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Every relationship comes with its own intricate obstacles, but partnering with someone of a different ethnic or religious background can make even the most spectacular relationship a bit more complicated.

Even though relationships of every imaginable combination are increasingly common in the modern-day dating scene, the concept unfortunately hasn’t completely shed the stigma yet—and many otherwise-solid and -healthy relationships suffer because of it.

To help those currently weathering the challenges of being in an interracial or interfaith relationship, here are three simple Dating with Dignity rules to navigate these complicated waters toward happiness and harmony.

1. Educate Yourself

Interracial and Interfaith DatingInvesting time in learning more about your significant other’s background and beliefs will not only express how much you care, but it can often have the pleasing side effect of bringing the two of you closer together. If you’re far along enough in the relationship and your partner is comfortable with it, reach out to his family for a greater understanding and maybe even attend a religious service with him.

Beyond the invaluable bond such a gesture will create, you’ll be more clear on any major differences in cultural background or values that may have caused rifts between you two otherwise.

2. Educate Your Loved Ones

Try to block out the unsolicited opinions and warnings from disapproving family members and friends early on, while remembering that many of them are steeped in certain attitudes and prejudices that made your significant other’s belief system or background seem unwelcome.

Once your relationship starts feeling like the real deal, communicate what you’ve learned about your partner’s culture to the loved ones who bristled initially, and make sure he does the same. This isn’t always the case; but often the more knowledge you can impart, the less foreign and more welcome your diverse backgrounds will appear to each other’s families.

In some extreme cases where loved ones use racial slurs to refer to your man, gently explain to them why those derogatory marks are unwarranted and extreme. Your tender thoughtfulness to learn and explain these differences to your family will further show them how much this person means to you and send his approval rating through the roof.

3. Block Out Others

While disapproval from those you love most may be the most noticeable, silent judgment and/or even verbal taunting from total strangers can be just as piercing. Rather than springing into action any time someone makes an unwelcome comment about your coupling, keep moving and adopt the mantra that the more vicious their comments, the more ignorant and insecure the attacker.

To ensure any offended feelings don’t build up and have a ripple effect on your relationship, take care to be open with your partner about how the comments make you feel; if there’s anyone else who can relate, it’s him!

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Marni Battista

As the founder of Dating with Dignity and with more than 25 years of personal relationship and dating experience, Marni Battista has dated, was married for 17 years, divorced, and then successfully dated again (and married!) in the 21st century. She has undergone professional training in dating and relationship coaching as well as training in the Core Energy Coaching Process from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). Marni also has extensive training as a Facilitator with the Hoffman Institute, one of the world’s foremost organizations in personal development. A guest co-host on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Loveline show, Marni was called LA’s best dating coach after her appearance on On Air with Ryan Seacrest. More importantly, as a divorcee for more than five years, Marni truly understands what it feels like to be lonely and sick of wasting time on dates with men that go nowhere. A woman who is not your mother, best friend, or therapist, Marni is the professional relationship and dating expert who will stand behind you to provide love, compassion, support and honest guidance as you embark on one of the most important, fulfilling adventures in your life.

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