Acceptance vs Tolerance in an Interracial Intimate Relationship

Few days ago I wrote an article about the role of acceptance in an interracial marriage.

Some Westerners who marry Filipinas (or who otherwise interact long-term with Filipinos for some other reasons) begin to shoot upon the reality that they themselves have willingly chosen to embrace, or as the “Culture Shock Philippines” book puts it, develop a frustrated and antagonistic attitude and live “marching to the beat of a different drummer in a place where there are no drums” thereby feeling ill at ease.

The only cure is acceptance and almost all relationship experts talk about it.

But what does acceptance really entail in an interracial intimate relationship?

Many Westerners who marry a Filipina probably go through the process of getting to know her without seriously weighing their readiness to deal with the inevitable culture shock that is going to show up before long.

What makes things trickier in a relationship with a Filipina is what the above mentioned book says in the introduction: “the elements that produce culture shock for the foreigner…are often extremely subtle and microscopic. Only upon accumulation does the full impact reach the bone”.

In other words the real magnitude of culture shock is hard to discern in the early stages of the relationship and so many Westerners go through the relationship underestimating the challenges that lay ahead and perhaps thinking “I’ll figure out how to deal with it somewhere down the road” and, sure enough, because it is not quite that simple to “figure it out somewhere down the road”, a culture shock that they didn’t quite anticipate hits hard and they find themselves ill-equipped for it and many react by putting on an antagonistic attitude.

The Filipino culture is filled with things that create friction in a long-term relationship with a Westerner, and in my blog I have abundantly mentioned many of them, from the bahala-na approach to things, that Westerners view as serious, to the relationship with the extended family and many others.

Yet, a Westerner may seek out relationship advice and stumble upon this nice concept of “acceptance” that may appear a little outlandish at first but it kind of begins to make sense as one dwells on it and tries to figure out why it is important.

So a Westerner may go: “I have made my mistake there is nothing I can do to change this situation I don’t like but I care about the relationship so I’ll find the way to accept the unacceptable and tolerate bahala-na, the role of the extended family etc”.

But you see, this is not acceptance: what you are doing here is you are tolerating and showing resignation”.

You are no longer “bashing the environment that you have chosen to inhabit” openly but you are still doing it in your thoughts and that is everything but acceptance.

Real acceptance, the only kind of acceptance that can make a relationship like this work, is when you figure out ways to appreciate what’s positive about the things you are just trying to tolerate.

Maybe you are a staunch saver while your Filipina has this bahala-na or casual and easygoing approach to money and you can’t stand it, what could you possibly appreciate in this kind of scenario? Maybe your Filpino wife’s spontaneity and enjoyment of life and her greater ability to enjoy the moment compared to us Westerners.

In my experience what really got me to figure out ways to develop real appreciation for things that I would have done much differently, had I never married a Filipina, was commitment and the idea that marriage is sacred and that it has to work no matter what.

It has been nicely said: “if you must you can”. What is a must happens while shoulds rarely happen.

Commitment may sound like a far-fetched, outlandish and wishy-washy woo-woo concept in our modern culture where marriage is viewed as nothing more than a trial period.

Yet the idea that the “two will become one flesh” and that what has been “yoked together” should not be unyoked is, in my experience, the most powerful driving force to look for ways to get past culture-shock and embrace loving acceptance, a kind of acceptance that is not mere tolerance or resignation.

After all many who scoff at the idea of commitment in marriage commit to other things like financial goals and chase after these goals with a pitbull-like attitude because they view these things as musts.

I’ve found out that a similar attitude is vital in an intimate relationship and all the more so in an interracial one.

I’ve found out that the One who created the marriage arrangement knows better and that if you operate from the idea that “you must” you definitely can successfully work your way through massive culture-shock and find countless ways to appreciate what you can’t stand or barely tolerate and make your interracial marriage a success.

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