Biracial relationships are becoming more popular than it used to be but the challenges are still the same. Having interactions with those in it say love goes beyond nationality.
If you’ve ever conceived the thought of dating someone from a different race, there are a lot of things you must know. Interracial relationships have its pros and cons. As many countries increasingly become diverse and as the dating game surely won’t go out of fashion, there is bound to be a rise in these kinds of relationships.
Research by Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, IPUMS: the world’s largest individual-level population database revealed that Irish born men who married non-Irish born women were most likely to have married from the UK (60%), followed by the US (9%), Central Europe (4.3%), and Eastern Europe (3.9%).
In the United States, one in six newlyweds are marrying someone of a different race or ethnicity, and according to the Office for National Statistics, in Britain, one in 10 marriages are interracial.
That study also revealed a substantial increase in the number of children up to 4-years-old with dual heritage from 116,000 in 2001 to 220,000 in 2011.
Just in 2018, the British royal family ditched its norm when for the first time, Prince Harry married a woman from a mixed heritage. Few eyebrows were raised but it soon became cool. Before his union to Meghan Markle, he had dated ladies from other nationalities including one from Zimbabwe.
Harry and Meghan’s marriage quickly became a beacon of hope for all interracial-intercultural couples.
However, when the couple announced their decision to step back from Royal duties, the issue of racism once again dominated public discourse. Some believe racism greatly impacted the couple’s decision.
‘‘In the United States, one in six newlyweds are marrying someone of a different race or ethnicity, and according to the Office for National Statistics, in Britain, one in 10 marriages are interracial.’’
Like the Prince, Rebecca Chambers, 36, a life coach has had very interesting relationship experiences. But many would find her story compelling because she has dated from 4 of the 7 continents in the world. Not many people have. The Milton Keynes native opened up on all her relationships leading up to boyfriend number 8.
‘You’re taking our man’
Rebecca’s first boyfriend in her teenage years was Barbadian ‘‘I would get pushed and kicked if I was holding his hand. I got shouted at and called all kinds of names’’, she recalls.
Rebecca never experienced any verbal form of racism being with her interracial partners, but admitted her grandmother used to worry about the hostility her unborn children might face. Each time the subject came up Rebecca assured her that, ‘‘they will be loved and cared for by the community.’’
However, in interracial relationships, it’s never one size fits all.
‘‘When we were in Istanbul for holidays, people will stare,’’ says Miray Erdogan-Oshin, originally from Turkey but now based in London with her Nigerian husband, Bayo. ‘’How my husband dealt with them was to stare back and sees who looks away first’’. Miray got married to Bayo in 2006 in the UK. Their relationship seemed solid but it wasn’t like that at the beginning.
For Rebecca, by the time she moved to Nigeria for work, she had serious clashes with strange women just because she got romantically involved with a Nigerian. ‘‘Dating in Lagos was a shock. Nigerian women can sometimes be aggressive’’ she recounts. ‘‘If I’m out with a guy and I get to the toilet, I would be treated really badly because women accuse me of taking their men.’’
The culture blend
In dating, differences in culture can be a blessing and a curse. Bayo for example wouldn’t have found out how similar Turkish and Nigerian cultures are if he hadn’t dated Miray. Besides their love for each other, he says the homogenous culture has been the glue for their 14-years-old union. ‘‘Both of our cultures are quite similar in so many ways: the food, the family, and the respect.’’
‘’The first time he went to Istanbul he kept saying, ‘this is my spiritual homeland,’’ Mirray added.
A publication by the Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Sciences has indicated higher rate of divorce between interracial couples. This played out when life coach, Rebecca moved on to yet another relationship with a Nigerian. She experienced a serious clash of culture. ‘‘He was American-Nigerian and I’m British, so there was the American dating norms, the Nigerian expectations and the European influence.’’ They broke up after 6 months. In a few months, she fell in love again! ‘‘My affinity with Nigerian men could be because I travel there a lot,’’ she tells me.
‘‘My relationships didn’t work out not necessarily because I dated black guys but because they were individuals who did not have similar interests as me.’’
But what she didn’t admit was whether she was in fact travelling frequently because of their men. However, she didn’t need to travel when she met her next Nigerian lover. Rebecca described him as a very traditional Igbo man who wanted complete control.
According to her, his position on some issues only started becoming clear when they were edging towards marriage. ‘‘I wouldn’t resist his opinions if it came to family matters like choice of school for our children, but not complete domination.’’ That was the beginning of the end of their 8-months relationship.
Although she has never been married, Rebecca disagrees with the statistics that indicated a higher rate of divorce among interracial couples. ‘‘My relationships didn’t work out not necessarily because I dated black guys but because they were individuals who did not have similar interests as me.’’
‘‘Mum and I stopped talking because of a black guy’’
‘‘My mum struggled that I was marrying outside of my race,’’ says Miray. ‘‘I hid Bayo from her family. When pictures started emerging, she would ask, ‘what’s going on here? Why is this guy’s arms around you?’’ Rebecca later opened up, but as she expected there was backlash from her family. ‘‘My mum and I stopped speaking for two years because of Bayo.
During those years, I resisted traveling home to avoid drama,’’ she recalls unhappily. Her family never imagined she would be attracted to a black guy.
Rebecca’s case was different as she never got open rejection from her family even if she was convinced they didn’t like some of her ex-boyfriends. They respected her decisions and would only bare their mind when they split.
As immigration continues to be a political issue between countries, interracial marriages in recent times are becoming suspicious. Many migrants, in a bid to get permanent residency in their host countries resort to sham marriages. They start affairs to selfishly get the legal right to remain in a country and enjoy the privileges of citizenship. However, for all her experiences, Rebecca says she hasn’t fallen victim. ‘‘The closest I got to being used was a guy who wanted to go out with me but would refuse to visit me in the UK unless I paid for his flight. That was a red flag,’’ she noted.
Miray says her relationship with Bayo was genuine. Both of them didn’t have permanent residency in the UK when they met so there was trust.
Despite the challenges facing many mixed-race relationships, they are becoming more normalised to society. The British Social Attitudes Survey has shown increasing openness to inter-ethnic relationships.
Bayo, Miray and Rebecca are convinced things will change in the coming years. ‘‘I wasn’t brought up to notice colours. My family travelled a lot when I was younger and we tended to see the individual. I’m dating a woman and not a nationality,’’ says Bayo.
Rebecca describes people who discriminate as ignorant. ‘‘When you love someone, nothing else matters. It’s fun to date from a different country because you learn something new,’’ says Rebecca who just started a relationship with another Nigerian in Italy!
** Names have been changed to protect characters’ identities.