Shy of my 21st birthday, I learned the valuable lesson “Love is not enough.” It wasn’t a personal learning experience – I Just witnessed the fallout between friends. Relationships need love, but love cannot conquer all. Relationships also those other silly things like respect, the ability to change, stability, and understanding.
Basically, Love is not enough (which goes against everything Disney taught me).
It was heartbreaking to watch my friend’s intercultural relationship fall apart (and even harder to not pick a side). I wondered where it went wrong – but the answer was pretty obvious to everyone involved. If you do not respect and appreciate your partners culture (to the extent you are willing to forsake elements of your own culture for their benefit), intercultural and interracial relationships are nearly impossible. I started to wonder if there were any other couples “out there” like me.
[For more, check out: AMWF the Unfinished Wikipedia Article]
Thankfully, the internet is a wonderful place that connects people from all walks of life.
As of last month, I am part of the AMWF community. AMWF stands for Asian Male, White Female, meaning couples composed of an Asian Man and a White Woman. It represents a small minority of interracial couples, most American, Australian, and European women dating Korean, Japanese, and Chinese men. However, hundreds of other countries and nationalities are also represented.
Now I want to share my own story – regarding the good, the bad, and the ugly of an AMWF relationship.
Literature about AMWF Couples:
There isn’t a lot out there. The term “AMWF” has only popped up in the last couple years.
Of course, I wrote a (comic) book about AMWF relationships. I highly recommend it, it’s called My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy
The other two books I know of AMWF relationships are:
Actress Diane Farr’s book, Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After
She is married to a Korean man; the book is a lighthearted and sarcastic take on interracial dating. I love it. I also love her as an actress, which was a happy coincidence.
Wendy Tokunaga’s book, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband
More than anything, it is a collection of stories from eight foreign women who are married (or were married) to Japanese men. It shows an honest look at what AMWF relationships look like, ten to twenty years after the couple first says “I do.”
I was born in Texas and raised in Texas/Ghana/boarding school in Japan. My husband was born and raised in Japan.
I’ve lived in eleven houses (spanning three continents); he was raised in a single house in a single city.
By my fifteenth birthday, I had traveled to fifteen countries; before he studied abroad in America, Ryosuke had never left Japan.
My dad was a pastor; his dad was a cop.
My first language was English; his first language was Japanese.
I love writing, music, dancing, and politics; he loves boxing, business, and working out.
I like to read; he likes to cook.
Our relationship is fantastic, frustrating, and full of fun. However, most of it is defined by the fact that I am white and he is Asian. My relationship (like any relationship) is a compromise between the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1. You’re in love!
Being in love is one of the best feelings in the world. The only comparable feeling is probably when I won tickets to see a live taping of Stephen Colbert, discovered chocolate soy milk (milk allergy), or, like, my future kid gets married. Love is not enough to keep a relationship going, it is definitely not enough to conquer all problems, but it certainly helps.
Being in love is really fun.
[For more, check out: Things I love about Japan: Couple Wear]
2. Everything is different and exciting
Intercultural dating is a lot of things. Boring is not one of them. Two years later, and I never know what to expect on dates. A romantic walk on the beach is never just a romantic walk on the beach. It’s also a trip to go squid fishing, a tandem biking adventure, or making bibimbap.
A little bit of mystery keeps the romance alive. I love not knowing what will happen next.
3. It’s a live-in Anthropology project and adventure
I always found Japanese culture fascinating. But I really fell in love with the culture once I started dating Ryosuke. He has taught me so much about Japan. He was the one who helped me understand the types of sexism in Japan (for more, check out this post)
But living with him, his family, and his friends, I have been given the enormously unique opportunity of doing participant observation of the Japanese culture. And, well, I started this blog to document what I found.
4. The AMWF community is fantastic, loving, and supportive
As I mentioned before, I recently connected with several AMWF communities. They have been a fun, interesting, and informative support group – especially the bloggers. Here are some of my favorite:
- Speaking of China (Married to a Chinese man, writes about marriage, living in China, and allows guest posts from other AMWF women)
- My Korean Husband (Hilarious cartoons written by an Aussie girl married to a Korean man, living in the Korean countryside. They also do videos)
- AMWF Couples (British girl dating a Hong Kong guy)
- My Asian Fixation (Funny stories of dating Asian men)
- My Hong Kong Husband (writes about marriage and China)
- My Husband is Asian (hilarious life of a black woman married to an Asian man)
- The Good Shufu (written from the heart – a white woman married to a Japanese man)
- AMWF Couples (Tumbr)
- AMWF Love (Tumblr)
- Loving Korean (Co-written by married couple – gives tips for Intercultural with Korean men)
- AMWF Dating Site (website for people who want to be in an AMWF relationship and meet a partner)
- English Wife, Indian Life (British woman married to an Indian man)
- China Elevator Stories (white woman married to a Chinese man, short blog posts)
- Linda Living in China (German woman, dating a Korean man, living in China)
If you want your blog or website added to this site, just leave a comment and I will add you :)
1. Everything is different
Change is fun, but every day is a struggle. There is no way to coast in an interracial relationship. And it is a little bit scary trying to live day by day.
