6 Shockers I Learned From Dating Outside My Race

Thien-Kim Lam and husband
My parents hated my husband the first time they met him. They didn’t hate him because he was a theater major and out of work actor. They didn’t hate him because they found out we’d been dating for three years when they met him. My parents hated my future husband because his skin was too dark. They hated him because he is black.

At the end of August, my husband and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage, but the years leading up to the so-called happiest day of my life were the most challenging years I’ve ever been through.

Here’s the thing: I never ever planned marry a black man. My family was the only Asian-American family in our small, rural town in the south. When I was finally allowed to date, I knew I was only allowed to date white boys. The one black male friend that stopped by our home to say hello to me started the biggest fight I’d ever had with my mother. I wasn’t even attracted to this guy. If my parents exploded because my platonic friendship with a black guy, I was scared to imagine their reaction if I actually dated one.

When my husband first wooed me my freshman year in college, I threw away his phone number. I was determined not to rock the boat by vowing not to date anyone whose skin color would not be accepted in our family. It took him months to finally convince me to date him. I tried not to fall in love with him, but my heart had a mind of its own.

While it’s more common to see interracial couples walking hand-in-hand at the park or in the mall these days,my then-boyfriend and I stuck out like sore thumbs in the south. Here’s what you should know about dating outside of your race:

Interracial dating is nothing like the movies depict it. Everything always works out so perfectly in the movies. Racist parents meet black boyfriend, get to know him, and realize what a great person he his. The couple lives happily ever after. It took my parents the three years of our engagement, a wedding they almost didn’t attend, three years of marriage, and a granddaughter before they truly accepted that the black man I married is a good man.

Dating outside my race made me a liar. For three years, I kept our relationship a secret from my parents. I never brought home any other boys and snuck around to date my husband during our college years. I consistently lied about where I was going and who I was going out with.

All that lying put a strain on our relationship. My husband understood why I kept him a secret from my family, but he didn’t really get it. He thought meeting my parents would play out like the movies (see #1). And then he met them and they acted like he was invisible.

Telling my family was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than dealing with back labor without any meds. Too bad I couldn’t get an epidural before I told my parents I was dating a black man. Seriously, the entire conversation was so surreal, up to the part where my father disowned me.

Dealing with the naysayers made us stronger. I was determined to make our relationship work to disprove my parents. My man finally understood why I waited so long to tell my family. I had to make sure he was the one

True love is worth the fight, but I couldn’t have been so strong without my husband and our friends. My sister and our friends supported our love and relationship and that made it easier to deal with the challenge of my parents’ disapproval.

I’m happy to share that my parents eventually came around. They finally announced they would attend our wedding a month before the big day. My father walked me down the aisle. They begrudgingly accepted my husband because they still wanted me in their lives. Our phone calls were still strained, but my parents only truly came around after my daughter was born almost 9 years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because they realized my husband wasn’t going anywhere, or we were their only hopes of having children since my sister was still single. After the long journey, my husband is now part of the family.

Have you ever dated outside of your race? What would you add to this list?