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This is one of a subseries
of articles in self-improvement Lesson 4 -
optimize your relationships. The subseries focuses on
improving primary relationships. It includes articles proposing how to make
three wise courtship decisions with and
without kids from prior unions.
This article is for mates seeking to protect their
relationship from major prejudice or biases among their kids and relatives. The article...
invites you to clarify your beliefs about
prejudice and bigotry,
proposes common surface marital stressors from family prejudices,
suggests how significant prejudice can affect mates' relationship;
proposes seven primary causes for any prejudice problems you mates face,
the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
cycle that may stress your family
The attractive, articulate black womansat on my therapy couch and looked resentfully
at her white fiancé. “You have to understand,” he said defensively. “My
parents are Mississippi river people. They weren’t raised to accept, uh,
She glared at him. “You said you told them that if they
wouldn’t accept me, they’d lose a son! You say you love me. Now I hear you
making excuses about not taking me with you and your daughter to visit
them for the holidays. Are you with me, or aren’t you?” He couldn’t look
at her, and was silent.
or five combined
building new family relationships hard enough. Biracial, cross-religious, or same-gender
partnerships can add more
stresses to mates and
their family members. This article
explores symptoms and causes of significant prejudice partnership
stressors, and proposes practical options to master
protecting your marital harmony and your kids in a
"significantly prejudiced" family.
To learn whether this
article is relevant to your situation, try this…
Status check -
T(rue), F(alse), or "?" ("I'm not sure" or "It depends on _____")
I can clearly define prejudice
and bigotry to a typical high-school student (T F ?)
I can clearly define what “significant
(vs. acceptable) prejudice” is now. (T F ?)
I (a) know what significant prejudice
feels like, and (b) I can truly empathize with those who experience
it. (T F ?)
If I havesignificant racial,
religious, ethnic, gender, or other prejudices now, (a) I can name them, and
I can describe where I got them. (T F ?)
I feel my primary relationshipis
significantly stressed now by prejudice (a) within our multi-generational
family and/or (b) in our local religious or social community. (T F ?)
My partner feels our relationshipis
significantly stressed by such prejudice now. (T F ?)
If so, s/he and Ihave an effective
way of responding to this prejudice now. (T F ?)
If others’ prejudices require it, I’m
willing to firmly assert
boundaries that clearly put my marriage ahead
of family loyalty and other relationships now, without undue anxiety,
guilt, or shame. (T F ?)
My mateis now clearly (a) able and
(b) motivatedto do this too. (T F ?)
My mate and I (a) each have
defined our Bills of Personal Rights, and
(b) we each act on them consistently
and respectfully with the prejudiced people in our lives. (T F ?)
I can clearly define a
relationship triangle now; and my partner and I can
(a) spot each of these and (b)
resolve them well enough, now. (T F ?)
I’m confidentthat (a) significant
prejudice is nota major stressor for our dependent kids now, and
that (b) my partner will agree on this. (T F ?)
Pause and notice your emotions and where your
thoughts go now. Did you just learn anything? If you feel you have
significant marital stress now because of some form of bigotry or
prejudice, let's look at…
The Surface Problems
Typical disputes around prejudice and bigotry have
symptoms, and underlying primary conflicts (unfilled needs). The
core theme is
“I am or my people are better than (superior
to) you and your people, so
I am / we are entitled to more (dignity, power, freedom, assets, status,
opportunity…). This is an absolute truth, and is not subject to discussion or
If you and your
partner are of different races, faiths, collar-colors (blue vs. white), and/or cultures, your
extended (multigenerational) family falls somewhere on a line between "very
tolerant and accepting" to "extremely bigoted and outspoken."
A second generic
problem is your family relatives and others accepting (and teaching kids) stereotypic
superior/inferior judgments about groups of people without factual validation...
“All Jews are crafty moneygrubbers.”
are sick and twisted!”
sly and rootless.”
superstitious and lazy.”
are way too liberal."
never say what they think."
superior and intolerant.”
people are repressed and unemotional.”
are religious bigots."
undependable and less intelligent.”
rigid and arrogant.”
Americans are lazy drunks.”
Englanders are conservative and taciturn.”
an Irishman or a lawyer.”
“Addicts are sick and defective.”
too emotional, illogical, and maternal to succeed in business.”
graduates are smarter."
See any favorites here?
third potential marital
and family surface stressor is how major prejudices
are expressed - from blatant and arrogant(“People
should marry their own kind. You’re making a big mistake.”) to covert
and righteously denied (“I am not prejudiced against Chicanos!”)
Denial and deceit (false-self
wounds) block effective
Prejudice and Marriage
problems with bigotry and intolerance can create divisiveloyalty conflicts and
between mates. The bigots are the Persecutors, the “inferior” person/s are
the Victims, and
various family members or others can want to Rescue them.
most intense loyalty conflicts are usually with mates' parents and ex mates, because the welfare of the (minor) kids polarizes everyone.
The divorced father at the start of this article had to choose between
the African-American woman he loved, and his anti-Black parents and relatives.
Choosing not to choose displeased everyone.
