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5 Interracial Couples Share The Biggest Misconceptions About Their Relationship

"Choosing each other meant cutting out those in their life who weren't supportive of their relationship. "

Race relations and racial identity have always been important topics of conversations. So this Valentine's Day, in honor of celebrating love in every form, I spoke with five interracial couples on navigating race and ethnicity within their own relationships.

Meet Sara Harris and Benjamin Case:

an image of the couple embracing
Courtesy of Sara Harris

Ages: 29 and 28
Location: Boston
Relationship Length: 5 years

Race/Ethnicity: Black and white

Ben and Sara might be some of the last people on Earth who can say they met organically — and at a baseball game, no less — watching the Washington Nationals play in 2016. While enjoying America's pastime, they discovered they also enjoyed each other's company.

"I had never even been to a Little League game or anything," Sara said.

They met in the height of the 2016 US election chaos, so avoiding a conversation about race relations in America wasn't an option.

"I think at the beginning of our relationship there were many difficult conversations," Ben said. "I think the difficulty was empathy, listening, showing up for your partner, putting them first — the things everybody has to deal with — but the subject matter was race because it’s America and Sara’s Black and I’m white."

Sara says they grew up with very different life experiences, and it took some time to learn to see the world from the other person's perspective.

"It was really difficult at first to feel like I might say something and Ben wouldn’t immediately understand what I meant," she says. "So I think he would push me a lot at the beginning of our relationship, and I think it was out of love — him trying to understand better."

That same level of comfort that comes from guarding yourself also extended to Sara's family, who she says was a bit hesitant at first to know what to say around Ben.

"There’s a level of comfort and security in being in an all-Black space," she said. "And I think at first with my siblings they were like, 'We don’t want to offend Ben if we say the wrong thing.'”

"Now they just troll me with their white guy jokes," Ben added.

One of the most frustrating parts for Sara and Ben about their relationship is having to constantly prove to others that they are a couple.

"We'll be like this," Ben says, snuggling up to Sara. "And waiters will still ask like, 'Do you want separate checks?'"

Meet Kira Brayan and Fiorenza Piccorelli:

An image of the couple embracing
Courtesy of Kira Brayan

Ages: 31 and 29
Location: New York City
Relationship Length: 2 years
Race: white (Italian-American) and half Black/half white

Kira and Fiorenza met when they both "weren't looking for anything serious." Now they're engaged.

Choosing each other meant cutting out those in their life who weren't supportive of their relationship.

"There are certain people I can't have in my life anymore," Fiorenza says. "It's terrible it's taken me dating a Black woman to see that, but how else would I have known?"

"I think in a lot of interracial relationships one of the biggest challenges for couples — if one of them is white — is issues around family members," Kira adds. "Because you can be as woke and antiracist [as you want] but you can't necessarily speak for their family. The only real thing a white partner can do for their BIPOC partner is to speak up and not ask their nonwhite partner to do the work."

Speaking up is not a problem for Fiorenza, but learning how to speak on certain subject matters, particularly those involving conversations with other Black people and people of color is something she's constantly adapting to.

"I find myself wanting to talk and hang out with people of color, but there may be hesitation sometimes [from them]," Fiorenza says. "But then once they hear I’m with Kira there’s a bit more acceptance and understanding. So when I ask, 'My partner has the same hair as you, what kind of shampoo do you use?' I have to kind of explain why I’m asking things like that. It’s kind of like coming out every time — ‘Oh yeah, I’m with a woman, oh yeah, she’s Black.’"

With any relationship, there is a natural learning curve in getting to know your partner. For Kira and Fiorenza, a lot of that learning came from the understanding that their partner might have incredibly different life experiences than them solely based on the color of their skin.

"I hope other couples are having these conversations," Kira says. "I watched my mom and dad growing up and these were not conversations they were having and I think that hurt us [she and her siblings] and hurt them."

"The learning doesn't stop," Fiorenza adds. "I don't get brownie points for being with someone who is Black. You don't get to speak for the Black community."

Meet Sammy Rasombath and John Estrella:

An image of the couple smiling, side by side
Courtesy of Sammy Rasombath

Ages: 31 and 32
Location: New York City
Relationship Length: 3 years
Race: Asian American and Latino

"I feel like a lot of people just can't figure out what we are," Sammy says about the first impressions others make about her and John's race and ethnicity.

