Dating, immigration, and commitment
May 26, 2017 11:19 PM   Subscribe

This is a question about problems I'm facing dating someone, featuring immigration woes and differing cultural attitudes that have us hurt and fighting with each other.

I've been dating a woman for 7 months. In some ways it's really great for both of us and she's amazing, kind, sweet, and fun. In others it's very stressful as we don't see eye-to-eye on some key things. The main issue seems to be over her very tenuous immigration status in the US, particularly in light of the Trump administration's near daily confusion and aggressive anti-immigrant attitudes and threats, and her woes around that - and simultaneously, with her constant pushes for me to commit, move in with her, and marry her (she sometimes says she wants me to marry her to fix her problems, and other times doesn't, and other times says in a testing way that she has already received offers of marriage from guys and that she could easily just choose one over me) and my trust issues associated with this - a niggling low-level sense that she might be using and emotionally manipulating me, on some level at least, as a convenient way to get a green card and American citizenship. And then my shame for thinking such thoughts, and her (valid, no doubt) deep offense that I would consider something like that.

This is my first serious relationship, and her first coming out of a recent divorce. She's from a country in Eastern Europe and moved to the US a year ago, and we first started dating a few months after she got here. Things moved rather slowly for a couple months, then we decided that we really liked each other, became exclusive, and started spending nearly every day together. Very shortly after this she began moving very quickly in the relationship, or in a way that I felt was very fast. Around the 4-month mark she started having heated conversations with me about whether I was willing to commit, and to say I love her. She was openly saying she loved me, and was already saying she knew she wanted to be with me forever. She wanted to know if I was ready to also say that I wanted to be with her forever. This raised alarm bells in my head, and I also was nowhere near at the point where she seemed to be in the relationship. My honest answer that I didn't know, but could see myself "heading down the path" toward a more committed and deeper relationship, struck her as more evidence of me not really knowing what I wanted and not being serious about the relationship. It emerged that we seemed to have different cultural values around things like moving in together and marriage - according to her, in her country, people date and very shortly thereafter decide that they are "the one" for one another, and move in with each other and get really serious. She had examples of her close friends getting married at the 6-week and 3-month mark.. I started getting worried that she was ultimately using me for American citizenship, particularly since she was here on a tourist visa that needed to be renewed by her employer every 6 months and did not have any way to stay here long-term as of yet. Other possibilities were there, too, but this is one I couldn't seem to shake and that she seemed to double down on at multiple opportunities.

Also around 4 months into the relationship, I accompanied her on a trip to her home country to spend time with her friends and family and enjoy/explore the country she loves. The trip seemed to be good in some ways but a disaster in others, as we ended up feeling very frustrated with each other and fighting with each other over various things, and she continued to question me about how I felt in the relationship and about commitment. Her problems with immigration and her visa status seemed to weigh ever more on her mind. The major disaster of the trip happened at the US border, when she was taken into a room by thuggish-acting border officers and questioned aggressively. They accused her of lying about things, when really she had just been misinformed by her embassy about whether her visa papers were OK. She was about to be deported back to her home country perhaps permanently, but that I was there waiting outside (her American boyfriend) seemed to make the officers change their minds, and she was allowed to enter the US with a waiver, but with a stamp marked to reject her with prejudice if any further incident occurs in the future. She was traumatized by this incident to an extent I didn't fully realize. I was still deeply frustrated and sad from our fighting, and shocked by the border incident, and drained from meeting her family and friends and being on best impressive/conversational behavior, and said I needed a day or two of space to decompress. She was really angry and hurt over this professed need for space and interpreted it as me being completely callous and uncaring towards her border incident. I was miserable, we didn't speak much, and a week later, I decided to break up with her. We then got back together again a week and a half later, and things have since repaired in some ways and gotten worse in others. But what has remained persistent, even a few weeks after we got back together, were the heated conversations around "why don't you want us to move in together?" and bringing up marriage as a solution to her problems and accusing me of not being serious, and if I really loved her then I wouldn't hesitate to help her, etc. She has consulted with immigration lawyers, and says the common refrain from them is that getting married would be a relatively easy solution for what she wants to do, but everything else will be a hard, maybe impossible road. Now, she goes back to her home country for work-related reasons and to seek a visa renewal. She has some longer plans and ideas for sticking around the US, but nothing looks especially promising from my viewpoint, and she is terrified that another border incident could occur and that she will never be let back into the US. Meanwhile, we've made plans for her to move in with me upon her return, as I continue to acquiesce and show commitment in various ways and convince myself it's good and healthy, despite persistent doubts.