Sure, this week I think it is a bit silly (but adorable) that Ryosuke makes me wipe my feet off with wet wipes before climbing into bed (even if I have been wearing slippers all day). But what about in ten years?
He likes the fact I am ambitious and want to have a solid career, but what about in five years, when his family is pressuring me to quit my job to have (and take care of) kids?
The instability and insecurity is scary. It never quite goes away.
2. You will have to compromise on un-comprisable subjects
The hardest part of an intercultural relationship is deciding when to compromise, when to fight, and when to draw the line. Nothing is safe. Everything is up for discussion. Some of the time it is simple trade-offs like “I will wipe me feet off before getting into bed if you don’t do laundry every day.” Or “I will shower in the evening if you will buy beer instead of sake.”
Other times it is complicated things you don’t know how to compromise on. What are you supposed to do if your partner is completely opposed to your religion? What if he thinks you should quit your job after marriage to become a housewife? What if he is racist against other Asian countries? What if he thinks infidelity is not a problem?
I talked about some of the cultural disagreements I’ve had in this post about the differences between couples fighting in America and in Japan. I’ve been with my husband for almost three years; we are still finding things we need to compromise on.
3. If language barriers exist, you (or your partner) may be unable to fully integrate into the other’s family
I’m lucky. Ryouske speaks English fluently. I speak Japanese fairly-fluently (can understand everything, but have trouble formulating all of my thoughts in a timely and concise manner). But there is a understanding no matter how much we study each other’s languages, we will never be an integral part of each other’s families.
He will never catch all the sarcastic jokes my sister whispers under her breath; I will never be able to reply quickly enough to his father’s drunken ramblings. Those social keys, elements of sarcasm, and play on words expressions will never come naturally to each of us in a foreign language.
And sometimes you just have to accept the fact and move on.
1. Racism is real
Racism is one of those things that you can’t fully comprehend unless you are a victim of it. During race discussions at my school, most of the white women I talk to say things like “I’ve never seen racism, so I don’t think it still exists” or “racism isn’t real – they are just imagining it!” Or men that say “sexism isn’t a problem, women over exaggerate everything!” On that same tangent, people think that interracial relationships don’t attract stares, criticism, or whispers. Unfortunately, racism is still alive, all over the world.
If you’re ‘lucky’ no one will come up to you in the street and ask “why are you dating him? You should be dating a white guy.” If you’re not… well, prepare for people to talk.
I wrote a piece about this that went viral, “dear world, saying my husband is ‘attractive for an Asian guy’ isn’t a compliment, it’s actually kind of racist.”
2. Family, Friends, and Acquaintances often won’t understand
No one seems to like the people their friend’s choose to date. The closer the friend, the more you tend to dislike their choice of a partner. Expect the roles to be reversed on you, except this time, your friends and family have a whole new way to judge your partner – race, religion, culture, and cultural beliefs.
Cultures are inherently different. In the course of your AMWF relationship, you will run across old friends and new acquaintances who want to ‘save you from ignoring this obvious problem.’ Most of them mean well. They really do. But people’s words hurt a lot more than they realize.
Some people have difficulties separating an individual from their culture. I am not marrying into Japanese culture. I am marrying Ryosuke. While it would be foolish to ignore the impact Japanese culture will have on my relationship, our foreign cultures are not the determining factor on whether we can have a successful marriage.
Our ability to love, compromise, and respect each other is the key.
3. You will need a coping mechanism to deal with the question “Why don’t you just date a white guy?”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve hear this phrase I would, well, have like $20. Which isn’t a lot, but it is still $20 more dollars than I should have.
When people asked me this question, I used to just respond “Why should I date a white guy?” I stopped after a while, because people would actually give me lists on why I should date a white man.
[For more, check out the Huffington Post article: 8 Questions Interracial Couples are tired of hearing]
The lists ranged from he shares your culture (what culture exactly? I’ve went to high school on three different continents) to your babies can keep your eye color (who picks a mate on the basis of what color they want their children to have?) or white men have larger penis’ (Ew. No. Stop. Why are we having this conversation?)
If you see two white people holding hands, no one bats an eye. If you see two Asian people shopping for baby clothes, no one thinks twice. Seriously guys, if you see a white woman and an Asian man at a restaurant, leave them alone. Don’t press them about their relationship. Don’t judge. Don’t stare. And above all, don’t ever assume you know more than someone else about their own relationship.
AMWF and interracial/intercultural relationships do not come with a manual. And, two years later, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think it is amazing that my best friend is from a different culture; every day spent with him is a learning experience. We have our days (some good, some bad); if I could go back in time two years to the day he asked me to be his girlfriend, there is not a single thing I would change.
Not a single thing.
If you like this and want to read more, I please buy the autobiographical comic book I wrote, on Amazon! My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book