Editor’s note: We asked Dave and Dianne, who met on CatholicMatch, to reflect on a much-buzzed-about New York Times blog post on the growing societal acceptance of interracial marriage. Their response follows.
I spent about nine years of my childhood in a town in East Texas, where we were one of about four Filipino families in town. Being among the minority had various consequences – it made me proud to be who I was, and I had a tendency to stand out (which was both good and bad), but it also really encouraged – required? – me to keep an open mind.
Growing up, my parents always said they were OK with me dating whomever I wanted. Many times I got the impression that deep down, they wanted me to marry someone of my own ethnicity, but in the end, they said that as long as I was happy and we treated each other right, that’s all they could ask for.
Dianne and I had previously exchanged messages on CatholicMatch but lost contact. Once I discerned that I was called to be a husband and father (not a Father), I decided to renew contact, and that was just the beginning of our story. As we talked and then went out on dates, I found her beautiful in so many ways, and our different backgrounds just didn’t matter. She made me happier than I’d ever been, and that’s all I needed to know. It may sound cliché, but I knew God placed her in my life for a reason. How could I second guess that and say, “Well, gee, she’s great, but her skin tone is a little off…I’ll pass, Big Guy”?
Despite living in different cities from our parents, we soon introduced each other to the future in-laws. Throughout our dating phase, we spent various times with each other’s family, and they all saw how great we were for each other. So as news of our engagement spread, we got mostly supportive feedback from everyone, including my parents, echoing much of the sentiment I heard as I was growing up. (Guess that study cited in the blog post was right!)
I was raised in Kansas, which isn’t quite a multi-cultural melting-pot. Being white in a largely white area, I guess growing up that I suspected I would marry a white man. I wasn’t completely isolated from other races; I did a fair amount of traveling, and even Kansas isn’t completely pale, but white was familiar.
In college, that changed as I met more people and eventually moved out of state and to large cities. I did date men of different races. And then I met Dave, and I fell in love.
When I first saw Dave’s profile, I was drawn to his funny pictures. I was also initially hesitant because he was Asian. One of my potential concerns was the possibly significant cultural differences between the Asians I had known, and well, me. However, Dave listed Pacific-Islander as his race, so that distinction made me consider him, whereas I suspect I may have written him off otherwise.
Sounds silly now, but that’s where I was at the time.
Even though he is pretty Americanized, there are cultural differences between us. While dating, there was enough of a fundamental same-ness that the differences just seemed exotic or irrelevant. There were times I think I was more interested in his heritage than he was. In time, though, some of the differences became more pronounced. Some have been great, like Filipino wedding traditions and the cultural support of traditional family roles, which we espouse. Others have been much harder, such as differentiating between our understanding of the difference between respect of elders and submissiveness.
Over the years we have spent more time with extended family, and it’s gotten past the initial pleasantries. There have been wonderful times, but there have also been tense moments as cultural differences were exposed.
There may be differences in traditions, cultural practices, familial roles, gender expectations, or any other number of things. Within the confines of a relationship, these differences can be embraced or rejected to any degree. They’re only as big of a deal as your and your significant other allow them to be.
If a marriage isn’t built upon a solid foundation – that is, if it’s rooted solely in physical attraction, convenience, materialism, etc., rather than a strong commitment based on sacrificial love, communication, trust, and faith – then those problems may be more likely to make the marriage crumble. But if it’s done right, then that marriage can then be a strong foundation for a new family, the heralded building block of society, and working through and appreciating these differences can lead to the proliferation of understanding and compassion.
The New York Times blog post mentions that interracial couples are more likely to divorce. I can see how that’s true if a couple is ill-prepared to deal with the challenges of merging two cultures, especially if there is lack of support from family and friends. (We were blessed to not have that last road block.)
But then, no matter who you date (and eventually marry) you will have differences. Some will draw you together, and some will test your relationship. I suspect it’s those hard ones that really make you fight for each other that are most worthwhile. You just have to ask yourselves: Do we want to face these challenges together or face other challenges alone (or with someone else)?
Meeting a potential spouse online, you can be picky. Just filter out everyone who isn’t tall enough, thin enough, or perhaps white enough. I probably did this initially. I’m so glad that I broadened my search though, because if I hadn’t, I would have overlooked my soul mate.
DAVE & DIANNE SAY:
If too much focus is on the interracial rather than the relationship, chances are the focus may need to be broadened. If you limit your choices based on race or ethnicity, is it possible that you’re limiting your own happiness – or even limiting what God wants and is trying to give you?
So keep an open mind when it comes to race. You might be missing out one someone special!