But rather than let people guess, Sammy and John decided to do something about it. They started a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing their love for one another and to hopefully inspire others that might not feel seen in mainstream media.

"The reason we started the Instagram and the YouTube channel is because we didn't see ourselves represented in that space."

Sammy grew up speaking Laotian with her family and John speaking Spanish with his. Although John doesn't speak Laotian and Sammy doesn't speak Spanish, they don't find language to be a hindrance in their relationship.

"In most interracial couples, that could tend to create a language barrier because communication can be broken," John said. "Because things translated in English are translated differently in Spanish."

But Sammy and John share a different bond: the bond of growing up as children of immigrant parents.

"I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that we are both American and we have more in common than our differences," Sammy says.

She adds that being "open-minded" is key in an interracial relationship.

"John is really great about wanting to learn about my culture and experience and trying different foods," she says. "And I always want to know about his culture."

Meet Zihao Huang and Dani Garcia:

An image of the couple embracing, with a kiss on the cheek
Courtesy of Zihao Huang and Dani Garcia

Age: 27 and 32
Location: Mexico City
Relationship Length: 2 years
Race/Ethnicity: Asian American and Mexican

Ask Zihao how he met Dani and he'll jokingly tell you a romantic story about how their eyes met while picking up the same plátano at the market. It's false, but their relationship isn't. It's one built on mutual respect, love, and trust.

"If you say something about my boyfriend, it's like you're attacking me," Dani says.

Living in Mexico City (like most parts of the world) means battling the overarching notion that lighter skin, lighter hair, and lighter eyes are the cultural standards of beauty. For Zihao, it also means battling against typical stereotypes surrounding Asian culture.

"In Mexico, there's this misconception that all Asians are Chinese," Dani says. "So I've had to debunk a lot of myths."

The biggest bridge to any cultural divide: language. But luckily, Zihao is a fluent Spanish speaker.

"If I didn't speak Spanish, it would be a lot more difficult," Zihao says.

Zihao says one of the most interesting things about being American and living outside the US is seeing the perspectives those in other countries have about the US — that it's this "utopia," where something like an interracial relationship must be widely accepted.

"...And I have to explain to people all the time that if you aren't white it's a different America," Zihao explains.

Both Dani and Zihao agree that conversations like this are important, and Zihao feels that every time they meet someone they are "breaking so many stereotypes of what it means to be Mexican or what it means to be Chinese."

"We are a gay couple, but imagine if we were a straight couple," Dani says. "We could have a child and that child would be this beautiful mix of two cultures where you could not only embrace your own culture but also embrace the culture of the person that you love."

Meet Dahlia Chaudhury and Khalil Bryant:

An image of the couple embracing
Courtesy of Dahlia Chaudhury

Age: 23 and 24
Location: Nashville
Relationship Length: 1 year
Race/Ethnicity: Black and half white/half Indian

As a mixed-race person, Dahlia has spent most of her life having people categorize her identity by her looks, before even meeting her. When she started dating Khalil, he tries to never let anyone have the chance.

"I am always sure to tell people [her ethnicity]," Khalil says. "Because I don't want people to assume or say anything that will hurt her feelings."

Dahlia and Khalil are, of course, both aware of the assumptions people will make about them based on their individual race and ethnicity.

"I was raised to not judge people on their race, but to also be aware that certain people will judge me because of my race," Khalil said.

But when it comes to his relationship with Dahlia, race is not something they dwell on.

"I mean she obviously can't relate to what it feels like to be a Black man in America, but I think she understands that," Khalil said. "Even though now the outside world defines it as an 'interracial relationship,' we just think of it as Dahlia and Khalil: two people in love."

Although Dahlia loves her Indian side, she thinks that growing up "in the US and not learning Bengali" and being raised in a mixed household means she isn't forced to explain to Khalil parts of her Indian culture.

"There are a lot of Indian cultural things that we don't do or are not part of our family since we're mixed," she says.

Food, on the other hand, is a different matter.

"Khalil doesn't like Indian food, so that's tragic," she said.