Does Being in a Mixed Partnership Make You More Open-Minded?

For those in mixed-marriages/partnerships: Do you think being in a multicultural union makes you more open-minded about race/ethnicity?

It seems from how the media covers mixed partnerships, the assumption is that those of us who are in one are somehow less influenced by racial stereotypes, but I’m interested in the ways this both is and isn’t true. For instance, of course I love the shogun and see him first and foremost as a man and not a Japanese person, but I still hold certain beliefs about him based on his ethnicity and know he does the same about me (don’t get me started on his theories about ear wax, sweat glands, and westerners…), and my guess is that anyone growing up in this world is never fully outside of cultural beliefs about race and/or ethnicity.

Would love to know your thoughts and experiences!

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16 thoughts on “Does Being in a Mixed Partnership Make You More Open-Minded?

  1. That’s a really interesting question!
    While I’d like to think that I’m open-minded in part because of my relationship, as well as being the result of a mixed marriage (cultural/nationality) and because I’ve moved around a lot, especially as a child… I also know I’m not innocent of holding onto some beliefs that are either overly simplified or not entirely true. I *do* know that comparatively (with peers that have grown up in one culture and remain so) I can probably be considered open-minded. Or at least aware of how non open-minded I am, and actively try to make an effort to become more educated. Maybe that’s the difference? Being forced to acknowledge your own and other people’s prejudices more often because of how people may see/comment on your relationship, life choices etc?

    I feel like this discussion would be great coupled with some wine and a group of friends. Would be interesting to see what people say!

    As for the shogun’s beliefs on earwax and sweatーI’m not quite sure exactly which views he has on the subject, but this video from Rachel and Jun confirms the sweat gland/different earwax theory. ^^; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-_QKyipj_Y

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    1. Thanks, Ri. That’s exactly what the shogun is talking about! Interesting You Tube channel, by the way. I’m skeptical of the science, though, and also of the fact that Japanese culture has stereotypes about other East Asians and South East Asians smelling more than they do, but there is no evidence at all that Japanese are ethnically any different from other East Asians.

      In any case, I love this point you make: “Or at least aware of how non open-minded I am…” I feel like that’s what being in a mixed marriage has done for me and I suspect that’s what it’s done for many of us, which is why I’m interested in the whole question.

      Anyway, thanks again for your response!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am Filipina, now Filipina-American, and my partner is Anglo-American. That’s an interesting question you pose- hard to say.. maybe it’s because at the heart of it I’m more a third-culture kid than of my Filipino and American cultures. Speaking from that perspective. for the longest time I preferred dating men from neither because I felt that there was expectations of me to be a certain way – Filipino or Americanized. When I dated someone from Italy or wherever, we merely expected to each other to be different, so there was less pressure to find similarities. Whereas a guy from the Philippines might expect me to be more like him than I actually was, same with someone who had grown up in America.

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    1. So interesting, diahnnreyes! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Love this concept: “When I dated someone from Italy or wherever, we merely expected to each other to be different, so there was less pressure to find similarities.” I feel like that in some ways a lot of the time in Japan, actually. I’m an older first time mother (gave birth a year ago to my 1st–and only!–at 46 and a half) and Jewish, and both of these things makes me part of a minority at home. but in Japan, no one sees me as anything other than foreign, and there is some comfort in that. No one notices the other differences–in fact, a lot of people here have never met another Jewish person, which was so surprising to me! And no one really sees me as an older mother b/c when they look at me, they see a Westerner, not someone w/a specific age. Anyway, thanks again for weighing in–really appreciate it!

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  3. I feel open-minded in the sense that, when something is culturally shocking to me, I become more interested rather than reject the differences. Sometimes the things that my partner calls out on me as “so American” surprise me, but they have never been a point of contention between us, so I figure it must amuse him as well.

    As for race/ethnicity, it’s not something I ever really worried about. Learning about cultures of other ethnicities has always been something I’ve enjoyed, I think one perk of being in a multicultural relationship is a personal opportunity to learn more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Miyagi, the shogun always says the same thing about me! We like to make jokes about it all, though, which for us has been a good way of handling the fact that when we got married, we didn’t magically just lose all of the stereotypes we grew up with. But I so agree with you that marrying/partnering with someone from another culture provides a lot of chances to keep learning. I feel like I’ll never be bored in my marriage b/c of that, and I’m really grateful!

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  4. I will add some Asian (Chinese) male perspective. My partner is an American. I grew up in China till my early 20’s. I think in a mixed relationship helps me to understand implications of own race and cultural background. Because I had to debate more often why certain conflicts or disagreements happen, I would reflect on how my heritages played a role. I often came to the conclusion it was the mix of me as a unique individual and my cultural values that shaped my behavior. I never see my parter or expect my partner as a Chinese. I simply thought it would be different. Sometimes such expectations help to overcome the difficulties. The most challenging part is how my partner would react to a set of my behaviors in a non-trivial way when I see it as negligible.

    Sometimes we would be in a conversation and all agreed on an issue. However, we found out later our agreements are based on very different rationales. In the process of understanding each other opened my mind up to other possibilities. So I ended up accepting many of her values, and she might had done the same. I live in US where the host culture is in my partner’s favor. We tend to converge on American thinking at the end. In the process of being Americanized, I become more open-minded about American values and learn to reflect the good, the bad and the ugly of Chinese culture.

    I do realize what is white privilege after being with my American partner. It certainly prompts my interests in race related topics and understand my own role in the puzzle. I don’t think race/ethnicity is a subject in Asia.

