48

“You’re Married to a Russian?!”

Why yes I am, unnecessarily concerned man or woman. Thank you for your unnecessary concern!

After four months of being married to a Russian (yup, just had to count that out on my fingers), I am clearly an expert on marriage and international relations (of the heart). I’m clearly kidding, but when people figure out I’m married to a Russian they either a. reel backwards, clutching their metaphorical pearls in horror; or b. start bombarding me about legal issues. (Trust me, we’ve had more than enough of our own to figure out!)

Here are some of the sweeping generalizations I’ve heard about being married to a Russian:

He only married you for a Green Card.

I imagine this is some sort of jokey thing that everyone who’s married to a foreigner has heard at least once. I’d wager that the instances skyrocket when the spouse in question is from a (perceived) ‘undesirable’ country. Like Russia. Because yes, it is difficult to come to America. Particularly if you’re just a normal person getting screwed by a tense political relationship.

The instances of immigrant visas being issued to Russians have dropped significantly in the last decade: since 2004, there was a 51% decrease in immigrant visas issued. In 2013, the number stood at 3,871 which, while a decent number, is still nothing as compared to earlier rates. Whether this is because of tightening US restrictions or a lack of interest on the Russian side, overall I think we can see a trend of immigrant visas getting more and more difficult to obtain.

That being said, no, actually, the Russky didn’t marry me for Green Card purposes, as flattering as that is the suggest to someone. And beyond that we don’t have any immediate plans to apply for one or live in America. Whaaaaat?

So in conclusion: don’t joke about mine being a Green Card arrangement, and I won’t comment on how you only married that old guy for his money.

2014: Traveled all over with this kid but stuck it out in Russia.

You must hate all the cooking and cleaning.

Obviously you don’t know me that well.

It’s true that Russia really embraces traditional gender roles. Men are supposed to be the leaders: the macho, forceful breadwinners. Women are supposed to remain submissive, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. OH, and thanks to the societal ‘equality’ put in place by the USSR, they should also work. I’ve seen the trope played out a million times, even in the relationships of Russian people I would consider progressive. Something so deeply ingrained in the culture is hard to buck, especially if you don’t really want to. So women remain overworked and underpaid, just like all over the world.

That being said, of course there are exceptions. Of course. The Russky is one of them. And I mean, thank god. Can you imagine anyone trying to make me do something I don’t want to do? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s very rarely worth the effort.

For the record, we share the distribution of doing things pretty evenly – either we’re both doing something, or we’re both to lazy to get organized. Being Russian doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.

DSC_1881

He must be so excited to have kids.

So this isn’t just me and it isn’t solely reserved for Russians. As soon as you start dating / get married to someone, there is always a huge crop of older women who immediately begin to harass you about your vagina and when you’re going to get using it for its god-given purpose. Ugh.

Somehow there’s this stereotype that all Russian men are family men and love children. (Not sure how that all coincides with the other ‘all Russian men are drunks’ stereotypes, but I’m not getting into that.) I guess this is true? I guess where it comes from is the inherent expectation of Russians that everyone will have a kid. That’s just what you do. America is, in some respects, the same way. However, in America it is possible to say that you don’t want children and not have people look at you like you’re imbalanced. In Russia, a woman saying that she doesn’t want kids is reacted to in one of two ways. First, abject horror (and maybe tears if it’s from your future MIL or babushka). Second — and this usually comes from the men — you’ll be laughed at and told you just don’t know what you want.

Yeah, that’s it.

This one is more than enough.

This one is more than enough.

Are there any misconceptions about your country and marriage? I think for America, it would be that the women immediately get fat (or is this everywhere?) And the men are impotent but endearing.

For more on loving internationally, try:
Dating in Russia: for the ladies
Dating a foreigner
DON’T date these Russian men

A Complete Guide to Exploring Moscow

  • It is so irritating when people make the green card comments when your with a foreigner or put out there stereotype knowledge about your relationship. They usually don’t have much to say to me after they make the green card comment and I point out that I am actually the one that moved to his country so this clearly isn’t the case!

    • Is there an Icelandic version of a green card? Because I’d totally rather have that!

  • Haha yes! In my country it is the same as in Russia – if you are 30 years old and you don’t have/want kids, then you are imbalanced. Thank God I am 23 because I don’t really want kids right now! I know what you are talking about – babushka, yeah, grandmothers here are completely the same! Also, about the visas – yes, people here think that when you marry to American, it is because of the visa. Don’t worry, that’s not only in Russia. Maybe it’s an Easter Eruopean thinking and mentality. Wow, I shouldn’t say this….

    • I think it is an Eastern European thing that’s developed over the years. I guess it’s not all bad, but I am so happy to be away from the Russky’s family harrassing us all the time about having children. Ahh!

