‘This isn’t working! How can I sit here and justify how he acted?’ He thought he’d be seen as the enemy.’: Interracial couple discusses communication, ‘Don’t let things wedge you apart’

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“My boyfriend, Connor, and I met at work and instantly clicked! I vividly remember the first time I saw him. He checked all my boxes physically, and he just radiated such a different energy than I’ve come across, there was an instant pull and attraction to it. Coming from a Mexican family, the second I heard him utter a sentence in Spanish, I was done! I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it!’

Connor was born in Georgia, and grew up Mormon in South Carolina. When he was 18, he went on a mission trip to Argentina, which is where he learned to speak Spanish. Once he got back to the US, after some moving around various states, he landed in Texas for a while and started a family. But he ended up moving back here, to South Carolina. He is a dental equipment support technician and a great father to his three kids!

My name is Emma Elizabeth; I currently go by Liz. My mood at the beginning of each year determines what my name will be for the year. I was born in Mexico, from a Mexican mother and black father, and stayed there until I was about five or six years old. I went from Mexico straight to South Carolina and have been here ever since. I have been in the service industry for almost 11 years now, and as every service industry person knows, it’s a love hate relationship there.

Although I feel like Connor and I had some sort of instant connection, we couldn’t have anything but friendship, because he was married at the time and going through a separation. Mind you, I wasn’t looking for anything, because I was actually in a relationship myself. I had been in this relationship on and off, and I was starting to realize this person and I were not on the same page. We didn’t really have the same vision for where we wanted to be in the future, or how we were going to get there. Time passed, and I found myself in another relationship that ended in me having to file an order of protection against the guy.

After believing I was in love with the previous guy, I told myself I had nothing else left in me to offer to anyone, and I was done looking for a man.

Enter Conner with that amazing aura and his cowboy boots.

Courtesy of Liz Burnett

After his divorce was finalized, we were free to pursue more than a friendship. I was oh so grateful for that, because I realized in all my relationships, I had dove in headfirst and ended up losing my identity in them, little by little. Connor was in a similar situation. So, our past relationships sort of became an unofficial guideline of how we were NOT going to handle our relationship. Neither one of us were looking for someone when we found each other. He told me, ‘I wasn’t looking for somebody, because I knew I have a lot of baggage.’ The thing is, we both did and still do.

The absolute, mind-blowing thing about all this, is this has been the best relationship I have been in, even though it has been the most difficult; all the difficulty has come from outside sources. If I got into the things we’ve had to go through, half of them you wouldn’t believe, and the other half, you’d pop a stitch laughing at.

Connor and I have so many things in common. We are both Taurus’s, but I believe we handle each matter we’re dealing with with opposite sides of our personalities — we are corny and cheesy! We may seem quiet at first, but once you get to know us and we get comfortable, we are silly. We are both couch potatoes and hard workers. We’re empaths, caring, giving, stubborn, supportive, and patient and impatient somehow. Somehow, we manage to balance each other out and put in the energy each other need when the other is lacking.

Courtesy of Liz Burnett

I am working on my patience because I have been quick to anger, and Connor is the most patient man I have encountered. I remember the first time I completely shut down because of some of the things that were going on. Connor and I had just come back from our first time at the lake together, and we’d had a wonderful, serene day just enjoying ourselves. Once we got close to his place to have dinner, I got a phone call that put me in a terrible mood. My coping mechanism is to shut down, so I don’t openly cry. Connor, without us having talked about it, knew exactly what to do. After he gave me a big ol’ bear hug and a kiss, he let me be, sat down next to me on the love seat, threw a blanket over us, opened up the pizza box, and just watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine until I was ready to speak to him.

This has become a relationship that was stumbled upon, not by accident per se, but I believe out of a necessity neither of us were aware we needed. So, opening up and acknowledging the mistakes I have made in the past, and choosing to work on them for the sake of this relationship, has been an eye opening experience for me. It has allowed me to grow in ways I had always dreamed of. I can say its thanks to Connor, for being the man I have always wanted. He makes me truly look into myself and put in the effort to be better.