And major racial,
religious, political, or other biases…
to calm discussion and reasoning. Most prejudices are based on learned
attitudes and values, which are intrinsically emotional, not logical. This
reduces the chance that your family adults can negotiate and really
problem-solve (compromise) effectively together. And major biases can…
block family-member bonding and
That lowers the
nurturance levels in
and among your related homes, which probably…
emotional security (raises the anxiety and uncertainty) in your minor kids, and
promotes their forming a protective
false self. Major biases can also…
cause your family members
social rejection and isolation.This is specially so in biracial
unions, if local society disapproves of this and/or one race or skin
co-parents’ decisions to have anours child and/or to
legally adopt a stepchild can be more complex and
conflictual in a biracial stepfamily.
hazards, the surface
problems abovecanpromoteyears of stress for you and your kids
and kin and eventual
psychological or legal
The details will vary, but
the symptoms and causes of these surface
prejudice problems are constant. What are the underlying root problems, and what options do your
family members have to resolve them?
The Underlying Primary Problems
Think of the last time you
felt disrespected, ignored, pitied, insulted, or discounted.
What did you feel, and what did you do? Now think of the last
time you felt or showed major prejudice toward another
person. What happened to the quality of that relationship?
I propose that the root causes of
interpersonal prejudice problems are some mix of these:
psychological wounds in all affected people, specially
excessive shame, guilt, distrust, and reality distortions. The
thrice-divorced (wounded) Black woman at the start of this article resented
and was biased against her (never-married, wounded) fiancé’s (probably
wounded) bigoted (wounded, unaware) parents. Another root is…
needs for acceptance
respect, and dignityin each of your family adults and
kids. Like hunger and breathing, this elemental need is not subject to
discussion, reason, or compromise.
A third root underlying typical
of hurt, resentment, anger, and aggression or avoidance when any of your adults or kids
feels disrespected. This is specially true if
prejudicial behavior implies “I believe...
you are an inferior
I am unquestionably right, and...
say or do will change
This is extra
frustrating if the bigot feels justified and righteously aligned with
God via interpreted words in a Holy book. “In
the Bible, God plainly says Jews are His chosen (superior) people, and that
women and Black people are inferior.” End of discussion.
Another primaryproblem is our
training and instinct
against disagreeing with and/or rejecting our parents and
grandparents ("Honor thy Father and thy Mother.").
I agree with Dr. Abraham
Maslow's premise that two basic
human needs are to feel
accepted, then recognized and valued by a group of respected people.
We adults and kids need to belong, for since infancy, aloneness is
belonging (acceptance and inclusion) depends on agreeing with
relatives' core beliefs, then minor and grown kids risk
loss of family status and inclusion if they openly disagree with ancestors' prejudices. They risk clan rejection, scorn, ridicule, expulsion and "aloneness."
overarching root problem here is the
inability to think and communicate
effectively with bigoted people. A common symptom of
wounds and unawareness of communication
skills is a
semiconscious fear of interpersonal conflict and
confrontation. People led by their true Selves who are fluent with the
seven skills see
Before personal recovery, typical
rarely believe that without major self-doubts (“I don’t like conflict;”or “I don’t do well in confrontations.”) They often equate
confrontation with aggression, vs. healthy
assertion. Know anyone like
A related problem is
ignorance about resolving loyalty conflicts, value conflicts, and
relationship triangles. If that’s true in your situation, you're focusing fruitlessly on blaming,
debating, justifying, and fighting, (trying for superficial changes instead of
problem-solving. In other words, you're not aware of focusing on
surface symptoms vs. underlying primary problems, and you see no alternatives.
you're an African American-Caucasian couple with prior kids. The white
partner's parents show clear disdain for, and aversion to, the black partner
and their relatives. This creates a loyalty conflict with the white mate in
the middle, defending his/her relationship choice and partner against
his/her own parents That conflict is likely to polarize the both extended
families, and promote some relatives to distance or deny (pretend), rather than choose
sides and confront.
The white senior parents'
bias automatically creates a
relationship triangle with them in the
Persecutor roles, the black mate and any kids in
Victim roles, and the white
mate and supporters playing Rescuer roles. This dispute also probably promotes a concurrent
loyalty conflict with the kids in the middle, defending their parent against
"those other people."
That may cause their other bioparent to take sides,
which may put the black mate in the middle (Rescuer), defending her/his
Victimized partner against the ex mate's criticism and scorn (Persecutor).
If you think that's complex,
note that we didn't include the
inner-family conflicts that are happening at
the same time - e.g. the
white mate feeling "torn" (guilty) about judging, resenting, and confronting
his/her own parents, yet feeling compelled to.
Each person in a family
loyalty conflict or relationship triangle usually has one or more inner
conflicts like this to add to the ruckus.
As long as you partners remain
unaware of the primary problems like these, and ignorant of how to resolve them, then your complex web of prejudicial stressors will probably
ferment and cause increasing secondary conflicts in and between you.