  • The perks of being an independent woman…..When I tell people I don’t want kids and I also don’t want to marry, no one takes me seriously. They are all like “she says that now but in 10 years she will be a married housewife with 3 kids and a dog”. People in the German countryside are not that different from Russians when it comes to that topic I guess. Anyway respect for dealing with these questions over and over again. I would have yelled at the third person for daring to ask 😀

    • There are a lot of dirty looks involved, trust.

      And I guess in general — regardless of country — people in small / rural areas have nothing better to do than pry into other peoples’ lives. So they do :/

  • It is definitely the annoying the comments you get from being with a foreigner! I’ve been with my partner for so long though I luckily don’t get it much anymore. Now we just get the when are you going to get married and have babies spiel (to which I reply never just to be annoying and put it to rest). I get the green card thing too, only it’s more a “why don’t get you married so you can both just move back to America?” Well, because we’ve chosen to live in England, and weren’t forced to get married to do it. I feel your pain!

    • It’s so funny how people assume that the best case scenario in any case is to be living in America. I totally get why so many people think us Americans are so egotistical! I mean, what else could possibly be better than settling down in America?! 😉

  • Ugh I can’t believe that Green Card comment!! Shocking. Since my bf is Dutch and we currently live in NL, I never get comments like that. I do think some people give HIM the side-eye about me though, particularly right now as I’m filing for a new residence permit with him as my ‘referent’ – which basically means I get to stay for one year because he has a job. As soon as I get my residence permit, I know there are a few people who think I’ll suddenly give up my job and enjoy the leisurely life :p

    • That’s not such a bad idea, the life of leisure… Haha, but seriously, good luck with that. I hope it’s not too painful of a process.

  • I feel lucky- the only comments I ever got about my Russian husband were jokes about communism.

    • Oh yeah, some of that too. I guess we escaped all that because, athough born in the USSR, he’s a bit too young to have gotten too Commie-fied before the collapse.

  • I’ve not had the green card comment yet, nor any comments about not having children yet (I’m 35), but I am sure they will happen!

    • How lucky! Maybe your friends and family are just far more tactful than the people I know!

  • Well, you covered it all – I used to get the ‘are you gonna marry your boyfriend for green card?’ questions in the US and I get pestered in Russia about my child non-bearing ways.

    • Yup. Sad, but true.

      And, just saying, maybe you should have married him for a green card since you can’t keep up on the paperwork yourself 😉

  • Oh gosh, I feel you. I just married a Dutchman, so I have the advantage of him being from a
    “more desirable” Northern European country, but we still get green card comments. In fact, when we went to the social security office, an employee told us we clearly had a “shotgun” wedding and didn’t know anything about the immigration process. That was probably the angriest I’ve been in a long while. In addition, we met on the internet, so I get all of the judgment that comes with that (mostly from older people). Just a joy.

    • I also should mention the hilarious misconceptions my husband’s Dutch family and friends had about me and the U.S. before I met them. His mother is still convinced America consists of the women in 16 & Pregnant and Say Yes to the Dress and that everybody owns at least six guns.

      • Haha, oh dear. Foreigners get such a bad impression of America from reality TV, although sometimes my hometown mirrors it frighteningly well…

  • I’m shocked no one has suggested the obvious possibility that you married him for Russian citizenship.

    • Weird, right? I was just salivating over that temporary residence permit I could get right away…

  • Sam and I get the “when are you having babies” spiel all the time. And just laugh as they are giving me “you weirdo!” looks.

    • I know this isn’t strictly true, but times when I’m doing something really fun (or stupid) I think “I couldn’t do this with kids!” Isn’t that justification in and of itself?

  • Seeing reader reactions–from shock to agreement–has been as interesting as this entry!

    Some friends of my parents’ were definitely “clutching their metaphorical pearls in horror” when they heard that my boyfriend was Colombian. (NO he does not sell drugs. Harumph.)

    It sounds like those of us in international relationships get a lot of sweeping generalizations made about our partner. And, we have to keep reminding naysayers that not everyone in a culture is the stereotype they are familiar with!

    • Oh man, I can only imagine the horror of some Colombian comments.

      We’ve just got to keep on keepin’ on, proving not all Americans are fat, not all Colombians are drug dealers, not all Russians are commies, etc…

  • Lordy, luckily I haven’t encountered any of this since we’re not quite on the marriage path, but it makes me think that why does no one wonder until your marriage and THEN all of a sudden question intentions? People are so strange.

    • I like to imagine that people are nosy because my life is SO wildly interesting they just can’t help themselves. Makes me rage slightly less…

  • For the record, I haven’t gotten either the green card comment nor the housework/cooking one in two+ years of marriage to a Russian (we already have a baby, so that takes care of that one.)

    • Well, he already got his green card by the time you told anyone 😉 so I GUESS WE ALL KNOW ALREADY. (That you’re in a loving, totes normal relationship!)

