THERE are a lot of things for young couples to worry about: planning romantic dates on a student’s budget, balancing study time and couple time, and the endless nightmares that come with trying to coordinate the perfect matching outfits. Jokes aside, for mixed race couples, there can be larger issues to worry about when trying to maintain their relationships.

Lee Xue Er, 19, is no stranger to mixed relationships. Coming from a biracial family of Indian and Chinese parents, Lee credits her family’s mixed roots for her openness with interracial relationships. However, her mixed roots have only earned her disapproval from the parents of the guys she has dated.

“Apparently, I wasn’t Chinese enough for them,” said Lee. Her ex-boyfriend’s family, from his grandmother down to his sister, disapproved of their relationship the moment they found out she was half-Indian – even before they had met her. “The funny thing is, I could speak fluent Mandarin and Hokkien, whereas he couldn’t speak either language,” she added. Yet, this didn’t matter to her boyfriend’s family – being half-Indian brought a swift end to the relationship.

Such opposition isn’t limited to family, either. Friends and peers can be discouraging too, sometimes being even harsher critics than family members. Previously in a relationship with a European girl, Matthew* related how his friends would constantly warn him that dating a “Mat Salleh” simply wasn’t “right”. “It felt like an attack on who I was. As though I was undeserving of someone purely because of my race. It was a painful lesson for me as I was forced to interpret that my race was a barrier to love,” said the 19-year-old.

A need for change: While young people now are more open to the idea of interracial relationships, some of their parents are still opposed to it.

A need for change: While young people now are more open to the idea of interracial relationships, some of their parents are still opposed to it.

When it came to a same-race relationship though, Matthew never faced the same line of questioning from his friends. “Even people who barely knew us would say we were a ‘good match’ seemingly because we were from the same race,” he revealed. Being in a mixed relationship myself, neither my girlfriend nor I have faced the same issues as Matthew or Lee. In fact, our friends and families have been very supportive.

Religion, of course, can be an even larger stumbling block. Aishah* and David*, have been dating for three years but have had to keep their relationship hidden from their parents because of their differing religious background.

However, David says the couple has been able to keep their relationship strong by maintaining their religious followings as their own personal decisions. Both do, however, concur that their families have been the main source of opposition to their relationship.

“My family was not happy as he was brought up differently from how I was, but friends have been very supportive as they know David personally and know that he is a good guy,” Aishah revealed.

Ultimately, most people agree that they would embrace elements of their partner’s cultures. Matthew attempted to learn his girlfriend’s native language to better communicate with her family. He even tried learning to cook her native cuisine but admitted that they usually ended up going out to the mamak instead. David shared that his perception of Aishah’s religion and his understanding of it has changed a lot since they began dating.

Rachel, who is also dating someone from a different race and religion, says that she and her boyfriend would both be free to practice their respective religious beliefs.

“Religion is highly personal and I am not willing to change it,” said Rachel.

Ultimately, these young couples all agree that the issues they had faced did not significantly change their perception of mixed relationships. It seems that mixed relationships are becoming more widely accepted by the current generation, though there are some who are still opposed to the idea.

“It’s more about your environment rather than the generation as a whole,” asdded Lee. Being the product of a mixed marriage, Lee explained how she was still picked on by her classmates when she was in a Chinese primary school because of her darker skin tone. As Rachel put it, “People can be nasty, but the important thing is to just keep your head high and stay principled to what you believe is right and try to block the naysayers out.”

* Some names in the story have been changed.

Tell us what you think!

Go top