Unexpected Struggles Interracial Couples Face On A Daily Basis

Writer: Nadhirah Badardin

My husband is Sudanese and I’m Malaysian. For the past 7 years, we never really cared to categorise our relationship as “interracial” simply because we have never really seen it that way. But as much as we’d like to keep the “interracial” label out when it comes to our relationship, it seems like we could always count on everyone else to point out just how different we really are. This gets really f*king annoying sometimes because I honestly feel like we don’t look that much different from each other…

Okay, maybe a little bit. Anyway, as by-products of generations of interracial relationships ourselves, getting together felt natural because we really like each other and isn’t that what matters for any relationship to work?

So, before you go around asking interracial couples questions you wouldn’t normally ask other couples, I thought me and my comrades in interracial relationships could lay out a few struggles we weren’t expecting before we got together with our significant others:

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People will stare.

If you look strikingly different from one another, chances are you’re bound to attract a hell of a lot of judgmental stares from strangers. “For the first few years, I used to feel so self-conscious just holding hands with my Malay fiancé because I couldn’t stand it when people stared at us.” said *Juliette, a Malaysian of Chinese heritage. “You could try staring back at them but a lot of people just don’t seem to care. I find this so bizarre because we’re really just minding our own. Shouldn’t people do the same?” said Nadia, a Malay woman dating a Chinese man in Malaysia.

Everyone gets way too invested when your partner’s born Muslim and you’re not.

“After converting, I seem to get these questions a lot – what my ‘Malay name’ is (because apparently every Muslim on the planet totally needs one), how much I miss chugging pork (supposedly one of the defining aspects of the Chinese identity), the pork question but with booze (I don’t even like the taste of alcohol) and of course, the potong (circumcision) question, so I ask if they’d like a peek.” said Nick. “I get really pissed when people ask me “BUT DO YOU BELIEVE?” when I tell them that I’ll be converting,” said Jill. “First of all, it’s not like I have a choice. If I don’t convert, I won’t be able to get married in Malaysia. And even if I don’t, would the world end?” said *Jill.

People WILL fetishize your relationship

As soon as I explain to people just where Sudan is (it’s right next to Egypt and it’s in Africa. It’s also important to note that Africa is a continent, not a country. Don’t ask me again, Malaysians), I get a lot of comments like “Oh, so he’s African. I bet you’re ruined for all races then, you know what they say about black men.” It doesn’t help that I’m a big girl either so I usually get served with a “Lucky you, you never have to go on a diet! African men just love big women, don’t they?” while they’re at it. Honestly, is it really that hard to believe that we just genuinely like each other despite our physical attributes? What is wrong with people?

Everyone will comment on how your hypothetical children would look like

We don’t even have children yet, but that hasn’t stopped strangers from wondering things like “I wonder what colour your kids would be!” out loud. Which is cringey because we’re basically the same colour. But for some couples, this isn’t always the case. “Here’s an awkward one – my wife is Malay and she’s a little tanned. My grandmother loves her but sometimes casually and totally innocently mentions that she hopes our future children take after my skin tone.” said Nick. And when you have kids, the excitement really builds for some family members. “When my daughter was born, my Causcasian ex-MIL took her to the neighbors’ house to show them her “coloured” granddaughter.” said Kay.

Sometimes people won’t believe that your kids are actually your kids

“When I take my half-Asian half-Caucasian daughter without my husband, people usually assume that I’m the nanny and not her mom,” said Jane. “What’s surprising is this only seems to happens to me right here in Malaysia!” she added. 

Dating in secret

Though some families are open to accepting interracial love within the family, some couples aren’t as lucky to be open about their relationships with their families. “His family just can’t seem to accept me, mostly because I’m Malay and a Muslim,” said Nadia “When he first introduced me to his family, they all ignored me and left. I didn’t even get to try talk to them at all because they wouldn’t give me the chance. I found out a little later that he got scolded by his father the night he brought me over to his family’s home. So now we’re dating secretly, which is rather sad because we basically don’t know where to go from here.”

Just. So. Much. Racism.

Unfortunately, as much as interracial couples try to keep things as neutral as possible, we can always count on some bad eggs to get up to racist shit like this – “I used to date a Thai girl who looked Malay and had tattoos,” said Nik Harris. “This one time, a Malay uncle in our building decided to give her an hour’s lecture about Islam which she listened to politely. When I went down out of concern, the uncle asked me if I was Muslim to which I replied yes, but not my girlfriend. When I told him that she’s Thai, he said in Malay “Aren’t you a shame of bringing a prostitute home?” and really excelled at doing his part in demeaning us. Thanks to him, I moved out of the building as soon as my lease was up.”

Last but not least, EVERYONE will try to make assumptions about your relationship.

“People would always assume that we had an ‘Indian’ wedding because I’m Indian or that he was forced to marry me because I’m Indian. Why is it so hard to believe that he proposed?” said *Rae. “And just because he’s British, people also love assuming that we got married for a visa.” she added. “When people find out that my boyfriend’s American, they immediately assume that we’re dating because I want a green card,” said Farah. “Honestly, I don’t even need a green card. A Malaysian passport gets me practically everywhere with ease.”