Neal and I have been together for over 10 years, and in that time we’ve been asked a lot of great and interesting questions about our relationship. We’ve been trying to tackle bigger topics in our blogs, but we also get asked a lot about our cultures, lifestyle, and faith. This has been much requested, so I pulled a bunch of questions we’ve received on Instagram Stories, and through DMs and comments to answer them all in one post! Thank you so much for submitting them, we love getting to know you guys more and opening ourselves up more for you to get to know us…
How did you meet?
We met through friends at the end of high school, and started dating later (4 months after we met to be exact). I asked Neal to come hang out again with some of my friends on Canada Day and he hasn’t stopped calling me since (haha).
What’s your ethnicities?
I am Macedonian (Eastern European) and Neal is Indian (Punjabi), we were both born in Toronto, Canada.
What were some of the challenges when you started dating?
At the beginning of our relationship we had our challenges in that we both come from strong cultural backgrounds and bringing those two worlds together would be different than what everyone was accustomed to in our families. Both of our cultures have an unspoken expectation to marry someone in that same culture. I am grateful for this: no-one in our immediate family ever told us we couldn’t date each other. However, we definitely faced judgement, disapproval and rude comments from others (of course some don’t even say it to your face). Neal and I have zero tolerance for racism. We celebrate both of our cultures and believe we are all children of God. No creed, class or race is superior. Sadly, the broken world order has these ideologies (just turn on the news to see the latest), but we do not hold that order in our homes. Our homes accept everyone as equals and we do not tolerate bigotry.
Neal’s parents follow Sikhism and he was raised following the same. When I met Neal and as we began dating, he did express and feel a disconnect to the faith he was brought up in, and he was on his own walk with finding faith. I don’t want to speak for Neal or share his own testimony (I think that’s for him to share), but he made that decision to follow Jesus on his own walk and time. It was never a “requirement” from me or my family for him to believe. We believe that your spiritual walk is deeply personal and not to be judged or persuaded. God works in everyone’s lives in a different way. Neal had his own experiences, research and encounters that made him believe. While on his walk, he wholeheartedly decided to give his life to Jesus 6 years into our relationship. We were each on our own walks, being young (18) and growing in my own faith, I didn’t really quantify how much faith could play a role in marriage when we first started dating. We began to have more extensive conversations about our faith as we grew in it (we both decided to get baptized after we got engaged). I came from a Macedonian Orthodox upbringing (I was baptized as a baby, but didn’t go to church on Sundays, only on holidays like Easter). However, I didn’t understand or actively have a relationship with Jesus until my early 20’s. My faith felt very cultural growing up (that was just my personal experience). We now attend a non-denominational church and you’ve probably noticed, we enjoy sharing it through our channels and work. It always amazes me how God took two people from different upbringings and beliefs and helped us grow in our faith together, building a strong bond and trust in Jesus. I got re-baptized when Neal did and looking back, it’s so symbolic of how we grew in our faith together as we were entering into the next season of our life — marriage and committing ourselves and our relationship to Jesus.
Do you interact with other interracial couples?
We do! We are apart of marriage group at our church and almost every couple who attends is in an interracial relationship — I think that’s just awesome! Some of our friends and family are interracial relationships and marriages, which is pretty common living in a diverse city like Toronto. I love that we can all celebrate this, where I know in some places it is unfortunately mocked or put down. We embrace our colours and we are proud of our love.
How do you overcome cultural differences?
