What with all of the wonderful reasons why marrying a foreigner is fantastic fun, there are some definite downsides as well. International marriage isn’t always filled with rolling R’s, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, blossoming roses and “until death do us part.” It also comes with heart-wrenching and, at times, heart-breaking realities that make us question our choices.
Below are a few reasons for why I find international marriage difficult. Although I wouldn’t say these are necessarily reasons not to marry a foreigner, you might want to think long and hard about these before tying the knot with your international spouse-to-be:
10. Far away from family. One of us is always living far, far, far away from family and friends. There will never be a time when we are close to his family as well as mine.
9. Loss of holiday traditions. My husband especially feels this when Christmastime rolls around: There is nothing even close to a Weihnachtsmarkt here in Seattle (and where is the smell of roasting nuts filling the air?). When I lived in Germany, Thanksgiving came and went without even the sighting of a turkey, let alone family getting together to celebrate. Things just feel a little less warm and comforting when our holiday traditions disappear.
8. Cultural misunderstandings. My husband and I have learned to appreciate most of one another’s cultural quirks (this has actually been a fun process overall). However, there are times when our cultural differences rub one another the wrong way. The cultural idiosyncrasies of my husband that I love the most can also cause me the most frustration when I’m not at my best (and mine can do the same to him!).
7. What if we divorce? Being that one can never know where life will lead us, if my husband and I were to divorce (God forbid), I have no idea how difficult things could get. What if he wanted to move back to Germany? Where would the kids live? Would they live with me or him or travel between us both? All in all, international couples who divorce tend to have more difficult decisions to make when compared to those who live in the same country.
6. Learning the language. Being that I am not fluent in German (and my German seems to decline steadily each year that we live in the USA), it pains me not to be able to understand nuances of my husband’s language. When we visit his family, I often don’t understand subtle jokes and can feel like an outsider. My husband is completely fluent in English yet he can still feel out of place when he hangs out with a bunch of Americans using slang and subtle cultural references. I can’t even imagine what it is like for couples who don’t speak each other’s languages!
5. It takes a lot of work. Marriage in general can be a lot of work. However, international marriages take just that little bit more. My husband had to listen to my complaints (for a long time) about how different life was in Germany. Then I had to listen to the same from him when we moved to the States. Aside from getting used to living with one another, we had overarching cultural differences to deal with which could really wear us down and test our marriage. Even today we hit cultural nuances that test our boundaries.
4. Never completely at home. Even though my husband feels very comfortable here in the States, he still doesn’t feel 100 percent at home. Not only do others treat him as a foreigner, no matter how hard he tries, this country will just never hold the same degree of comfort as his country of origin. The knowledge of this weighs heavy on me from time to time.
3. The end of true vacations. Ever since my husband and I have been together vacations have taken on a whole new meaning: Visiting family. I can’t remember the last time we took a long vacation that didn’t have as its core visiting family members. Since we live relatively far from my American family, we alternate vacation years so that we can visit his family one year and mine the next. How else can our families see their grandchildren/niece/nephews grow up? We love visiting family but it can put an added strain on our marriage since we never really get a “true” vacation to places that we’d like to visit and don’t know a soul.
2. Airplane flights are expensive. While others are investing their extra dollars in college or retirement accounts, we are saving up for our next airline tickets to Germany! $7,000 is a lot of money which we’d love to be able to invest for the future. Our choice to invest it in the present to visit family in Germany is important to us but it does hurt at times. Our children’s grandmother won’t be alive forever so we do what we can to visit her as often as we can. We’ll hope to work out college and retirement as best we can.
1. At least one set of grandparents is always far away. Our children will never be able to have both sets of grandparents living nearby. Someone is always going to be far, far away. Skype is a wonderful thing but it still doesn’t replace spending time with real, live grandparents, aunts and uncles. This can be extremely heartbreaking at times.
And here is one more general question: Where will we be buried when we die? Will it be in the country that we live in now? Or in our country of origin? Or will we let our children decide based on where they are living? Many of us know the answer already while others have no idea.
Despite this list of reasons why international marriage can be tough at times, I would never, ever exchange it for anything else. My relationship with my husband has been the most wonderful experience in my life. We feel so very lucky to have found one another.