Are you in a serious interracial relationship and wonder if marrying that person will ever work because of differences in race? Are you in an interracial marriage and wonder if the problems you’re having is because of race? Regardless of relationship status many who are in an interracial relationship can’t help but wonder if interracial marriages will work. The answer to that is a big “YES”! To help understand common challenges that interracial marriages may face and how they can make interracial marriages work, I have interviewed psychologist Jennifer Chandler, PsyD.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“My name is Jennifer Chandler, “Jen” to my friends. I obtained my BA in Psychology at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas in 2003. I went on to gain my PsyD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Multicultural Studies in 2007 at California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. I wrote and presented my dissertation project on “Counseling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Clients within a Multicultural Framework.” Since then, I have adapted this framework many times to include working with couples, families and inmate-patients. I have worked with many different agencies including the Gay and Lesbian Center, elementary schools, private practice, and Outpatient Parole services. I am one of the founding members of the nation’s first “Masters of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis in LGBT Studies” at Antioch University and taught “Multicultural Studies” as an adjunct professor for the program. Currently, I am working as a Forensic Psychologist at the California Institution for Men and have taken an adjunct professor position at Argosy University teaching “Criminal Psychology” and I have hopes of expanding their Multicultural program.”
What are common challenges that often come with interracial marriages?
“First, let me say, there are many challenges within EVERY couple. While race/ethnicity may be the most obvious (visual) difference, other more subtle differences, may be the result of issues that arise within a couple. Therefore, when working with a multicultural couple, one must consider each level of difference. One way to outline each partner’s differences is with a system I adapted called the “A.D.D.R.E.S.S.I.N.G. Model.” “A” stands for Age & generational influences, the “D”s stand for Dependencies/Disorders and Developmental & acquired Disabilities, “R” stands for Religion & spiritual orientation, “E” for Ethnicity/Race, “S” is for Success, Socioeconomic Status and Schooling, the next “S” is for Sexual Identity, “I” represents a person’s Ideology (beliefs/values about the world, self, others, etc.), “N” is for Nationality/Indigenous Heritage and “G” represents Gender Identity. Each individual in the couple must examine and understand oneself on each level. If there is an imbalance on any one of these levels within the self, or the couple, problems may arise.”
“For example, Joe is an Indian-American biological male who is a non-practitioner of Buddhism and works for equal civil rights and his partner Bryan is a Mexican-American biological male who is an accountant and a devout Catholic since childhood. As you can see, this couples’ differences are multifaceted and cannot be solely explained in terms of racial differences. This couple will most likely encounter issues related to religion, work ethic, culture and/or racial differences.”
What type of impact can those challenges have on an interracial marriage?
“People, in general, tend to seek the comfort of others who are similar to them in race, culture, socioeconomic status, etc. This is even more evident with an oppressed people. Therefore, an interracial couple may experience just as many problems outside the couple as within. In other words, family of origin and friends may ostracize, or criticize the individual, or couple for entering into such a relationship in the first place. Particularly when it comes to procreating, older generations tend to frown upon multicultural children believing it dilutes each culture. This can cause anxiety, depression, isolation, loss of friends and family, and in some cases, “cut off” financially from one’s family.”
What can interracial couples do to make their marriage work?
“Multinational, multicultural, multiracial and all couples must work equally hard towards compromising. Issues of difference on any level must be discussed before any serious commitments are made. This includes discussion of each one of one’s differences and how they may play out in the relationship. The couple should be proactive and present a united front in dealing with “naysayers.” Communication is key in any relationship and will be crucial in coming to an ideal agreement.
What last advice would you like to give you to interracial couple that is having difficulties in their marriage because of race?
If issues cannot be resolved within the couple, seek professional help from a licensed psychologist who specializes in multicultural couples.
Thank you Jennifer for doing the interview with me. If you would like more information about Jennifer Chandler you can check out her website on www.drjchandler.com.
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