Interracial relationships, however successful are not always emotionally or psychologically easy to navigate for couples who embark on them. Some can experience prejudice from loved ones and society.
One such couple is Lisbeth McDermott, 68, and Conrad McDermott, 56, who live in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. They have lived there for 18 years.
Lis is self-employed (up until lockdown) as a professional photographer for 12 years. Lis is now an author, poet and writing mentor. Conrad works as a Warehouse Supervisor.
‘We met in 1993 at a soul music club in Cheltenham. I went with a younger friend as we both loved the music. I was 41, and Conrad was 28. I saw him across the room and thought he was cute. A mutual friend told conrad I fancied him.
He asked me to dance. After one dance, he returned to his friend. At the end of the evening, I went and asked him his name. He told me and standing there, feeling an idiot, I was about to walk off, when he asked for my phone number. Conrad did call, much to my surprise.
We went out the next weekend, and have been together for 27 years – married for 18 years.
I had been married for 18 years previously, getting divorced at 40. I hadn’t intended settling down again, but Conrad was special.
Neither of us have children, and Conrad hadn’t lived with anyone, prior to meeting me – poor soul!
As an only child, the sole person I had to worry about was my mother. My father died when I was 19. He wouldn’t have approved. Initially, I kept it from my mum that I had been dating ‘black’ people, because she was quite racist in her attitude. She was born in 1913, and in her eyes, only ‘a certain sort of woman went out with a black man’. Also, because Conrad has no qualifications, and is not a ‘professional’, she didn’t think he would be able to look after me.
I pointed out I didn’t need looking after, as I was capable of caring for myself. When she found out who I had been dating, she commented that ‘I had always liked dark skinned people’. This was because my husband, although white, had a darker complexion to me (which isn’t difficult), and tanned well in the summer. She would tell people that he was English, just to make sure they didn’t have any other thoughts.
The first Christmas I took Conrad home, his cousin also often stayed with us at weekends. She said, ‘having one visit for Christmas was bad enough, and she didn’t know what the neighbours would think’. She also thought me going out with a black person might affect my chances at work. My mum once gave Conrad socks for Christmas, ‘do they have Christmas where you come from?” Without batting an eyelid, he answered, ‘Yes, they do in Birmingham, Rene.’
My Godmother also commented that we might have at least 15 years together…. Not sure of her thinking on that.
Conrad’s sister, was initially not happy about him being with a white person. He was nervous about introducing me to her. She tends to blow ‘hot and cold’ about it, and even now she comments to him about how ‘people should stick to their own kind’.
His brother has no issues as his partner is also white. His nieces and nephew accept me, and we have always got on well.
His mother is a different matter. He didn’t have a good relationship with her anyway. I don’t know if the colour bothers her as much as our age difference. She is only 8 years older than me. I think she probably finds it hard to understand how her son can love someone so near her own age. We don’t have anything to do with her, so her thoughts don’t impact on our lives at all which is positive for us.
All of my friends are perfectly accepting about our relationship. They all love Conrad. One of my friends who I grew up with is the only person I have stopped any contact with. This was due to a very derogatory comment her son, my godson made to Conrad when they first met him. I decided I wasn’t going to remain friends with people who were negative to us.
Once at a party, a black girl, who didn’t know either Conrad or me, admonished him for not going out ‘with a ‘sister’. He was shocked that she commented.
We often get stared at when out and about. I’m never sure if it’s the age difference they are noticing, or the colour difference (which may of course be more obvious). Some people really stare too. Not just a quick glance. Conrad calls it the ‘bar code’ look….
To be honest, no one has impacted on our relationship. Even my mum, who I was very close to. I knew how much I loved Conrad. I put him first. When she made negative comments, I told her if she couldn’t cope with our relationship, she would be missing out on me.
All of mum’s friends, who are her age, took to Conrad straight away. They didn’t seem at all phased by either his age or colour!
Conrad had never considered being married but I believe quite strongly in marriage. I think if you love someone, you commit to them completely, which to me means marriage, although I’m not religious.
Conrad had joked he would marry me on my 50th, so in the end I called his bluff. He said if I organised it, he’d be there! We organised it together. Conrad didn’t want a large wedding. We got married in in Cheshire, in a new venue which was beautiful. We took two friends with us as witnesses, and had a lovely weekend away with them.
The following weekend we had a party to celebrate my 50th. We shared the fact we’d got married with everyone, which was fab’.
“Mixed Feelings” by Lis McDermott is now available on