Recently I’ve been in contact with a girl by means of the internet. We haven’t met but plan to soon. I like her a lot. She has told me she loves me and wants to start a family with me.
She isn’t a member of the church but said she is willing to join it if it means being with me. I find her attractive, yes -but there are other factors as well.
She is from a mixed race (half African, half White American). I know love can put aside all differences but at the same time this would cause stress on both of us. Not only culturally but children, my family (she has no family really), etc. Some of my family members are a little less open to other races as I am. I know family is something that can be dealt with but my family is very close. I was just wondering if there was some way to overcome this issue?
I have openly told her about my feelings on these subjects and she doesn’t care. She is willing to wait for me to overcome my issues. I plan to go forward with our relationship and see how well we get along once we have met in person. I look forward to it.
I have prayed concerning this and have felt good about it. I just still am struggling to overcome some of my anxiety over the subject. Am I wrong to worry about such things? Am I over thinking this? Any advice would be appreciated.
Finding love through the Internet is a new mating process that is increasing in popularity and has been for the past 10-20 years. As with any new process, we struggle to figure out its implications and “rules” of behavior as we embark on unchartered territory. One of the positives of the Internet is the decrease of geographical and cultural boundaries. This has a great impact on the “pool” available to those who are dating. Our world today is much more global, as is our church, and people are meeting, falling in love or beginning friendships with those not of their culture, race or even religious faith at a much grander scale than ever before. There are many wonderful things about this – the main one being increased tolerance for others different from ourselves.
However, as with anything, there are challenges that couples in interracial, intercultural, or interfaith relationships should be aware of as they make the decision to make a life together:
- Unfortunately there still remain many stereotypes or “attitudes” towards mixed race relationships – this can depend greatly on the geographical area you live in. The best way to deal with this issue is to see it as ignorance and un-Christlike behavior. It may take patience at times, the willingness to not be overly sensitive and the willingness to be a voice, example and educator to those around you. Be clear with friends and family members that if they want to enjoy the benefits of a relationship with you and your wife (if you were to get married), that any type of racism/bigotry will be addressed and not tolerated. Because of deep seeded beliefs/cultural bias, some people may not even be aware that their behavior is racist. That is why I encourage open communication before writing people off.
- With different cultures and faiths there usually come different traditions, parenting styles, conflict/problem-resolution styles and even romance styles. As with any relationship, communication will be a key element for success.
- It will be of great importance once children are born, to engender in them a sense of pride for all aspects of their ancestry and subsequent personhood (i.e. color of skin, cultural tradition and history, etc.). Sometimes within the same family, children may have different color shades of skin tone. Communication and normalizing of the family situation will be important in engendering strong self-esteem and a strong sense of family unity. It is also important to educate them on what they can expect from the outside world so that they are prepared to deal with insults or other ignorant behavior.
Here are some thoughts in regards to your specific situation:
- It is normal to worry and “over think” when making the important decision as to your lifelong companion. In fact, it is good to be as objective as possible and be realistic about the pros and cons of the relationship. This is usually a difficult thing to do when we are “in love.” However, the more you discuss potential strengths and weaknesses as a couple, the more insight you will both receive as to your problem-solving styles, your compatibility, your attraction, your goals/dreams, etc. These are important things to be addressing during the dating process.
- I encourage you to take the relationship to the next level – that of meeting as you mention – and see how you feel about each other once you are able to spend more time with one another. There is no need to hurry or rush into any decision.
- Just because your love interest has “received an answer” and feels that you should marry, does not necessarily mean that this is your answer. It will be important for you to receive your own impressions and personal revelation regarding the decision as to whom you will marry.
- I would discourage any conversion process that is based solely on the desire to marry. Many not of our faith don’t always understand the commitment needed to legitimately become a convert. Conversion into our religion takes doctrinal belief and personal commitment that this woman may not be completely aware of. I would hope also that from your perspective, it would be more important for her to convert sincerely if that is what she chooses at some point, than to just want her to convert due to family and/or LDS social pressure. Conversion should be a deeply personal, spiritual and largely individual journey with God.
- It is better to be aware of and recognize any cultural or racist biases you may have and be honest with yourself about them. In the desire many of us have not to be racist, we inadvertently hide uncomfortable feelings or thoughts (even from ourselves). To be able to overcome such thought processes we first need to identify them and how we want to progress. Asking ourselves the following questions may be helpful: Where do my biases come from? What lenses am I looking through (i.e. my parents?, my culture?, my education?) Are any of my biases based on evidence? Are they based on fear? Are they based on gospel teaching? How did Jesus Christ feel about and treat those of a different culture during His ministry? What can I learn from Him? How do my biases limit me? How do they protect me? Do I want this type of protection? How do I want to approach people of a different race, culture or faith? How do I want these same people to approach me?
With all this being said, I want to be clear that whether or not we marry within the same race, religion or culture – the fact remains that the two families from which two individuals come from are, in of themselves, two different cultures. We take a lot for granted when marrying within “sameness” that many times does not meet expectations. People assume certain things because of the labels we engender. Then come to find out, assumptions are not realities. It is important regardless of who we marry to be aware of the “culture” our spouse comes from, the “culture” we come from and how we are to integrate the strengths and weaknesses we bring to the table to in turn create a new found culture within the bounds of our new family and home.
What are your thoughts and feelings about interracial marriage?
What are your thoughts and feelings about marrying outside of our faith?
Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.