Mixed Up in Love is a new report released from dating app Inner Circle, in collaboration with the authors of MIXED UP: Confessions of an Interracial Couple. The report takes a closer look at some of the challenges and themes behind British people’s behaviours when it comes to interracial dating and relationships and reveals half (49%) of Brits still fear backlash for dating someone from another ethnic background. 

While nearly 9 in 10 (89%) UK adults have dated, are currently dating or would be open to dating someone from a different ethnic background, over a third however have experienced racial microaggressions as a result. Demonstrating attitudes towards interracial partnerships aren’t as positive as they seem.

Conversations about race are happening but rarely during the crucial early stages of dating. The Mixed Up in Love report takes a closer look at some of the challenges and themes behind British people’s behaviours when it comes to interracial dating and relationships. 

Mixed couples most likely to suffer negative reactions from friends, family and colleagues.

Over a third (37%) of UK adults have experienced racial micro aggressions or discrimination due to being a part of an interracial couple. Sadly, this isn’t just a case of isolated incidents being experienced at a distance from strangers. Respondents most commonly cite fearing a backlash or critical responses from those closest to them – their friends and family (49%) – as well as negative reactions and behaviours from colleagues (34%) while interracially dating.

Daters still fear racism, stereotyping and microaggressions when using apps

Moreover, 44% of respondents are self-conscious about their race or ethnic background when using dating apps. This isn’t surprising considering 4 in 10 people (43%) have suffered blatant discrimination, while 6 in 10 (57%) have experienced discrimination, racial stereotyping or profiling on a date, but suspect their date had no idea they were doing it. 

And what happens on dates can easily transcend into conversations on dating apps. While 3 in 10 respondents have experienced racial micro aggressions or racial profiling when using dating apps, with mixed race (White & Black Caribbean) and Black African daters most likely to have experienced some form of discrimination while online dating.

Racial fetishisation is a common issue contributing to racism on dating apps

People aren’t just experiencing racism in terms of overt acts of bigotry on dating apps. Many issues centre around behaviours and actions that seem inconsequential but actually perpetuate stereotypes. It is not uncommon for users on dating apps to set up their profiles based on racial and ethnic preferences, but these “preferences” can actually reinforce harmful stereotypes. Over a third of respondents (37%) have experienced racial fetishisation – the act of making someone an object of sexual desire based on an aspect of their racial identity. Of these, Asian daters have experienced this the most (56%), followed Black Caribbean (50%) respondents.

 Talking about racial challenges as a couple or while dating is taboo for many

The challenges of dating someone from a different racial or ethnic background can bring up lots of tough conversations. While seven in 10  (71%) respondents claim they would be comfortable talking about race on the first date, holding a serious conversation on the matter is clearly a taboo topic. The findings reveal that in reality, 4 in 10 respondents (43%) would only start a serious conversation about race once they had witnessed their partner experience racism firsthand. Thirty six percent would only do so if they noticed their parents treating their partner differently, while nearly a third (30%) would do so based on coverage of anti-racism protests and related news stories.

Tineka Smith, journalist and author of MIXED UP: Confessions of an Interracial Couple said, “Even today, it’s shocking to see how much interracial couples still fear backlash in their own families, friendships and communities and how this translates to their lived experience.  Which is why Inner Circle’s Mixed Up in Love report and the wider discussion around this issue are so important. There aren’t many resources or data on the topic and Inner Circle is shining a light on the realities of dating someone from a different background. The data shouldn’t be shocking because unfortunately it’s a reality for many interracial couples. 

“Being in an interracial couple myself, I felt there weren’t many resources out there providing support on how to discuss race in a relationship. Each couple is different, but it’s important to have these healthy discussions at an early stage. Not just because of what’s happening in the news, but ultimately to build an honest and supportive relationship with one another. The fact is that race is an integral part of our human identity and if your relationship is going to work, then it’s absolutely vital to understand each other’s experience and point of view on all aspects of racism.”

Challenging conversations around cultural differences vary based on ethnic background 

Cultural differences and attitudes are common issues that can come up during interracial dating or when considering asking someone from a different background out. Perhaps surprisingly, sticking points and issues still vary greatly between ethnic backgrounds, even in modern multicultural Britain:

  • Religious beliefs and practices are still the most difficult topic for many Arabs to navigate with people from another background or belief system
  • 6 in 10 (58%) Chinese singles  find it most hard to talk about issues related to family dynamics and expectations with their date or partner 
  • Bangladeshi respondents are most likely to disagree on roles and responsibilities of each partner in the relationship, based on cultural differences with their partner
  • Black African partners are most likely to avoid awkward conversations around attitudes to sex
  • Partners of mixed descent (White & Black African) are most likely to disagree with their other half around fashion choices, hair styles and other aspects of their personal grooming  

Tineka Smith’s advice for singles and couples navigating interracial dating and relationships, “It’s not easy tackling awkward conversations at the best of times. But it’s important to discuss these issues bravely and sensitively. Singles who want to take dating more seriously can hold these conversations at an earlier stage which can help develop a healthy rapport in the long term. If I was going to distil my advice for people navigating interracial dating and love, it would be:

Don’t avoid the discussion – embracing these conversations early on will result in more understanding and acceptance around the real differences that are part of your dynamic. 

Create a safe space – so that both people can express themselves freely, without fear of judgement and have the opportunity to grow and learn from their shared experience. 

Honesty is the best policy – but it goes both ways. It’s important to understand each other’s views and perspectives and to always be listening and learning from one another.  


About the research methodology
Research was carried out by Censuswide, on behalf of Inner Circle. An online survey was carried out amongst 1,009 UK adults actively dating with a minimum of 100 respondents in each ethnic group: Asian, Black, Mixed, White British, White other. Survey was commissioned between 27.04.2021 – 06.05.2021.

About Tineka Smith
Tineka Smith is a writer, racial equality advocate and entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Huetribe, a greetings card company aimed at promoting diverse representation. Tineka has written for The Guardian, iPaper, Elle, Grazia, The Independent, Mashable, Yahoo!, The Voice and more, and has been featured on BBC Radio London, BBC 5 Live, and talkRADIO. She has co-written MIXED UP: Confessions of an Interracial Couple with her husband, Alex Court – published by Headline, price £9.99 in paperback.

About Inner Circle
Inner Circle is a global dating app where singles take dating more seriously. Each profile is screened to make sure members are real people who are serious about dating, profiles show off values and interests, filters let singles find like-minded matches and events and tips and tricks on the best places to go help singles get together. 

  • Members get together every 6.9 seconds 
  • Available in 57 cities across 27 countries
  • Over 3.5 million members 
  • Over 45,000 happy couples have been in touch 
  • An independent tech company with no funding capital or investment 
  • Ranked in the FT1000 2020 list as one of the fastest growing companies in Europe 
  • Winner of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 in the Netherlands in 2018
  • Founded in 2012 in Amsterdam and launched in UK in 2013