We just surveyed
common primary problems that can promote typical "prejudice problems.”
gender, ethnic, or other
biases can add stress to your
relationships. There's a lot you
mates can do to overcome and/or adapt to this! Specifically:
1) Commit to doing
Lesson 1 together.
This will help you all make optimal use of these next options, and
help you protect your kids from wounds and unawareness. Also, you'll better appreciate if the biased members of
your family (and others) are controlled by false selves
and don't know it. If so, that
makes it easier to see them with compassion, vs. scorn, resentment, and
yourBills of Personal Rights and help each
other affirm them. They are the basis for effective assertion of
your values, dignity, and boundaries.
3) Study and practice the
together. Over time,
this will empower each of you mates to assert your specific personal
and resolve values conflicts and relationship triangles effectively.
Option 4) Identify,
assert your personal and
marital boundaries together.
They specify what behaviors
you will tolerate without taking some specific action. Behaviorally,
boundaries are defined by "no," "yes," and "If you chose to do ‘x,’ then I (or we)
will do ‘y’.” (an assertive
This option manifests as you
and your mate intentionally list specific prejudicial behaviors in other
family members that one or both of you will no longer tolerate without
confrontation or other specific reaction.
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on effective confrontations.
It mentions eight lessons in this self-improvement Web site - I've reduced
that to seven.
6) Avoid taking responsibility for other
able adults' emotions, beliefs, or needs.
includes accepting that every able adult is responsible for managing her or his own needs,
Learn how racial, religious,
gender, and/or ethnic
tensions are affecting
each of your dependent kids; and tell them how such tensions affect you,
(within limits). Then help your kids understand with compassion and empathy why some
shame-based, unaware people need to judge others as inferior.
Help your young
ones learn to identify, assert, and defend their human rights and boundaries,
and show them what that looks and sounds like! Generations of unborn children
are mutely depending on you to do this
for them all. There lives will be easier if you do.
How might these options
sound, with the couple this article began with?
Options in Action
There are lots of
variations. Let’s call the woman who began this article Layla and her fiancé Ed.
Layla: “Ed, I appreciate how hard it
is for you to be in the middle of this loyalty conflict. I need you to ask you
parents to sit down with you and me in the next two weeks and discuss their
racial attitudes honestly, and how they affect us. This is a demand (“no” or
“maybe” are not OK responses), not a request. Will you do that for us?”
gets paralyzed, and I waffle, procrastinate, and give you
double messages. I
really do love you and want to be with you, and I see I have to choose between
you and my parents, if they can’t change their attitudes. I need help to do
this, starting with
Self in charge
of my inner crew. I affirm your right to dignity, and to demand that I work
on my inner-family problem and confront my parents. This is hard!”
Respectful dialog, if Layla and
Ed confront his parents:
Layla: “Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, I know
you were raised in a family and society that passed on the belief that Black
people are inferior. I was raised with the belief that biased white people are
ignorant and should be pitied or reviled. I sure don’t want to feel that way
about you two, or your kinfolk. Am I on track, so far?”
Mr. Jackson: “Look, we don’t want any
trouble. We just feel that if you and Eddie join up, you and our grandkids are
going to have a world of trouble because of, uh, how some people are.”
Layla, calmly: “You’re really
concerned about Ed’s and the kids’ happiness, long-range.”
Mr. Jackson: “Yeah. We don’t hold
anything personal against you, Layla.” (he feels heard, not
Ed: “I don’t want Jeannie and Billie
(hiskids) to get hurt either. And I need you to balance my
happiness with yours and theirs. I need you both to accept Layla and me as a
committed couple, and to help us confront other people who don’t understand
and approve. I think the kids will be OK if our three families (including his
ex wife) can pull together. Will you do this for us?” (Affirmation, and
clear, respectful assertion. This is a request, not a demand – yet).
If the senior Jackson’s
still had reservations or ambivalences (their inner families were
conflicted), Layla and Ed would use respectful empathic listening and
re-assertion of their needs – and perhaps problem-solving - until they reached
some acceptable resolution or confirmed they had an
This conversation would be
best initiated after Ed and Layla had (a)
put their true Selves
in charge of
their personalities via Lesson-1
recovery work, and then (b) resolved their respective
inner conflicts and relationship
triangles. The couple could also benefit from
role-playing this difficult
confrontation first, and helping each other refine their assertions and
responses to the Jackson’s expected resistances.
Can you imagine doing some
version of this in your situation? You can learn to do so if you
really want to! Review the spirit, wisdom, and power of these timeless
guidelines. Then quiet your thoughts, and listen carefully to your inner
voice now. S/He
knows the next right thing to do...
Human history is spattered with tragic examples of people
needing to judge others as inferior,bad, unworthy, or
evil. This can manifest in your marriage as spoken or covert bigotry and prejudice among your
family members and neighbors who judge one or both of you mates as inferior,
and/or believe that you should marry "your own kind."
surface symptoms of such prejudices, and suggests seven underlying primary
problems beneath them. These
prejudices about gender-preferences,
religious faith, education level,
power, wealth, social status, "collar color," and nationality. The article
closes with seven options couples can take to protect their
union against significant biases.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with? Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident
true Self, or