This all came to a boil last night and this morning, and my honest depiction of the problems, and bringing up my sometimes-fears that I might be merely, though not solely, a solution for her visa problems, really hurt and offended her. (This is not the first time I've gently but frankly brought it up out of honesty and hopes that she can assuage my fears and prove them wrong; she is very offended each time that I had the gall to even think of it as a possibility.) She has trust issues with me too because the breakup made her think I'm unpredictable and untrustworthy for anything commitment-related and that I could call off our relationship at any time for any inconvenience. We seemed to make up and forgive one another, but not a half hour later she started talking about opening up a joint bank account for rent and household-related items, and I said "let's not talk about this just right now" but she kept persisting - so I said, against my better judgment, "we both know that a joint bank account is one of the factors considered, along with cohabitation, for immigration assessing how serious a relationship is" and then she lost it again. Now we're about to meet to figure out whether our relationship should continue.

Any thoughts about all of this would be appreciated. I'm sure there's a lot here in which I'm entirely at fault, probably even come across as utterly horrible - she faults me for dozens of things in the relationship, and blames it on my lack of relationship experience and my confusion about what I really want, and that may very well be 100% correct. it's hard for me to figure out anything, really, and my American cultural attitudes seem in conflict with hers, and my lack of relationship experience does mean I have nothing concrete to compare her reactions to or understand what normalcy vs. outrageousness constitutes in a relationship, or whether that's even a valid objective thing to assess. Throughout everything I sincerely wanted to be a good boyfriend for her, and demonstrate commitment, and grow our relationship into something healthy and great for both of us (maybe marriage down the line), but this seemed to be thwarted over and over for various reasons, and she is saying that I'm an (unintentionally) abusive person towards her (for the record I rarely raise my voice, but I've been frank and insensitive about hard situations as I was trying to figure out how to make us both happy, and there's no way to phrase my suspicions without seemingly accusing her of horrible things, really). For her part, she keeps insisting she still loves me despite me acting horrible, and wants to try to make it work. I'm not sure what I want any more or whether it's a good idea for us to continue this relationship. Anyway, advice appreciated, and don't hold back in your assessment of the situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (62 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Isn't it nice that she still loves you despite you acting horribly. That's just super touching.

She has apparently told you that she views you marrying her as a solution to her visa problems, but when *you* suggest that she might view you marrying her as a solution to her visa problems, she treats you as if you have mortally offended her.

Her accusations of you abusing her are a cover for the fact that she is essentially abusing you. Do not allow her to move in with you. For the love of god don't marry her. This is not a healthy or normal relationship.

Even if it were relatively unabusive, it doesn't sound like the two of you respond to stress on your relationship well at all. Rather than supporting each other, you fight and retreat to your corners. That is not the hallmark of a strong partnership.

In order to not appear entirely one-sided, I will concede that you taking a day to decompress after *she* was held up at the border is pretty iffy boyfriend behaviour. Not that you weren't experiencing some emotional hurt in that moment, but the border interrogation is a thing that primarily happened to her, so it is a point where staying strong to support her would have been the best thing to do. Think of it like the comfort in / dump out rules for comforting families of the critically ill.

Still, don't use that as a reason to guilt yourself into staying in a relationship that sounds like a complete disaster on virtually every front.

Apparently she has many offers from other men (and jesus christ, telling you that was cruel, even if it is true, whic it probably isn't) for the greencard marriage she so clearly desires. Let her take up someone else on their generous offer. Save yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:41 PM on May 26, 2017 [43 favorites]


In a healthy relationship I'd say that "needing space" after your girlfriend is bullied and nearly deported by thuggish border guards is either selfish or a sign that you're NOT ready for commitment. I think the comment about the joint bank account is also highly insensitive; women are already pressured not to talk about commitment too much and the fact that you can just accuse her of using you for a green card on top of that strikes me as really low. Even if it's 100% true, you should be responding very differently; there are bigger fish to fry than fights about personal banking. If you really believe that about her... maybe just leave for good?

So on the other hand, it sounds like you're at best mismatch and don't get along at all, and if I were you (or her) I'd want to break up. It sounds like you're cagey because you're not sure about her, and you're not getting any surer. If anything, the opposite.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:43 PM on May 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't understand the confusion, she's outrightly told you she wants you to marry her to fix her visa problems, why is it so offensive when you repeat her sentence back to her? At least it's out in the open and you both know what her agenda is. The question is now, are you ok with marrying her knowing that it wouldn't be a marriage purely for love? If you're not, best to end it now.
posted by Jubey at 12:16 AM on May 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


OP here. I understand the confusion about the question, so let me try to paint the fundamental problem in a different way. This seems to be the crux of the conversation:

HER: I love you, really love you, and also I'm in serious trouble and I'm not even able to make good money here because my visa puts a cap on my total income at something like $30k. And I also want to go to an Ivy-league school for a PhD, and the program is begging me to join and is willing to pay my tuition, but we can't find a good way for me to go to school AND work, and also a single misstep and I'm deported permanently, and considering all this awful stuff - if you feel the same way about me as I do about you, wouldn't you want to solve all of this for me with a simple marriage license?

