It’s no secret that tensions have been high across the nation due to the most recent events surrounding police brutality towards men and women of color. It has even garnered worldwide attention. But how has it affected relationships? Many couples are reeling from a fresh event while others are talking more for the first time about a topic that had not impacted them as much in the past. For some, for those in interracial relationships, this tumultuous time has presented a level of awkwardness and even pain. This is especially true if the proper conversations are not had or if a mate is clueless on how to support their significant other due to a lack of knowledge. Take a moment to read these four important relationship tips to help you and your loved one maintain unity and love.
Listen – Know that whether your spouse admits it or not, they are probably hurting over the recent events that ￼serve as an in-your-face reminder of the reality they must face as a Black person in America on a daily basis. Their rage hurt, and frustrations may come out in some not so pretty ways that include tears, sadness, anger, and withdrawal. Approach your beloved and ask them how they are doing and just listen with an open mind and heart.
Be Compassionate – Recognize that even though you love your spouse, you cannot possibly understand what they are feeling. But you can be a source of love and strength by expressing your sympathy and compassion for the raw feelings your spouse is experiencing. You can be present and let them talk without interruption or condemnation for the way they or others are handling their pain and frustrations. Avoid using phrases like “I have black friends” or “I have a Black husband or wife,” to prove you’re not a racist- your significant other has enough pressure and weight on them without the burden of being used as a shield. A person can be married to or dating a person of color and still be racist or have learned prejudices towards that ethnicity. Work on checking your shortcomings and possible biases so that you can be part of the solution instead of the problem.
Seek to Understand – There are two ways to listen. My father used to always tell me to listen to understand instead of to be understood. If you put yourself in the shoes of your spouse, imagine living every day in a country that condemned the color of your skin before even getting to know you and fearing police so much so that if you were in an emergency situation you would have to think twice before calling law enforcement for help, then you can come close to meeting your loved one emotionally where they stand. Don’t just hear their words, feel them, validate them, and commit to doing something about it.
Actively Speak Out – The battle for justice and equal treatment of African Americans requires that the majority speak up and speak out. Spread the word that racism is wrong. Condemn racism on social media and all platforms where you have a voice. Share the literature you’re reading on the subject matter. During intimate gatherings, absent of people of color, correct and enlighten family members or friends who feel comfortable making racist comments and jokes. Join a local, peaceful protest, vote in favor of police reform, and ask your spouse what you can further do to help make a difference.
Listen. Be compassionate. Seek to understand. Actively speak out. Doing these four things will lesson the friction you may be experiencing during this time and help to forge an even stronger bond between you and your loved one. Do your best not to become defensive and definitely don’t make this about you and all that you’ve ever experienced in life. The goal in making your partner’s needs a priority is to help them know they are not alone- that even though you may not ever understand all of their experience, you are beside them during it. Help them know they’ve got this while you’ve got them.