You know what’s funny? We’re not all that different, people! The closer you get to all walks of life, you notice the common thread. Neal and I see so many parallels within our families (immediate and extended). We all want the same thing in life: love and acceptance. Of course, there are differences, it’s not to say this is not apparent. Faith has played a larger role, in that Neal’s family follows a different one from us, but they’ve given us support and love which we are so grateful for, as this can really divide people. They attended Neal’s baptism and I have so much respect for that decision, as acceptance of another faith (from your own) can be really tough things for families to deal with. I am forever thankful that we have had a respectful and loving dialogue about this always. Communication, boundaries, grace, understanding and acceptance are huge factors in overcoming any kind of barrier or difference. There’s a lot of respect that is required to accept one another and I am really thankful that’s present within our families. We’ve never lost that respect and honour, regardless of what it is others choose to believe. When we got married, the biggest takeaway from our pre-marital counselling with our Pastor was that we are starting our own family now and that requires boundaries to be set. We have the ability and freedom to carve out the path we want for our lives, and we believe you can do that respectfully. Neal has never been ashamed of his faith, even though it can be so taboo to talk or ask someone about it, despite being raised in a different one from what he believes today. I think that’s been the most helpful thing in having others accept it around him— he wasn’t scared, nervous or ashamed to share his decision to follow Jesus, instead he shared how much joy he has found in it.
How did you include both cultures in your wedding/celebrations?
Planning a wedding itself can bring up a lot of cultural barriers and expectations. Neal and I were on the same page for everything. We are proud and love our cultures, but our identity in Christ is what we wanted to come through in our wedding day more than anything else. We celebrated with traditional music/dancing and cuisine (our cultures love to dance and eat) and brought both of our worlds together. This was thankfully respected from both sides of our family. It may not have been exactly what each of our parents envisioned (I’ll be transparent here), but in the end it was understood and respected and that meant a lot to us. Neal and I have always been this way — we love and respect the cultures we were raised in and around, but we’re not heavily immersed in our cultural communities, if that makes sense. Many of our friends are from different ethnicities, cultures, and walks of life. We love experiencing their culture (food, music, etc.) and we celebrate everyone! I don’t think (or at least it wasn’t expressed) that it was a huge shock to anyone that we did our wedding the way we did. We attend a non-denominational community church, which looks like a community centre, and so we had our evening ceremony in a beautiful room at Casa Loma (an old castle in Toronto) that had church-stained windows and poured in beautiful light. We also had our reception there, so it was nice that our guests were all in one place. Our pastor officiated our wedding and my dad built a beautiful cross for us to stand in front of. We felt God’s presence in that room, even though it wasn’t in a church.
What is your favourite part of each other’s cultures?
Steph: I love that the Indian culture loves to celebrate life’s moments in big ways. They are vibrant and lively, there is never a dull moment at a party. It all comes together in the dancing, food, clothing and love. Indian food is my favourite thing on this planet (my mother in law’s butter chicken is next level). I’m so grateful to be married into this, and how accepting they have been of me.
Neal: Macedonians are protective of their culture, and I love the pride they have in it. I also love the traditional cuisine (the stews, sweets, stuffed peppers and feta cheese) and circle dancing!
Do you want to have children?
The most asked question award goes to this one (lol). Short answer: Yes! We’ve been married for two years, and so naturally we get this question a lot. I’m not offended when people ask, I just personally wouldn’t ask others (not even my closest friends or family – I wait for them to tell me). I think this question is deeply sensitive and personal for many, as conceiving is not easy for everyone and having that constantly being brought up can be very touchy. We feel God is calling us to certain things this season and are trying to abide in where we feel lead, but in the next few years (God-willing) we will try and whatever happens, we will trust in His plan. Being a parent is something Neal and I are very excited to embark on together one day, and in God’s timing.
Any plans to move into a detached home in your future?
Another big yes! We would love to in the next few years — again all in His timing. It’s a little intense in Toronto to be a home buyer, and a lot of the options out there are not what we are willing to invest in at this time. I watch Fixer Upper sometimes on HGTV and see finished, renovated homes that are the price of a down payment on a house here, and think, “oh man I need to move to Waco, Texas”, lol! We are keeping an eye out, but for now we are just planted in our condo. Can’t wait for a yard for Lucy to run around in and more space (definitely needing it). I love home design (even more than fashion), so I know we will have so much fun with that and I’ll be sure to share so much that design inspiration on this blog one day. Hopefully in the near future (prayers please)!
We love you guys! Hope you enjoyed this post, leave us a comment with any more questions or thoughts, we’d be happy to answer them…