ME: Yes, I see your needs and they're completely understandable, but well... I'm relatively slow in relationships and this is my first rather serious relationship, and this is all very new to me, and I'm feeling out a lot of things, and I really like you, and my feelings seem to keep moving in a direction in which I'd want to make a life together permanently, but marriage is a huge thing, and I want to make sure I'm doing it for the right reasons, and I need a little more time (not years - like half a year? a year? a reasonable amount of time) to figure out where I stand on all of this... also, I'm suspicious that - and it feels accusatory to say it like this, but I don't mean it to be hurtful - you don't really love me at all, but see me as a convenient solution to your problems, and that once you use me for citizenship then you'll just throw me out and move on with your life. I want all of these feelings to be genuine, not a mere stepping stone for you. That said, I'm horrified and deeply sorry for you that the US has become such a nightmarish and hateful place, seemingly overnight while you barely even finished unpacking your bags, and I DO want to help you if I can, but this would be permanent and life-changing stuff for me too, and I'm not going to just dive in without fully weighing things.

HER: I don't have much time. In fact, when I travel back to my country, it might be the last time you see me. Whether my visa is renewed is not entirely a done deal, and every day things are changing. So like it or not, you might need to figure out things quickly. If you do love me and want to be with me. Because your only chance for being with me might be marrying me. I'm just giving you the reality. Are you willing to commit? I wish you had all the time you need to make up your mind, but you might not have it. I'm ready. You don't seem to be, and don't seem to know what you want at all. And that's something I have to weigh in figuring out things between us, too.
posted by website user at 1:31 AM on May 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


People marry for a variety of reasons, and often, more than one reason at once. Your marriage is not sullied or less valid if "true love" is not the sole motivator -- marriage has been used for power, alliances, and other mutual benefit for centuries.

Being in the USA without permanent residency is truly awful and frustrating, and marriage helps an immeasurable amount. An acquaintance of mine is a naturalized citizen now, but when they graduated college with an in-demand degree, not a single firm would take them on because of the bureaucratic horror of trying to get a work visa for an employee. Their partner saw this, believed it to be unfair, and they got married.

If you want to be with her and can see the pragmatics of her situation, marry her. If not, let her know, so she can find someone else. You have the luxury of seeing marriage and relationships as a spiritual matter, but she doesn't: both positions are valid as much as they are mutually incompatible, and you need to decide what you want.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:49 AM on May 27, 2017 [31 favorites]


To be honest, I agree with everything you feel about this situation. For most people, who you marry is one of the, if not the biggest financial, emotional, life changing decision you can make. Of course, it can be undone but generally at (financial, emotional etc) cost. I can only speak for myself, but it would not be something I would ever consider being forced or rushing into. You seem to be someone who is risk averse and views marriage as a genuine love match instead of a pragmatic decision.

The very fact that you can say point blank to her that you think she's just doing this for citizenship and that she will throw you out after says that there is no trust at all in this relationship. It doesn't mean I don't feel for her, I do, definitely, but I don't think that means you are required to save this person that you hardly know (and if you're skeptical even a little bit about her motives, you really, really don't know her.)

Basically it boils down to, don't marry someone you don't trust. If I'm wrong and you decide she's genuine and she's in it for life, then by all means, go for it. But I'm not getting that from you. Decide what it would take from her to convince you, if anything. Maybe the answer is time. If that's the case, tell her you'll need more of it but understand that she may have to move on if that's the case and there is no more time. It does sound like her agenda now is to find a husband, love or not. In which case, there's your answer, anyone will do.
posted by Jubey at 3:03 AM on May 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


She's playing you so hard she must have callouses.

I don't understand the confusion,

I do, she's working you on every possible angle and you're being gaslit. It'd be one thing if you loved her enough to want to marry her because you just did. Also fine (imo - ethically, if not legally) to agree to marry for the sake of the visa. I (of recent EE extraction) know of a few couples who did that, and either grew to care for each other and stayed married, or lived with each other for an agreed amount of years before parting amicably to do other things. But these were friendly, wholly open agreements arrived at either because they were actually friends or because they'd made a mutually satisfactory arrangement. Not through emotional manipulation like this.

