Despite your concerns and several disapproving conversations (with mostly-female coworkers or friends) and maybe the odd hint that you’re almost certainly being farmed out for a green card, you went all in, and married a foreign girl, and now you’re living out your version of marital bliss in the USA. Congratulations.
Your wife is completely different from any American woman you’ve ever been involved with. You celebrate those differences, and resolve to be the best husband you can be because you realized that you’ve suddenly been catapulted into a role as provider and patriarch, and she doesn’t just want you… She NEEDS you, because she’s a stranger here, and everything is new and a little intimidating but exciting, and holy shit she’s sweet, beautiful, a little clueless and very vulnerable.
This was the situation I found myself in, a number of years ago with my new Brazilian wife. Being a professional mariner and having a serious commercial fishing habit that took up my time and money when I wasn’t on a ship, I never expected to get married or have kids, yet here I was with a brown-skinned beauty queen whose English was only slightly better than my non-existent Portuguese.
These days my wife speaks a heavily-accented sort of English which I still find sexy.
In the years since we met, having negotiated the immigration and citizenship process, and raising a kid together, we’ve gotten pretty good at speaking bad English. Everything I’ve learned about marriage has been through trial and error—mostly errors, to be honest. Unfortunately, I learned mostly from my own mistakes rather than the mistakes of others. The couch is occasionally slept on even now (by her, I had the bed before I met her). Stereotypes have been reinforced, some broken, a lot of fights have been fought. That thing about the Latin temper? All true. My bedroom door has stab marks. Stab marks.
Yes, your new wife might have a temper. But on the other hand, this.
For anyone out there considering marriage to a non-American citizen, I’d give a cautioned approval to the idea; like any gamble, it’s always possible to win big if you play the probabilities, and a cross-cultural marriage introduces the potential for a more respectful, caring and loving dynamic in the marriage. That being said, she can’t be immersed in our culture without integrating some aspects of it in her philosophy.
She’s going to be Americanized, and, let’s be honest; you were attracted to her partially because she’s not American. She doesn’t look or sound the part, and more importantly, she doesn’t act like an American woman. You need to be clear about boundaries and acceptable behaviors here, and become mindful of cultural creep, the slow integration of every antagonistic behavior exhibited by your American ex’s that drove you into the dusky arms of your foreign wife in the first place. They’re going to show up, and you’d best be ready if you want to keep your wife out of the bitch zone.
Be ready and be mindful. Americanization is rife with pitfalls. With that in mind, here are some things you absolutely need to be aware of if you want to have a successful cross-cultural marriage.
1. Prepare to be the patriarch.
You will be expected to be the leader, breadwinner and alpha in the house, and she will absolutely let you know when you’re falling short of expectations. With this great trust that she places on you will come great expectations, too, and there’s a steep learning curve if you’re not naturally good at being the boss. The phrase “Happy wife, happy life” comes from this, and your foreign-born wife will do her part best when you’re doing yours. She will be happy to serve you, but do not expect her to support you. The loneliness of command is the price you pay for a doting wife. She will entice you when she wants to guide you. If you force her into co-leadership, she will despise you. Not her job. The division of labor is an important distinction. Be sure the both of you know what the other expects here. You can expect her to pull you along sometimes, but if she has to push you, she will resent it.
2. Marriage is a BUSINESS contract between two people who love each other.
She knows this. You didn’t. Let’s be clear: she chose you for a package deal—you were weighed, measured and carefully judged, even if you don’t recognize or appreciate the criteria. Don’t expect that your having won the lottery by being born American will hold much water once she’s wedded and bedded. That was a big plus when you were dating, but now it’s just the status quo. While you can expect not to be taken for granted, she’s not going to be worshiping at your alter if you don’t hold up your end of the marriage bargain.
Your chemistry as a couple, your ability as a provider, leadership, a green card (more on that later), your relationship with your family, your economic potential, your looks, your personality, your religious views, everything. It’s all measured. She’s been programmed to want AND need a husband, chances are, and she’ll never tell you if it’s desire or need that primarily motivated her. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter (to you) and she knows that, too. So lose your romantic notions. Romance has an important place in marriage, but that doesn’t minimize the practical and pragmatic way she’s looking at this venture, and it also doesn’t detract from the joy of it when she’s happy with the decision. Finally, don’t expect marriage to your new wife to be easier than it would be with an American woman. It’ll potentially be more satisfying and interesting, but easy? No. Just different.
3. Don’t minimize the value of the green card.
With marriage to you comes American residency and access to the American Dream. The green card is something that you bring to the table, and it holds great value. Pretending that this isn’t an attractive thing is foolish. Of course this is part of that package! Don’t hide from that. You are content with the qualities of your wife’s personality, right? Would you be equally content if she weighed 600lbs and only got around on a scooter? No, of course not.
“She’s curvy and has a wonderful personality.”
Refusing to acknowledge reality doesn’t make it any less real. Recognize the green card for what it is… it’s simply a tool you have access to which can help you both build the life you want. Nothing more, nothing less. To her, it’s more than that. The symbolism of the thing is… substantial. The Holy Grail. Marriage was exciting, but this, THIS, now she’s going to tell everyone she got married. Assuming that you’re not being scammed, of course. That certainly happens, but if you’ve gotten this far only to get taken for a ride, you deserve the harsh lesson.