Courtesy of Liz Burnett

These past couple months have been trying, not just because of the COVID quarantine, but because of the now upfront, in your face, undeniable, racial tension currently dividing the country. As I stated before, I am half African-American and half Mexican. I don’t know if me watching the full video of George Floyd taking his last breath was what set me off and made me get out of bed to go to my first protest. I was expecting Connor to be more vocal about how it made him feel for me to be going to a protest, but he wasn’t. He would just tell me he loved me and to be careful, and he would text me to check on me and make sure I was alright. About the third or fourth protest I attended, I was speaking to him on the phone and finally said, ‘You know, you’ve been awful quiet about everything going on, and its starting to bug me a little.’ He stayed quiet for a moment and then said, ‘Well, I obviously think its wrong, and there’s no excuse for it. I’ve just been worried about you is all, and you need to do what you need to do.’

The conversation continued, and at first I was upset and thinking, ‘This isn’t going to work! How can I sit here and justify how he acted just because I love him?’ So, although the conversation was cut short, it stayed in the back of my mind until the next time I saw him and brought it back up. I was nervous about what he was going to say now we were face to face, but the conversation we had made me feel much better. Due to the legal issues he’s currently having with his ex-wife, and with three kids, we both knew it wouldn’t be wise to mess anything up by him being at a protest and construing his support into something it’s not. As the conversation went on, there were a few points made where I realized we didn’t disagree, but we had two completely different viewpoints, just based on the different upbringings and cultures we grew up in.

Something that broke my heart a little was when he said, ‘…I don’t know. I feel like even if I had the opportunity to go to a protest, I would somehow be seen as an enemy by somebody. I would become a target for that anger.’ When he said that, my immediate response was, ‘I can see where you are coming from and why you would think that, and I can’t say it won’t happen, because just like everything else, it’s possible. But these protests have been nothing but peaceful, and by you being there, standing next to me, you’re saying you acknowledge your white, male privilege. I believe it would be appreciated, because it would be another noticeable voice that most don’t believe they have.’ After that was said, we stayed quiet for a second, and he said, ‘If it wasn’t for this situation, I would be right next to you.’

Courtesy of Liz Burnett

There I was, looking at the man I love, going through the conversation we were in the middle of at that very moment, and appreciating it. The openness and communication of it. He wasn’t listening to respond; he was listening to learn another point of view, because he loves me and who I am and what I stand for. Even though this was a difficult conversation to have, we both knew this wasn’t the last, because we plan on growing our family. As future parents of a biracial child, we would have to have more conversations — not just to address the possible color difference within our future family, but to address matters from the outside that would affect the child or children we would have together.

To tell you I felt an immense amount of weight lifted off my chest after we spoke would be an understatement. I took a deep breath afterwards and just said, ‘Thank you for speaking and listening to me.’ He just smiled that smile I fell in love with and said, ‘Of course, darlin’.’ Even as I write this, I’m tearing up knowing I have been blessed by the universe with someone who is more than willing to grow and learn with me in all aspects of life. Even when we ‘fight,’ I don’t consider it fighting. I’m a moody person and still working on it. But even if it’s 5 minutes or 2 days of me being upset, I still take care of him, and he still takes care of me, shows me love, and then we talk about it.

I can’t reiterate enough the openness and vulnerability we have with one another. It has truly been such a refreshing outlook on relationships I thought didn’t exist. Everyone that has known me for the majority of my life, have gone out of their way to point out the difference in me since Connor and I started dating. Every single time, it puts a smile on my face. I hope with all of this going on, every interracial couple has had the opportunity to have a conversation about what they feel and think with one another. To not let these events wedge them apart, but to drive them closer together. To know they are understood and loved, and not alone.”

Courtesy of Liz Burnett

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Liz Burnett. You can follow her journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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