us normalize some of these for you.


Each of these challenges requires a safe space to be explored and processed and your unique human experience most likely differs– which is why couples therapy is the best place to do so.


Here are the top 4 unique challenges that we support interracial couples through:

Cultural Norms: Each of you will have your own cultural norms and chances are that they are pretty different. You find some behaviors acceptable: from the way you speak to elders or dress at family events to the kind of Holidays you celebrate.

  1. Expectations: You’ll find that you (or your families) may have different expectations of a relationship and your roles within those relationships. The pace and meaning of each step you take in your relationship may be different for ea ch of you.

  2. Family: The level of involvement from your extended family and the role your parents/siblings play in your lives is also an area that needs exploring. If you both share this in common, finding a balance will be the task, and if you don’t share this in common, finding understanding will be.

  3. Different Languages: Literally. Speaking different languages means there is room for misunderstandings. Some words may carry more meaning or different meanings to each of you.

  4. Privilege and Race: Saving the easiest for last! Just kidding. This is probably the scariest of all. But also one of the most important. Acknowledging that each of you have different levels of privilege will create an opportunity for you to truly see and validate one another.


If you experience tension in your relationship connected to these, know that it’s normal. It doesn't mean it can’t or won't work but like all relationships: it means communication is key. Taking the time to understand one another is transformative for relationships and, of course, having a therapist who understands this context will also facilitate a better understanding for you. A culturally aligned therapist can help you learn to have these conversations– even if it is uncomfortable.


And one last note: These are ongoing conversations. It is not a matter of sitting down and going through the list once. Each requires room, time, and teamwork.


If you would like support in doing so, consider working with one of our therapists.


 

Deniss Pleiner, M.A. is the founder and Clinical Director of TOC Therapy-- a group

practice in California tailored to meet the mental

health needs of BIPOC adults through

online individual and couple's therapy. As Clinical Director, Deniss guides the clinical development of TOC Therapy Associates and oversees clinical services and offerings. Deniss also works as a Mental Health Advocate, hosting workshops for organizations interested in supporting their

member's mental health and developing emotionally intelligent leadership.

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