4. You’re not just marrying her, you’re marrying into her family.
The clichés hold some truth here. Marry a Latina or a Filipina, and you’d better be ready to have a close relationship with blood relatives and, possibly, hundreds of cousins. Set boundaries early. No temporary move-ins of family, but be aware that you may very well be asked to make an exception for your mother-in-law. Your wife’s brothers know enough to not invite her to live with them, so your kind-hearted wife will probably ask you to do this. This is the downside of close family ties—it can be mitigated, it can be accepted, or it can be made clear early on that it will never happen. That’s up to you and her. Good luck with saying no, and enjoy the couch.
At the least, you stand a good chance at being involved in sending money to your mother-in-law overseas. This is pretty common, and, while it’s concerning, it’s also the price you pay for keeping an ocean between you and the dragon lady. You can be clear that it will be her responsibility to earn any money going to the Old Country, but be aware that eventually you might get tired of not having a second income when your wife has to work and she’s still buying everything with with your paycheck, not hers. This is especially annoying when you discover just how expensive it is for her to always look her best and have matching 5″ heels with every outfit.
5. Beauty don’t come cheap.
Your new wife has access to unprecedented income for her. She’s going to want to invest in new clothes. You’re going to want to indulge her. I can tell you firsthand that Brazilian waxes every 2 ½ weeks will cost you $100 a pop anyhow. Worth it. Salon visit, nails… you get the idea. It adds up. You can go on and on about the value of natural, casual prettiness in a wife, but there’s something to be said in having a wife who takes great pride in looking her best at all times, because, unlike American women, foreign women accept the double standard with humor.
Is it manipulation if the both of you know that she’s getting away with some shit because you’re in lust with her even after a couple of years together? She knows that you like to look at her, and more, that you take pride in the fact that your wife is the great beauty she is. Maybe we as men are shallow in that way. I don’t care. She won’t be beautiful on the outside forever, so best to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
6. Culture and monogamy.
This is a touchy one. She may come from a culture that accepts male infidelity. Be warned. Jealousy is ugly, whether it’s earned or unearned. In countries where women are second class citizens, there is a complex and convoluted series of undercurrents that govern issues of fidelity. She may come from a country that condones male infidelity, where women are dependents and therefore, deathly afraid of being cast aside if they are caught cheating themselves. Do not think that this makes them monogamous. They just are far, far better at hiding their affairs than their husbands.
Women and men in most cultures tend to cheat at about the same rate. There’s a lot of variability in the statistics because of the fact that social scientists have a much lower bar when it comes to intelligence and the ability to do math than real scientists, but reliable, proven study shows that fidelity between the sexes in most cultures is comparable. Between two different cultures, the numbers vary. Regardless, be mindful. If your wife has good reason to believe you’re cheating, all bets are off. She may be insecure and jealous even if you’re devoted only to her. If that’s the case, be respectful but firm in ignoring it. She WILL expect you to be jealous, and will shit test you until you slap this tendency down so hard that she panics. Regardless, this is something you will have to deal with.
Every male immigrant from her country will attempt to hit on your wife at any time, often right in front of you. You can trust your wife to do everything but make them stop, so make sure you make an example out of someone early on. Mate guarding will have her leaving snail trails on the furniture, and you can make this stop with a polite but very public establishment of dominance. She will gravitate to any local community made up of her countrymen, so this is an issue, but it’s easily taken care of.
7. Beware of cultural creep.
Your wife is going to become Americanized. She’s going to experience social pressures to conform to the behavioral standards of an American woman… you know, those things that drove you into the arms of a non-American. Feminist-promulgated behavioral standards are so pervasive that it’s unavoidable, unless you want her to be dependent on you like an overgrown child.
The degree to which this happens is based on your ability to foster her desire to submit to you as her husband. This will challenge and test you. I’ve found that positive reinforcement works. When your wife complains about her American friends, listen. Agree and amplify if you can manage to pay attention longer than a moment or two. Complaining loudly and with pity when my friends’ wives treat them like total garbage pretty much does the rest.
Ultimately, no matter where your wife is from, you’ll have marital struggles of one form or another. Marrying someone from another culture won’t give you a free pass in terms of dealing with trouble. You’ll absolutely make a lot of mistakes out of plain ignorance, and so will she. You’ll miscommunicate constantly, even if she already speaks passable English. You won’t have to deal with the enmity, resentment, entitlement, ingratitude, immaturity, the use of sex as a weapon or reward, mind games or emasculation that are the birthright of the modern American woman, though, and that gives you a leg up and a greater reserve of patience and tolerance.
You can have kids and be more than just two support systems that orbit around your children. In this environment, you can actually have a nuclear family if you both so choose. Really, it’s nice to be married to someone who wants to be a wife to you and doesn’t need to have their ass kissed in order to treat you like a human being. While I sometimes envy my friends and shipmates’ ability to easily communicate with their wives, I’d shoot myself in the dick before marrying an American woman.
Read More: Don’t Believe The Lies About Foreign Brides