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Interethnic and interracial marriages have existed since the ancient times. Nowadays, nothing has changed. Mixed couples and families are still very popular. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the modern world has been divided into two opposite parties - the supporters and opponents of miscegenation. Some people state that interracial marriages will lead to the loss of individuality of each race, while others claim that it will strengthen the process of globalization and make people more versatile. The Pew Research Center, which is the American research organization, has released a study devoted to the prevalence of the interracial marriages in the United States. According to the presented data, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of intermarriage among the American youths in the period of 2008-2010. It means that the amount of people who married the representatives of the different race was estimated as 9% among the whites, 17% among the blacks, 26% among the Hispanics and 28% among the Asians.
Basically, the marriage between the representatives of different nationalities implies the union of two very different cultures. These people have been brought up in very different circumstances. They usually have different habits, outlooks on life and attitudes towards its key aspects. In addition, some ethnicities initially bring up their children with the sole respect towards the representatives of the same nationality. While entering the international marriages, partners may face a completely different world, which is not always hospitable. A new family may have different views on farming, parenting, attitudes toward holidays, etc. In order to be prepared for a variety of surprises and constant compromises, the partners should possess patience, understanding and love, which will help to smooth out any conflict. If the spouses are living in different countries, it is likely that the marriage registration with a foreigner will inevitably entail the transfer of one of them to another country. Therefore, this person may face a lengthy citizenship registration as well as totally different life conditions, varying mentality, language barriers, etc.
In general, the theme of family counseling is relevant to the interracial couples and families. The spouses or partners are not always able to hear each other or speak in a way that does not hurt a significant other. Such misunderstandings may be difficult to solve. Taking into account the abovementioned fact, the following paper is aimed to provide the analysis of the most frequently used aspects in the process of counseling interracial couples and families. The paper will outline possible misunderstandings, which can occur in the interracial couples and families, as well as provide possible efficient solutions.
Nationality implies the belonging of an individual to a particular nation, nationality or ethnic group, formed under the influence of common language, national identity, culture, customs, etc. Nationally mixed marriages are an important channel of changes in the ethno-demographic structure of the society. Moreover, multiculturalism is one of the aspects of tolerance. Therefore, it implies the promotion of the mixture of cultures for their interpenetration, enrichment and development in line with the general human mass culture.
In recent years, the interaction among the cultures has acquired special urgency in many countries. The history has shown that the policy of multiculturalism as the liberal tool of socio-economic processes and education is not always effective in the multicultural society. Many riots swept across the states proving the necessity for a more efficient multiculturalism policy. In fact, the necessity for the more efficient multiculturalism policy makes public once again draw attention to the problems of intercultural interaction. This effective multiculturalism policy requires a long-term adaptation characterized by relatively stable changes in individual and group consciousness in response to the demands of the environment towards the representatives of the traditional and emerging cultures. Thus, counseling of the interracial couples and families is relevant to the understanding as well as the promotion of multiculturalism in the modern society.
At the end of the 17th century, slavery in some southern states of the USA was replaced by indentured servitude, where a black worker was obliged to work for his master for a certain amount of time, usually from 4 to 7 years, without any cash payments, but receiving food and shelter. This arrangement meant that the whites began working closely with the blacks. This change led to rapprochement between the representatives of two races. It resulted in the first laws against racial mixing, i.e. the anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited marriage and, in some cases, sexual relations between people of different races.
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Virginia and Maryland became the first states which enacted such laws and punished their citizens for the intimate relationships with the representative of a different race. According to the law of Virginia, any white citizen, who was married to the representative of the black race, had to be expelled from the territory of the state for three months. In 1705 the law was tightened. The offenders received the additional punishment of six months in the prison. In Maryland, according to the law, if a white woman married a black man, then she automatically became the slave of her husband’s master. One of the main goals of these laws was to prevent the transmission of inheritance of the white citizens to their black descendants. Subsequently, such laws began to be accepted in order to prevent marriages of whites with the Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos. However, this curious fact implies that the intermarriage with the Indians and Latinos was not prohibited.