    I don’t think I need to live outside of the race/ethnicity. I simply like the fact my partner’s American background has enriched my own life despite the many challenges. As individuals, we would have to get along first and foremost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dan, and for providing your perspective. I really like what you write here: “Because I had to debate more often why certain conflicts or disagreements happen, I would reflect on how my heritages played a role. I often came to the conclusion it was the mix of me as a unique individual and my cultural values that shaped my behavior.” And I’m so interested in your thought that “I don’t think race/ethnicity is a subject in Asia.” I feel like it *is* an issue in Japan, where I live with my Japanese husband. And I even think white privilege, to an extent, exists here, or coexists with a kind of stereotyping of foreigners.

      I also love what you say about how America helps you reflect more on your native culture–that’s one of the things I love about living overseas myself.

      Thanks again for your insights! And sending you all my best from Japan.

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  5. Thank you. I am not trying to deny the fact there are minority groups in Asia. I realize the race narrative (if existing) is very different than the American discourses, group harmony vs. equality. I witnessed white privileges exist in Asia. But very few outsiders have the idea they want to make it in Japan, or the society really has opened up to them to assimilate. The immigration narrative is much more compelling in America. I don’t know how much you have addressed in your book of such topics. While your family live in Japan, your experience of being an inter-cultural and inter-racial couple would be different from the ones in US. Part of me being open-minded is to realize what we have taken for granted simply for being in the majority group by appearance,language and gender.

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  6. I don’t want to come across as angry when I post this because I am not, I am just going to say I think being in a cross cultural marriage in the US is a little different. Or it could just be because we live in a rural area and views are a little different. When I look at my husband I see the man I love and who I will grow old with. Yes we have cultural and language differences that affect out marriage but to me they add to the marriage and every time we survive a English/Spanish disagreement I see it as a major victory. We can joke with each other about our differences and I can use the term “My Mexican” as an endearment. However my relationships with people in our community have changed since our marriage. I don’t see the “white privilege,” now I am just the woman who married the Mexican. As someone who is in a cross cultural relationship I don’t think we close ourselves off to stereotypes, I think we simply react differently to them than the majority of society,

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    1. Lost, I think you make such an important point here–that being in a m/c relationship in the US is unique, as is being in one in Japan. But the whole issue of “whiteness” in Japan is so different from in the US that I think I don’t have a full grasp of what it would be like if we lived in the US, since we’ve almost always been together in Japan (although we did live in Boston together for the first year of our relationship).

      That said, I suspect sometimes we do react differently to some stereotypes than others who aren’t in m/c relationships, and I suspect sometimes we react the same. Or at least that’s how it seems for me.

      Either way, though, thanks so much for being willing to share your opinion and some of your experiences. I’m grateful for your comment!

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  7. I’m a white female with a Chinese-American significant other. One of my favorite books was David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty Someday.” I think he’s hilarious. And yet, I never could finish “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” in which the author travels to China and is horrified by culture and food. I won’t eat the chicken feet myself, but I was ticked that he would make fun of Chinese cuisine that, out of necessity, uses every part of an animal for food. No waste seems admirable to me, and American cuisine wasn’t that much different that long ago. (My friend’s Betty Crocker cookbook from the sixties had a recipe for roasted squirrel!) I was sad that Sedaris had become the ugly American, passing judgement on every culture from his lofty (and fastidious) seat of supposed superiority.

    Would I have felt this way before I spent so much time with a family of Chinese descent? Maybe. Maybe I, too, would have been like, “gross!” And found his essays hilarious. I hope not. I hope I would have at least been uncomfortable and put the book down. I wouldn’t want to be the person who laughs at another culture without thinking.

    Then again, cultural assimilation only goes so far. I’m still passing on the chicken feet.

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  8. I love this question and the discussion in the comments. I am a white American woman married to a white Guatemalan immigrant. We have always discussed race/ethnicity, culture, and immigration topics quite openly. To be honest, I was very interested in these conversations before meeting my husband, and I studied them a lot in school as well. But marriage has definitely opened up my eyes to new perspectives and situations. I could seriously write all day about this, but I do have a blog on the topic, if you’re interested: http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com. Two especially related posts you might appreciate are “My Latino Husband is White” http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com/2013/03/my-latino-husband-is-white.html and “The Dirty Room: A Cross-Cultural Communication Riddle” http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com/2015/04/the-dirty-room-cross-cultural.html.

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    1. Sarah, thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest comments. I just checked out your blog and it looks like you are doing really great work there, writing really openly about multicultural and multilingual marriage. So glad we’ve connected here and on twitter! PS. A similar post to yours on cross-cultural communication: http://howibecametexan.com/2015/04/25/top-10-surprises-about-marrying-someone-who-speaks-a-different-language/

      All my best to you!

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  9. Hi, there Good Shuufu. I happened to stumble across this old post and really couldn’t resist replying, despite how old it is – I hope you don’t mind!

    Speaking as a half-white and half-Asian biracial woman, the answer is no, absolutely not.

    Some of the most closed-minded and prejudiced people I have encountered have been in ‘mixed’ (including interracial) relationships (including those who exclusively date interracially), and some of the most open and colorblind ones I have encountered are those not in mixed couples or those who do not seek mixed relationships.

    Of course, many people fall in between these extremes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hausfrau. Thanks for your response! I had a hunch when I wrote this post a while back that the answer would probably be similar to what you’ve said you’ve experienced. So in the meantime, I did more research and ended up publishing this article on the topic in the Wall Street Journal online. Many of I interviewed–all kids from mixed couples–repeated some of the things you’ve observed. Here’s link to the full article if you’re interested: https://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/mixed-kids-majority-parents-the-globally-blended-family/. Either way, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences and insight! All my best,

      Tracy

      Liked by 1 person

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