(Lots of people are desperate to leave many Eastern European countries. I've seen local community papers full of ads for paid spouses. Just last week, someone approached a family member of mine offering $50K. Many treat it as not really a huge deal. However I think it is, in general because it involves a tremendous responsibility, and in this case because you sound like an earnest and sensitive person, and I'd worry for you emotionally surviving a relationship with this woman. DTMFA.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:40 AM on May 27, 2017 [32 favorites]


Aha missed your update. Well there you have it, she's told you what's what.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:48 AM on May 27, 2017


This is a tough one. I can see both of your points of view, and I don't think either of you is necessarily in the wrong, although you may be wrong for each other.

I've had immigration issues myself and I can't overstate how absolutely harrowing and stressful they are. In my case, as with hers, they could ultimately have been resolved by marrying my partner. My partner never offered that solution, and while I had a moment or two sometimes of wishing he would, it was not ultimately what I wanted either, and I am not sure I'd have said yes if he had offered. We are still together, and I am super glad that we didn't go down that road. (But I'm not sure I want to be married ever, period, so...)

Ditching her after the horrifying border experience was definitely not cool--that is indeed an awful and traumatic thing to go through--but you seem to realize that.

One difference in my situation from yours too is that I had other options to explore--difficult not-perfect ones, but options nonetheless. Unfortunately, get married or break up often ends up being the only course for many relationships when one person is from another country. There's no way for internet strangers to know if she's using you or not, but given your misgivings about the relationship in general (not just her motives), I would advise not getting married to her.

You sound thoughtful and mature and like you know what you are looking for in the progression of a relationship. What she is going through is appalling, but it's not your job to save her from it. I'm really sorry for both of you. But I feel like you should probably let this relationship go.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:49 AM on May 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


(she sometimes says she wants me to marry her to fix her problems, and other times doesn't, and other times says in a testing way that she has already received offers of marriage from guys and that she could easily just choose one over me) and my trust issues associated with this - a niggling low-level sense that she might be using and emotionally manipulating me, on some level at least, as a convenient way to get a green card and American citizenship. And then my shame for thinking such thoughts, and her (valid, no doubt) deep offense that I would consider something like that.

Wait, so she "tests" you by talking about other guys she could be marrying, that she could easily choose over you? And then when you get the sense that she just wants to get married for visa purposes, she's deeply offended?

Never mind all the other stuff - do you want to be in a relationship where your partner sets up these "if you really loved me you'd" tests?
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:54 AM on May 27, 2017 [14 favorites]


(I've also been on the other side, living in a foreign country with someone I cared about [at the time], with an external time limit on my stay forcing the issue. Not easy. Decisions do have to be made quickly. But you'd have to feel all right enough about the relationship to want to do it.

You'd be legally and financially responsible for her, it's a huge deal.

I myself was born and live in a very comfortable country, so it's not like I personally understand what it's like to face returning to a country with a 40% unemployment rate that's run by gangsters, of course that's different, must be terrifying. Even so, this is your life, too.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:05 AM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think that the immigration aspect is a red herring. The fundamental issue is that for Reasons, she wants the relationship to go along the "relationship escalator" faster than you are prepared to go. One (or both) of you is going to have to compromise if you want to stay in the relationship.

If I understand it right, she compromises and she will likely end up back in her home country and you guys have a long distance relationship for an undefined period of time. You compromise and you enter into a marriage you're not 100% sure about.

Frankly, the way you describe your interactions is characterised by such a fundamental lack of trust, there isn't a sufficient foundation for either an LDR or marriage, so I think you should break up.
posted by bimbam at 4:23 AM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


She needs to get married.

All you need to figure out is if you want to marry her on her timetable. That's what she's asking and that's what you need to decide. She keeps coming back to this topic because that's what she wants. If you need more time, that's fine and understandable, but it obviously doesn't work for her, so you should probably break up and let her marry one of the other people who are willing to do this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:44 AM on May 27, 2017 [13 favorites]


re: trust - it's entirely possible that the suspicion and lack of trust is coming from "inside the house", so to speak. I've dealt with self-esteem, self-doubt, emotional abuse, body issues, and other stuff and it's the major reason I wasn't able to be in relationships until now. When she's loving and compliments me on things she likes about me (which is just about every day), I wonder how could anyone say such things and actually mean it. So there's that element. And aside from that, if she's faking her affection for me, objectively she appears to be doing a good job of it. So I do wonder if she's simply really genuinely into me and I'm twisting myself into knots questioning it. And we've talked about this exact issue and she agrees and thinks therapy could be fruitful for me, as it's worked for her.
posted by website user at 4:47 AM on May 27, 2017


Upon reading your question and updates, you're not ready to get married.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:21 AM on May 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


So in addition to wanting to get married,she would also like you to financially support her while she pursues a PhD for several years? She may not be consciously using you but the relationship she wants is imbalanced towards her needs.

