Love isn't always black and white: understanding black-white interracial couples, their challenges, and their dyadic communication
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While a great deal of sociological and psychological research has been done on black-white interracial couples and the challenges they have faced in past eras, the communication between the partners remains largely under-explored and under-theorized. The purpose of this dissertation is two-fold. First, this dissertation seeks to understand what challenges interracial couples face today. Second, this dissertation also explores the communication surrounding these challenges, communication both within the couple and communication between the couple and their social networks. To explore these challenges and the resulting communication, 14 black-white interracial couples were interviewed in depth. Results showed that interracial couples often still face messages of disapproval from their families. Black families and white families sometimes disapproved for similar reasons; however, black families and white families had several concerns that were markedly different from each other and were tied to the history of race relations in the US. Further, results showed that partners in interracial relationship underwent identity transformations as they learned to navigate an intimate relationship with a “racial other.” Whites reported learning the most. Because of their privileged position in society, whites life situations had never had necessitated that they learn about the black co-culture. The black partners also reported seeing the white community differently by understanding the nuances of racism at a deeper level because of their “outsider within” position in white families. Finally, results suggested that couples grapple with balancing the dialectic between embracing race in the relationship and rejecting race in the relationship. Couples reject race, arguing that other differences are more important to their relationship. Couples embrace race when they talk about issues of identity such as their individual identities, their identity as a couple, and—when they had children-- their identity as a family. Further analysis demonstrate two different strategies couples use to manage the embracing race-rejecting race dialectic.
Wilson, Misty Michelle (2008). Love isn't always black and white: understanding black-white interracial couples, their challenges, and their dyadic communication. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from