How do you manage an interracial relationship when it’s not easy?
Today we’re honoured to introduce you to our lovely friend, Krisztina. She’s bravely opening up behind the scenes of her interracial marriage. Now to say it started rocky is mildly putting it. With language barriers, disapproving communities and parents, these two navigated it all. She’s sharing with us her story and tips that helped her navigate her interracial marriage.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Relationships Beyond Culture
When cultures meet, it’s beautiful and full of colors (and spices!). I can certainly say that colourfulness exists in my marriage. My husband has a Korean background and I have a Hungarian/British background so there is certainly a palette of colours presenting themselves.
I believe it’s safe to say, no matter where we’re from, we all want to be loved. But sometimes, if you pair this with our colourful cultures and identities, it can bring a lot of challenges into our world.
I still remember my father saying “If you ever come home with a foreigner, you will be no longer my daughter!” In my little community, mixed-race marriages were unheard of.
My husband’s community had similar traditional Korean values. So when, for the first time, I talked with my soon to be Korean mother-in-law, she made it very clear that she didn’t want her son marrying a foreigner. (Especially one who had been divorced with two children!) She told me that it just does not happen in Korea. She explained in their culture it’s simply wrong and nobody cares for someone other than their own blood. She even tried to rip up his passport in her hands.
Needless to say, this all put a strain on our relationship.
I thought that we could never marry and I started acting in a way that would provoke conflict. Almost as if I wanted to prove to him and myself after all it would be the best if we just parted from each other.
I feared that I would put him in a terrible situation. If he married me, he would go against the elders’ instruction, something that you do not do in Korea.
I felt sad, upset and rejected. I found myself in complete turmoil.
I noticed I was waiting for him to fight for me. Despite understanding his cultural background, I wanted him to put up a fight for me. I thought, “If he loves me, he will do it.”
But then, if I loved him, shouldn’t I say “Good bye.”?
What were we supposed to do?
Eventually, we realized it actually had nothing to do with our parents or the culture we were coming from. It was all to do with ourselves. Our self worth and self love and self care.
We had the choice to depend on what others were saying or what each of us was doing or not, or we had the choice to learn to understand what this all meant for ourselves.
Once I realized this and started working on it, it no longer mattered whether Jae fought for me or us or not. It didn’t matter whether his parents liked me or not. And it didn’t matter whatever cultural beliefs we had or where we were both from. My husband no longer needs to prove himself to me, nor I to him. It is enough that we love each other.
Now, this may all sound fairytale-like, but this journey was (and still is) far from easy.
Lots of tears, laughter, ups and downs, but now we’ve learnt to accept it all as part of falling down. We are in charge of what is happening in our relationship and we’re not a victim of events but indeed, contributing a bigger part to our marriage.
What helped us to develop and overcome challenges in our colourful (culture-ful) relationship:
1. Non-judgemental acceptance.
Neither of our experiences and feelings were labelled good or bad, it was just how it was. My in laws wanted to have a Korean wife for their son. Was this bad of them to feel and think this way? One day I talked with my husband and he said: Krisztina, this is just how it is. They feel that way, they think that way, and they may decide to change about how they think but it is right now? It’s just the way it is. You can spend all that energy in trying to search for the answer and stay stuck or you can put that energy to focus on the life that we want to live. He was right. We have a choice in where we’re was putting our energy and certainly putting our energy into judgment (or trying to convince our in laws that were good people!) is definitely not serving our relationships.
I know, this is said a lot, but communication really helped. But there was one specific element to that is key. Be open to communicate. And when I say open, I mean it. Not with a defensive attitude and not with the, “La-la-la-la, you can say whatever you want I cannot and will not hear you but I will sit here and pretend that I am making an effort.” attitude. Communicating with each other about hard things is often very uncomfortable, especially when there’s language barriers and not exactly understanding what the other’s saying. (My Korean is not up to the level to fully make sense of everything Jae says!) And remember, in order to make our communication most effective we’ve got to listen more than we speak.
3. Make an Effort.
We planned family activities together, so that together with our families, we could get to see and know each other more in different settings and scenarios. Although these events were filled with tension most of the time (especially at the beginning!), it was very helpful to learn about each other and ourselves. The more time we had and the more we practiced non judgmental acceptance and communication, the more our cultures could mix together. Less awkwardness and more excitement and pride that we were one big colourful, ‘cultureful’ family.
No matter which place in the world we are from, we all have the desire to be loved. And to grow that love together, it starts within us. In order to be able to embrace challenges that come with colourful relationships and life, we needed to grow. We cannot give fully what we don’t have, and that is not just true for love, but patience and compassion, too.
Whew. Amazing, right? Thank you Krisztina for sharing so vulnerably with us, you’re not alone! We are honoured to provide a platform for these REAL-ationships.
If you’d like to see more of what she’s up to, check out her links below:
Krisztina Marshall Founder and CEO of Heemang Emotional Wellness
Krisztina Marshall is a Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders and Obesity & Holistic Nutritionist. Her mission is to relieve mental pain and suffering and help to rebuild a balanced and joyful life. Krisztina’s main approach is to recognize and accept feelings, such as anger, fear, anxiety, She has a great interest in helping others to recognize their habits and the core reasons for their behaviour, and ultimately providing tools to develop new ones.
Her main area of focus is in Emotional eating; eating disorders and obesity. Krisztina doesn’t hide the fact that she herself has struggled for almost 15 years and almost lost her life to anorexia. She strongly believes that her own experience gives her the insight and deeper understanding of what others might be going through and and with that she can help to turn their life around.
In her free time, Krisztina loves nature and sport especially running and horse back riding. She loves taking long walks, getting dirty on the playground and chasing in the wind. She is blessed to live with a supportive and loving husband. She is a mother to 5 amazing children whom she calls the miracle number five.