‘I’m Lebanese. He’s African American. No one approved of us. The longer we dated, the more friends began to slip away.’: Woman claims ‘intolerance’ only made her interracial relationship ‘grow stronger’

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“Our story started out as your typical friendship turned to love. But it didn’t come without its challenges…

The first time we met was February, ten years ago. We were both in our early teens. We had been attending an educational school event designed to increase public safety. When the school separated us into groups, I was placed with a boy dressed in an oversized hoodie and Pac-man pajamas. His name was Manny. He had showed up late and wouldn’t stop shooting my group and I with nerf darts as were waiting for our rides back home. I thought he was annoying. That night, we went our separate ways after having talked about nothing more than the event itself.

Fast forward to a few years later. I am 17 years old and Manny is 16. He had just started at my school after being gone for a few years. For some reason, whenever we interacted, it felt like we were old friends catching up. However, it wasn’t until my senior year, and his junior year, that we became closer. We always hung around each other at youth group events, and I considered him my best friend.

Mixed race couple smiles in selfie
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Later that year, we had our school prom. I remember asking a mutual friend if Manny would be coming and they said yes, but he would be late because he had been grounded. He would also be going with another girl. I felt a pang of jealousy through my heart that I hadn’t expected.

Unsurprisingly, Manny showed up late to the prom. I noticed his girlfriend was ignoring him, and I remember thinking to myself how crazy this girl was. How could she ignore him when he was so sweet and kind? His repeated attempts to get her to join him in having fun that night dissolved into an argument. At one point, he asked her to sit beside him. She said, ‘No, I think you’re mad at me.’ When he questioned her, she left the room. I decided to join him, and we continued to enjoy the evening.

After that night, we started messaging each other more and more. We both shared love for music and had just gotten our first jobs. He began working at Chick-Fil-A, while I started working at McDonald’s. Our connection just kept getting stronger and stronger.

It was at this point that our friends had taken notice of our mutual affection. They began teasing us about it, though we didn’t want to admit to anything. Then in November of 2013, Manny asked me out on our first date. He planned a wonderful time including a church hayride. Unbeknownst to him, I have an extreme allergy to hay. I informed him right before we were about to go on the ride and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to continue. I said yes. I knew it would be worth it, despite my allergy. I had even prepared by bringing along a pair of borrowed gloves from a friend.

Throughout the ride, Manny had done his best to shield me from most of the hay by putting his arm around me. It was the most pleasant interaction with hay that I have ever had. This was only the start of many dates to come. That next year, I was his date to prom.

Mixed race high school couple stand smiling outside dressed for prom
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Growing up, I remember hearing certain family members make racist jokes and remarks. ‘They don’t belong here,’ they said. ‘They should still be slaves.’ Although I am Lebanese and Manny is African American and Hispanic, I never once cared about the color of skin. What mattered to me was who he was as a person. I thought others would think the same.

When we began dating, I was told that I was not allowed to tell my grandparents about my new love. ‘They are wholly against interracial dating,’ I was informed. At school, we were warned not to show affection for one another. ‘Some people just won’t understand,’ they said. Our peers didn’t like us dating and they were sure that it would not last. The longer we dated, the more friends began to slip away. We quickly found ourselves without friends, but we persisted.

There were times where the stress and discouragement made us contemplate our relationship. But deep inside, we always knew that we were put together for a higher purpose. I became his rock, and he became mine. We leaned on each other when we had no one else to lean on. Despite all odds, the intolerance from our family and friends only made our bond grow stronger.

Mixed race couple who received back lash for their relationship smile
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Mixed race couple stand outside in snowy weather looking into each others eyes

When we were hanging out one night, I began slipping on ice and Manny rushed to help me. He swept me off my feet and carried me down the rest of the driveway. When we got back to my car, we were both looking up at the clear sky. He told me, ‘Never forget this moment.’ I still haven’t. Being in a new relationship was hard enough without judgement from other people, but it was moments like these that made me forget about everyone else.

And in December of 2014, Manny proposed. We were married in February of 2015.

Mixed race bride and groom stand cutting their wedding cake
Courtesy of Emily Burden
Mixed race bride and groom stand at altar smile beside officiant
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Not long after, we moved into our own little apartment and became pregnant with our first child.

Mixed race husband and wife stand outside of home home as husband holds wife's pregnant stomach
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Despite my grandparents’ disapproval, I wanted them to meet Manny. He showed them unconditional love. Immediately after, my grandfather apologized on behalf of himself and the family for their intolerance. He claimed he would no longer put up with it.

That August, we gave birth to our first. We’ve been married for four years now. We have gone through many hardships together, including a miscarriage. But through it all, we’ve kept true to our commitment to stay by each other’s side.

We now have a beautiful little family, including two boys. My husband is currently training to serve our country in the United States Army, something that has been in his heart for years. I am incredibly proud of my husband and our strength. Even though we have struggled, our challenges have only made our love for each other and our love for God stronger. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Mixed race husband and wife smile as they sit in front of Christmas backdrop with their two kids
Courtesy of Emily Burden

Skin color does not define how someone will treat you. When God brings you the right person, you take them and hold on. In the face of disapproval and hatred, show LOVE.”

Mixed race husband and wife smile in selfie
Courtesy of Emily Burden

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Burden of Ohio. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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