While chatting to a Russian friend the other day, we remarked on the number of international marriages we have seen failing lately. (I had written a blog post about the challenges of international divorces and it struck quite a chord with many of my acquaintances.) We were wondering why that might be the case.
The easy explanation would be that – in our East European countries, at least, and possibly even more so in certain Asian countries – marriage with a foreigner was perceived as something aspirational, glamorous, a great opportunity to get out of the country and make a life and career for yourself. For both men and women. Although the image that most readily springs to mind is that of good-looking young women hanging off the arms of weedy expats with no obvious qualities other than their thick wallets.
Fast forward a few years and now that the more basic needs of Maslow’s pyramid have been satisfied (security, warmth, food, the chance to be treated with respect or at least civility), perhaps the appetite has increased for those higher-level needs. We no longer want a secure provider, but a soulmate. We no longer crave the narrow two-bed flat in London but a detached house overlooking the sea. Which, by the way, some of our former classmates back home have by now obtained!
Life abroad, marriage abroad, has disappointed us. But we cannot go back – we have been away for too long, we no longer fit in, people back there treat us with suspicion or greed. We now want the lifestyle, the wealth and the ideal partner.
But there could be another explanation: Could it be that our partner has tired of us and our foreign ways? Or that we have over-adapted to our host country and they can no longer see the quirkiness and uniqueness in us that they originally fell in love with? Did both partners enter the marriage thinking more in terms of national stereotypes rather than the actual indvidual?
I know I came to the UK expecting to find the perfect English gentleman. Or a tall, dark Norwegian (my favourite ‘type’ combined with my favourite country but, sadly, almost an oxymoron). Luckily, I found my husband, who confounded all those false ideals and expectations. Nor did he find me to be the typical Romanian lass (whatever that might be). So we had to make it up as we went along.
I’m sure we both occasionally revert to national stereotyping when we get cross with each other (especially with each other’s families) but most of the time we rejoice that we are neither fish nor fowl and enjoy living between worlds. Which is probably the secret of success – we live in a neutral ‘third’ country.
What is your experience of marrying abroad? Would you agree that it’s a taboo to admit the ‘selfish’ reasons for doing so? Do you think there are always some false expectations and stereotypes going on there?