  • Unfortunately, I can’t relate but I can completely understand where you are coming from after having European friends with American partners, people always assume it’s for one/the other to gain visas. So ridiculous!

    • Oh, I’m sure people will find some way to harrass you too! They’re generous like that!

  • OMG, I can’t believe people say that about the green card…it is SO rude. You never know in the US how the “I’m not having kids” comment will be taken. Luckily our families took it well but strangers say things like “you will change your mind” or “that’s what you say now”. Before I was married it was “you will change your mind when you meet the right person”. It’s not like America is all that progressive on the role of women in society either. I know plenty of people and especially people from our parent’s generation where the woman does all the cooking and cleaning. I’ve been to people’s houses before and it’ like the guy has never even seen the kitchen. As a side note, I do appreciate that living in the US has given me much greater freedom as a woman than in some other countries.

    • I HATE the “you’ll change your mind” / “you don’t know what you want”. It’s so infantilizing, as if that person knows you better than you know yourself.

      And I totally agree with you – America gives women a lot of freedom, but that doesn’t take away the fact there’s still a lot that could be better.

      • Oh, how I hate the “you’ll change your mind” comment. I’ve always known that I would never want children (nor get married, for that matter), and I’ve said this when asked, only to be given THAT infuriating response. Thankfully, I’ve finally made it into my forties, and so I’m fairly safe 😉

        Love your blog, as always.

  • Jennifer Dillehay

    I love love love your blog. You are such a great writer! Thanks for the insight!

  • That must be so challenging for you! I find it so annoying when someone asks when I’m going to have kids! Even though I want kids it is none of their business!

    • Very challenging for my eyes not to roll out of my head. Some people…

  • Being married to a Chinese guy I get the green card comment too. As we aren’t quite ready to move to the US, applying for a green card would be a waste of time at this point. I did have many people confused though when I got married that I was becoming a Chinese citizen. Even if I wanted to – almost impossible!

  • Olya

    LOL! I did the same thing. I was 21 and just like you I felt incredibly bored so I moved from Ukraine to Canada. It was during Gorbachev and perestroika time which was so popular back then that people were kind and curious and I felt instantly in love with my new country but as years went by someone told my husband that years ago KGB sent out pretty girls to spy on North America so my husband was very insulted not by my good looks 🙂 but by the fact that someone thought he was not good enough for me when in reality he is a very handsome man and top of that he is a few years younger than me so here we go since I didn’t need a “green” card than I must be trained by KGB but my husband knows better, I talk too much to be any kind of agent. 🙂

  • It absolutely blows my mind when people come out and say such ignorant things! They really don’t have a clue how rude they’re being. It’s shocking.

    • Raised by wolves. Raised. By. Wolves. 🙂

  • Jeff L

    I have been dating a Russian girl for about 5 months now. She recently visited me for 10 days, and prior to that we had a Skype, texting, phone call relationship. Now that we had a chance to be together, the chemistry has been incredible! Even though we are moving slow physically, we are very serious about our relationship. I must say, though, just knowing about all the scams out there makes me hesitant. It is easy to apply stereotypes to your current situation, even if they don’t really apply. The hardest part is just knowing that not everyone is trying to scam you. My girlfriend had even talked about staying in Russia, as she has a good life there. Now that we had a chance to meet, she definitely wants to come here. I couldn’t be happier, but there are also doubts….how to do overcome these??

    FYI
    She’s 29, and I’m 35
    She has a 2 year old daughter, whom I adore so much!
    She has been in the US several times, and I have met about 7 of her US friends

    • That’s so tricky! I had excellent luck since I was already established here so there was no question of ‘is this just for a green card?’. I think it’s best to acknowledge that stereotypes do exist for a reason, but understand that they definitely don’t apply to every situation.

      I wish you luck and hope that everything works out as you’d like!

      • Jeff L

        Thanks! I know that things will work out just fine!!

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  • Anne Sidorenko

    Ok funny thing. I am Russian and my boyfriend is American and in the army. We live in Germany (he is stationed here). My family jokes all the time that he just wants to stay in Germany, his family doesn’t say anything about me wanting a green card though.

    I think it also depends on where a specific person stands, me as a scientist, I can get to everywhere without needing a husband from a specific country and most people know that but if I would have ‘just’ been in school and be a worker somewhere in a shop, people would react differently… Again stupid stereotypes and terribly superficial.
    I sill hope that there won’t be any comments to me though..

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  • Jaimie

    Omg! This is adorable, I have a Russian boyfriend at the moment but we have not met in person yet. I really want to but I need to get my Visa first. I really hope it works out!
    He challenges me in a good way, like he always tells me to walk around where I live and show him everything. He wants to know everything American. Am actually trying to teach him English and its terrible lol. He knows very little and are conversations are more of us poking fun at each other and laughing. I think we could make it work and I really want him to come here. Thanks for sharing your story its really sweet. Any advice you can give me?