Considerations when dating someone more or less privileged
This situation happens frequently. Here are a few points from relationship science that couples should be aware of when a partner holds more privilege, such as having a higher social class or caste, or identifying as a male or a White person:
- First, people with privilege are likely to be less aware of prejudice, discrimination, and other challenges as compared to their partner. So when a partner without privilege talks about moments of prejudice, discrimination, or other difficulties, one of the best things the partner with privilege can do is listen with a receptive mind and actively discuss this with openness, respect, validation, and empathy. A number of people with privilege make the mistake of discounting their partner’s experience. This runs the risk of closing off communication or placing the partner with less privilege in the tiring position of trying to prove that their experiences are valid.
- Second, privilege deeply shapes people's lives, and couples shouldn’t shy away from having discussions about their unique experiences. Partners with more privilege should make every effort to grasp how differences in privilege have impacted their partner’s life and their own. For example, a person from a lower social class or caste may have faced challenges that are entirely unfamiliar to a partner from a higher class or caste.
- And third, couples should be mindful of how their experiences of fitting in with family members may be very different. Privilege often opens the door to being welcomed, which can make meeting a partner’s family easier and more comfortable for the privileged partner. For example, a partner from a higher social class or caste is more likely to be embraced by their partner’s family, whereas a partner from a lower social class or caste does not have this luxury.
To deal with this, couples might want to have a supportive dialogue about their feelings toward family acceptance and any difficulties they’re anticipating or encountering, and talk about how to be there for each other.
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