Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Finding the Right Romantic Partner: Should You Stick to the Same Ethnicity?

Many people believe that dating people who share your ethnicity is one of the surest ways to find compatibility that works over the long-term. This belief is not simply folk wisdom – it’s actually been supported by psychology studies that focus on romantic longevity. As I think about Barack Obama’s recent presidential election speech which provided a beacon of hope and unity, I wondered for a moment if dating within your ethnicity is a little outdated.

I believe that sticking to a hard and fast rule about ethnicity in dating is not necessarily the most effective way to approach finding a partner. More than anything, men and women must focus on emotional compatibility above all else. I hate to think that someone could rule out the possibility of developing a relationship with someone simply on the basis of ethnicity alone.

Here, however, is one caveat to consider: the degree to which you identify with the history and customs of your ethnicity and its culture. You may be someone whose family encourages you to find a partner of the same ethnicity, who practices many of the rituals or customs of your culture consistently, and who values that your unborn child shares your exact ethnicity. If this is the case, it may be difficult for your relationship down the road if you marry outside of your ethnicity. My ultimate point, in your case, is that it is at least worth looking at the reasons why you only want to date within your ethnicity – you want to be sure the decisions you make in partner selection will be good for you over the long haul.

On the other hand, a great many people have an ethnic background that they do not so highly identify with. There’s nothing wrong with being either type of person – you simply have to know which one you are as you seek out the right romantic partner for you. I hear a lot of people say things like “but you can’t control who you fall in love with!” The truth is that it’s not necessarily wise to let yourself fall in love with anyone as if you have no control over your feelings.

It is very important to get a certain amount of information about prospective partners before letting yourself fall emotionally for them. As a rule, I don’t believe you need to stick to dating individuals who share your ethnicity unless you are highly identified with your culture’s customs and practices, and feel strongly that being a with someone of another ethnicity would contradict strongly held values. However, you need to give someone a chance in order to learn certain things about him or her. For this reason, it may be wise to open yourself up and have an initial conversation with anyone – regardless of ethnicity.

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