In 1967, the US Supreme Court acknowledged that such bans are unconstitutional. However, 16 US states out of 50 still had such laws. What is more, in 1987, 35 US states banned white families from adopting black orphans. The ban was canceled only in 1996, after the specific law was passed.
Approximately three and a half decades ago, interracial marriages were generally outlawed in the United States. However, the special resolution of the Supreme Court annulled the relevant legislation adopted in some states. Nowadays, there are no official obstacles on the way of marriage registration between the representatives of different races. However, some interracial couples still face boorish service or misunderstanding, requiring significant changes in Americans’ attitudes toward interracial marriage in general.
A special case study conducted by The Washington Post as well as the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University have shown that currently the vast majority of interracial couples do not experience any discomfort when communicating with friends and colleagues. The researchers argue that the attitude to the interracial marriage is changing at the breakneck speed.
However, many more couples still face difficulties. Almost half of the black and white pairs, which is, by the way, much more than the mixed couples with the Hispanics or the Asians, recognize that it is more difficult to create a family with a partner from another race rather than with a representative of the same race. Two-thirds of the black and white couples state that at least one parent has objected to the marriage. Another study suggests that almost half of the whites, which a much larger part than in other racial group, believes that people should marry only members of their own race. The survey included 540 people, who were married or about to get married to the representatives of other races.
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While conducting the researches devoted to the marriage between different nationalities, the scientists define the following negative aspects of such unions:
1. The mismatch of cultures, traditions, customs as well as attitudes towards various aspects of life is an important factor. The abovementioned discrepancies often become the key reasons for various disagreements or even conflicts. Such aspects of life as daily adherence to specific rituals and customs, culinary traditions and religious rites that take place during major religious holidays as well as the organization and celebration of weddings, birth and upbringing, or any significant positive or negative life event contributes to the relations among the interracial couples and families.
2. The intermarriages may meet misunderstanding and condemnation of other people. Not only neighbors, colleagues, friends or distant relatives can blame, discuss, gossip and look for insincerity or any material benefit received by one or both of the partners, who have decided to officially legalize the relationship. Quite often the closest relatives and people may oppose such marriages (Smith & Silva, 2011).
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3. Some nationalities inculcate a sense of national pride and fear of assimilation since childhood in order to create the confidence that is essential to create families within their own nation. Moreover, despite the globalization of the society, many representatives of some ethnic groups believe in the significance of the exclusive communication with the representatives of the same ethnic group in order not to lose identity of the bright distinctive national features as well as to avoid the assimilation and replacement of the own customs and traditions (Lauster & Easterbrook, 2011).
4. Another negative outcome applies to those couples who come from the countries with different mentalities. In such a family at least one partner has to face not only new mentality and way of life, but also a fundamentally different legal framework, healthcare system, etc. In fact, such difficulties may occur at different stages of the couple’ life. The language barrier also plays an important role in the new place of residence. There is no secret that many people miss their native homes, families and friends, favorite places and even familiar food.
Specific role belongs to the children born to interethnic couples and families. If the marriage is on the brink of ruin, the real problems may begin at this stage. One of the partners who has come from another country may be less protected before the law, as it will put him/her in a particular legal framework. The wishes of children and parents may be not taken into account. Thus, the parents may start to fight for their child, accusing each other of improper parenting and even child abuse.
Nevertheless, there is still a great variety of positive aspects of the interracial marriages. According to the psychologists, the intermarriages teach society about tolerance and the ability to be sensitive to the representatives of different nations as well as contribute to the improvement of the relations between countries and ethnic groups. Due to the existence of such families, mutual interests in the culture and history of other people in public life increase stimulating social cooperation.
