Tag Archives: divorce

Marrying abroad

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? 

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International divorce is on my mind

And no, it’s not me thinking about divorcing my poor husband (luckily, he doesn’t read my blogs).  Rather, it is a growing concern amongst my international friends, and is also a hotly debated topic on expat chat forums online.  What happens to couples from two different countries who are living in a third country (and who may have bilingual children with dual citizenship) when they decide to get a divorce?  I mean, getting divorced in a single country is complicated enough, but it becomes a logistical jungle when multiple legal systems, taxation systems, child custody arrangements and of course international sets of grandparents all get thrown into the mix!

I’ve got one set of friends who have divorced amicably and share custody of their child, but both of them are stuck in a foreign country that has nothing to do with them, because neither of them wants to relocate to the country of the other partner.  And, of course, neither wants to be at a distance from their child.

I have another friend who cannot find work in the UK at the moment, and struggles to support herself and her kids.  However, she cannot return to her country of origin (and her supportive family and far better career prospects) because her husband threatens to charge her with child abduction.

I know of another case where the couple had relocated to Australia before their divorce.  The husband has agreed to let the wife move back to the UK with the kids, but his own parents (in Germany) are very cross that they will have less opportunity to see their grandchildren, that they will forget to speak German and so they are considering legal action for joint custody.   Meanwhile, the mother is concerned that, because of the huge distance, the bond with their father will be severely damaged.

International law is a very tricky subject, and so is international financial advice, but I am thinking above all of the emotional costs to all involved.  And how quickly a delightful adventure abroad can turn into a nightmare.  I’m thinking of putting together a support group and advisory session for people going through such situations – or do you think people will avoid this like the plague because ‘it might be tempting fate’?

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