People Heal When They Feel Seen and Heard
My partner and I are aware that racism is systemic. Racism is a social and structural force that privileges whites over Blacks and people of color. As an interracial married couple, we realize that privilege and oppression are always factors in our marriage and our lives. This cultural elevation of white identity and the parallel devaluing of Black folks and folks of color have led to internalized superiority for whites and internalized inferiority for Blacks.
Systemic racism and racial polarization are dangerous forces to civilization and our existence. Internalized superiority and internalized inferiority have resulted in white people overestimating their human value (unencumbered by race) and Blacks and folks of color underestimating their worth (based on race). As a result, white folks can become destructively entitled and takers, while people of color can experience a pervasive sense of shame, failure, and loss of hope.
How To Have Racial Discussions With Your Partner
Using a powerful tool to discuss racial issues in relationships is essential. One such tool is the Imago Intentional Dialogue, a three-step structured communication process that helped us create an emotionally safe space.
The structure of the Imago Dialogue allows us to express our experiences without blaming or criticizing each other, which is crucial when talking about how racism lives in each of us.
When we are in Dialogue, we commit to approaching our conversations with a mindset of curiosity, legitimizing, and giving equal validity to both our realities. There is no room for defending, playing victim, denying, or comparing suffering. These subjective experiences hold their own, different, embodied, and often painful truths.
You will become committed to listening to each other with curiosity, putting aside your own internal reactivity, and racialized stories about each other. This kind of listening allows us to let go of reflexive defensiveness, denial or minimization, reactive anger/rage, accumulative oppression, self-victimization, and much more.
When practiced regularly, you’ll be able to become fully present with your partner to validate each other's points of view and legitimate experiences.
Using sentence stems to have a Racial Dialogue will help you become more conscious of the racialized stories that sometimes block intimacy and heal racial pain and even racial trauma:
One racial story/belief that blocks me from being more intimate with you is …
How this story/belief fuels the way I show up with you is …
And then I react by …
Where I learned this story is …
How this belief is similar to or different from what I learned in childhood is …
As I say this out loud, what I am feeling is …
What sometimes makes it difficult to talk about my racial concerns/struggles/pain with you is …
The physical sensations that I am experiencing as I say this is …
How I imagine all of this might impact you is …
How I imagine all of this might impact our relationship is …
A new way I could show up when I experience racial distress or discomfort with you is ..
One way you can help me show up in this new way is …
How I imagine this could change our dynamic and deepen our intimacy is …
How I feel about what I am discovering about you is … and about myself is …
One thing I appreciate/celebrate about you is …
One thing I appreciate/celebrate about us is …
Using this as a daily practice in your relationship will hold the intention of creating emotional safety for each other to allow discovery and unfolding of truths. This will lay the groundwork for your deepest racial wounds to surface and ultimately heal together in your relationship.
If you need help with racial dialogues and creating a safe place to communicate about race in your relationship, we're here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Imago Relationship Therapy. We have Online Therapy and Online Workshops now too!
This blog post was written by Yael Bat-Shimon, LMHC, Certified Imago Therapist, Workshop Presenter & Paula M. Smith, Ph.D., MFT, M.Div., is an Adjunct Professor, Imago Faculty Candidate, Advanced Imago Clinician, Certified Imago Therapist, Workshop Presenter, and Consultant.
They are a married couple specializing in helping LGBTQ couples create safe, healing, egalitarian, love-filled partnerships in deeply perceptive, precise, and appropriately playful ways. We live in a culture that tells us that marriage and intimate relationships should come naturally. We believe this leads many LGBTQ couples to terminate their relationships unnecessarily.
Yael and Paula recognize how misleading this myth is for couples seeking real tools to create long-lasting marriages and committed partnerships. It is essential for LGBTQ couples to understand how important it is to help keep each other safe; otherwise, the meaning of their partnership is trivialized and this lessens the likelihood of creating a strong, interdependent, successful, and fun relationship.
For 12 years, Yael and Paula have been teaching LGBTQ couples how to understand each other using a positive, strength-based, psychobiological, relational methodology-Imago relationship therapy. They also bring to this work their combined 40+ years of experience in 12-step recovery as well as their experience as an interracial, interfaith couple. Black and white, Jewish and pluralist, Yael and Paula draw on their own deeply meaningful, often painful journey towards embracing and celebrating each other’s differences to help couples do the same.
Rather than bore you with advice and insights or tell you what to avoid in your intimate relationships, Yael and Paula help you think about and experience relationships in a whole new way, where you are empowered to communicate openly, embrace vulnerability, value differences, deepen intimacy, discover purpose and pass on a legacy of respectful relating to your children.
Discover Yael and Paula’s website too!