Being In A Mixed-Race LDR Relationship In Singapore
Tell the younger me that I’ll end up in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share the same race and religion as me, and frankly, I’d scoff. Born into a conservative family, my parents would say “it’s nothing but trouble”.
But as Charles Dickens (sorry, it ain’t Bieber) once wrote, “never say never”. I ended up dating a non-Chinese Muslim man; my boyfriend, Audi, is half Indonesian-Japanese and half Chinese-Arab. We’ve been together for almost 5 years now, of which 2 years were spent in a long-distance relationship.
What I love about being in an interracial relationship
Being introduced into his culture was an eye-opener. For one, I learnt how to salam, which I found to be a beautiful gesture of respect for another.
I’ve learnt to enjoy baju raya shopping every year, despite what a headache it can be. Going fabric hunting or scouring through countless stores to find ‘the One’ can be a rewarding process.
I also love how we both celebrate the Lunar New Year and Hari Raya without the need to argue whose family to spend it with every year. It’s an added cherry on top that Indonesian food ranks as one of my top three cuisines. A homemade meal with my favourite dishes? Yeah boi!
But my favourite perk is how we, as a collective unit, can speak four languages–English, Mandarin, Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia. Well five, if you count the Hokkien dialect.
It was make or break
Of course, no relationship is all rainbows and butterflies. Audi and I met during a modelling gig at a fashion show, and as luck would have it, we were partnered to walk down the runway together.
But we dated for 6 months because we weren’t sure if the relationship was going to go anywhere. After all, every Singaporean non-Muslim knows what marrying a Muslim guy could possibly entail–conversion to Islam.
Our decision to make it work was met with both support and skepticism. Some ‘friends’ made backhanded comments such as “Oh you don’t like Chinese boys is it?” or a more direct “Got so many Chinese boys, why you go choose ‘insert race’?” Others were supportive but still expressed concern.
Being unsure if we could cut through the ‘red tape’, we felt like we were in a perpetual state of limbo: what if after all these years we’d have to call it quits?
This nearly caused us to break up, twice. The second time happened while we were in an LDR because of the religion issue, as marrying him didn’t seem like a possibility.
However, being single for awhile made me realise I simply couldn’t see myself marrying another person.
I’ve always been in awe of his patience and his selflessness for others. It’s probably why I fell in love with him in the first place. Most importantly, he’s my best friend and my biggest cheerleader who understands me better than I do.
And, unbeknownst to me, he spent this period of time researching for ways to finally get that religion issue resolved after four years.
He had a heart-to-heart talk with his dad and ultimately, like most parents, his dad gave his blessings because he just wanted to know that his child’s partner will bring him happiness.
Surprisingly, LDR was the help we never saw coming. To make up for the physical distance and time difference, we focused on bringing our emotional distance closer through communication and trust.
Helping your parents understand
There is no foolproof formula to surviving a mixed race relationship, especially when religion is involved. But what I’ll say from my experience is: both partners need to be fully honest with each other; don’t promise or say something you don’t mean.
If possible, convert to another religion only if your feelings towards the faith are genuine, not as a solution to the issue. If not, on days when married life isn’t going swell, it may surface as resentment towards your partner.
Today, my parents adore my boyfriend. My mum sides with him sometimes, while my dad enjoys talking to him at the dinner table about topics I don’t get.
His family too, has always made me feel welcome. His late grandmother, despite our obvious language gap–she only speaks Bahasa–will always try to have a conversation with me while holding my hands. I’ll always remember how her eyes would light up, crinkling into a smile when she saw me, and would often ask Audi when I’d be visiting next.
May Love Always Win
At the end the day, people don’t fall in love with someone because of their race or religion–you fall in love with who they are because love knows no form.
This coming Hari Raya, I’m looking forward to visiting his relatives and feasting on his mum’s rendang. His family even got me to choose the colour for the family’s baju raya (it’s purple)!
And to all my Muslim friends, Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Dan Batin!