Opinion polls reveal that 35-40% of the US population does not believe in the mixed marriages, considering them less durable as compared to the mono-ethnic marriages. 20% of the respondents are confident that all marriages are the same, regardless of the nationalities of the spouses. 35% of the respondents are confident that international marriages may be considered as a positive phenomenon. They believe that such families are more durable, compared to the homogeneous families, which is confirmed by the data received from the numerous sociological studies, surveys and censuses.
The psychologists believe that the ethnicities as well as the nationalities do not matter. The well-being, harmony and strength of the family depends on the members of the family as well as their ability to forgive and forget insults, be tolerant and patient as well as be open to the new experiences. The partners should be warm, respectful and open with their feelings in order to promote trust as well as a serious attitude towards the family and partner accountability. Surely, affection and love are still extremely important as well.
Most people marry in order to share the life with their soulmate and become a family. The marriage is quite often difficult and requires mutual respect and understanding. Additional attention should be paid to the fact that before the wedding, the couples usually do not discuss the pressing issues of life, even if they understand that these issues already exist, and that they will soon have to deal with them. Such attitude can turn into the first annoying quarrel or even the feeling of exclusion. This fact is especially true for the marriages between people of different nationalities, faiths, races or ethnic groups. Thus, the aspects which should be discussed by each interracial couple include the following:
Differences in the mentality of the partners may cause different attitudes towards money and expenditures. This conflict especially often occurs at the early stages of family life. Therefore, it is necessary to make a representation about the way of thinking of the financial future of the family beforehand so that it will not become as an insurmountable obstacle between the spouses.
Another important issue implies the distribution of responsibilities at home. The questions that require discussion before the marriage include the following:
Great importance should be paid to the considerations of the partners of the number of children, their education, parenting methods, etc. The spouses should define the responsibilities in order to avoid possible conflicts. It is extremely important to be able to talk to a potential spouse about these questions. The religion of the children should also be discussed, as this issue may become the key conflict factor.
First of all, spouses should have no secrets about personal health. Deliberate concealment of serious illnesses may be the reason for marriage annulment. In addition, it can undermine the foundation of trust between the spouses. Hidden health problems can also become a truly great challenge in a new country where one of the spouses may initially not have a full medical insurance. The partners should share their doubts and expectations with each other.
Each spouse has relatives who should be taken care of. Any of the two spouses will be hurt if a spouse does not show understanding and demonstrates negative feelings towards, for example, the parents or children from the previous marriages. It means that the issue of relationships with relatives deserves a detailed discussion before the wedding invitations are sent to loved ones. The types of caring, gifts, time of communication with the relatives all need to be discussed in advance in order to reach an agreement that will guarantee peace in the family.
Friends, hobbies and entertainment are supposed to be important for each spouse. In any case, these personal factors should not become the reasons for the conflict. Each couple should reasonably define the boundaries of these activities, because personal time is important for married people as well as for the single individuals. However, the discussion of possible hobbies should be made with the tactful attitude to the preferences of the partner. Nevertheless, mutual love should be the one thing which will create high hopes and which should not be forgotten. If it exists, then the family can firmly expect that all problems will be successfully resolved as well as each obstacle will be overcome.
Nationality implies the belonging of an individual to the particular nation, ethnic group, formed under the influence of a common language, national identity, culture, the way of life, etc. Nationally mixed marriages are an important channel for the change in the ethno-demographic structure of the modern society. In fact, such marriages do not change the numerical ratio of the contacts among the nationalities. However, the children born in such families choose the nationality of one of the parents, and thereby terminate the ethnic line of another spouse.
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All in all, this paper has provided the analysis of the most frequent issues which can arise in the process of counseling interracial couples and families. It has also outlined possible misunderstandings which can occur in the interracial couples and families. Lastly, possible ways of efficient solutions have been offered. The abovementioned facts proves that each couple can have some misunderstandings, but mutual love and support can help overcome any obstacles and barriers. Modern society should be more tolerant towards interracial couples and families. The diversity support policy based on the multicultural approach should be considered as one of the prime social policies in the modern world.