As this is your first serious relationship, whereas she has been married before, I can see how she may feel more comfortable in moving fast as this is familiar territory to her. But it makes complete sense for you to take things slower. I would recommend anyone considering marriage take counselling class together (some religions mandate them before they will allow you to marry in their church). What about broaching the idea of taking counselling together to work on some of these issues? Hopefully after a few months of classes you will either feel more secure in your relationship or it will reveal basic incompatibilities.

From 8 months to a year is when the limerance of new relationship wears off and the practicalities of truly being with someone appear. I would not suggest *anyone* get engaged until after at least a year of dating with several crisis' solved together under their belt - and much longer if in a first serious relationship. It is when dealing with a crisis that real character is revealed (I would not consider her immigration a "crisis" as she has been clear she sees only one solution, you need to experience crisis' where you work on a solution together).

Good luck, it is a tough situation but marriage to someone with no assests and severe immigration issues is not something you should rush into.
posted by saucysault at 5:28 AM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


other times says in a testing way that she has already received offers of marriage from guys and that she could easily just choose one over me

Boom. This alone should end any relationship. You're being used and abused and you should protect yourself from this person.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:35 AM on May 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


Also, she has consulted with immigration lawyers, this would also be a good time for you to also get independent legal advice on what your legal and financial obligations would be in marrying someone without legal status in the USA, as well as the likelihood that marriage really will grant her a green card (I didn't think it was automatic?) You also need to know the costs and time involved for all the necessary paperwork and who will be paying them.
posted by saucysault at 5:36 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


she would also like you to financially support her while she pursues a PhD for several years?

It seems worth noting that PhD stipends generally (but not universally) will support a single adult at a non-painful standard of living. (It is entirely possible that neither the OP nor their girlfriend know this.) Never mind that a PhD program would/could involve a student visa, giving them breathing room. To be blunt, that these facts are missing from the conversation adds up to the PhD program not actually being on the table for the next year at least.
posted by hoyland at 5:46 AM on May 27, 2017 [21 favorites]


Sounds like you are being used for visa purposes, if she has already let several other men reach the relationship stage of proposing to her, let one of them be the one on the hook for all the expenses of giving her the immigration status she needs and then all the additional expenses of divorce when they have served their purpose and she has been married long enough to divorce and still stay in your country. I tend to ask questions on AskMetafilter rather than make comments but I am concerned your lack of previous relationship experience has given you low self-esteem to be even considering this arrangement. I myself am someone who stayed in an unhealthy relationship for literally years too long because I was frightened I'd never find another and because my self-esteem was so low I didn't think I deserved any better. You sound a caring and sensitive person. Yes, you can do better than this loveless bargain which will only lead to heartbreak.
posted by AuroraSky at 5:50 AM on May 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


Her: ...And I also want to go to an Ivy-league school for a PhD, and the program is begging me to join and is willing to pay my tuition, but we can't find a good way for me to go to school AND work

It appears she does understand how much the program is willing to provide financially and it is not enough without also working or having someone cover a majority of her living expenses. But the OP should definitely have access to the hard numbers if her going to school is an option. I agree the student visa should also be something both are aware of.
posted by saucysault at 5:52 AM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm only going to respond to this part of your follow-up:
And I also want to go to an Ivy-league school for a PhD, and the program is begging me to join and is willing to pay my tuition, but we can't find a good way for me to go to school AND work
PhD programs in Ivy League schools will certainly pay a stipend that is enough to support her independently in addition to tuition, and sponsor a student visa that will let her stay in the US for the duration of the program.

She does not need to work in addition; if anything, many program prohibit students (of any nationality) from taking outside jobs for the first few years, because being a PhD student is a job.

Deadlines for applications are usually in December and the response date (by which she'd accept an offer) is always April 15. Is this around the time they were "begging [her] to join"?

She probably knows these facts already, but you obviously don't.
posted by redlines at 5:59 AM on May 27, 2017 [18 favorites]


This is my first serious relationship, and her first coming out of a recent divorce.

Run. Regardless of anything else going on, this is a huge red flag. She's showing poor judgement, and you're too inexperienced to be making long term decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life.

Don't be bullied into doing something you will regret for the rest of your life.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:25 AM on May 27, 2017 [13 favorites]


My husband and I got married a year earlier than we'd plan for immigration issues. It's a thing that's done. Having done it, comparing our situation and relationship to what you've written, I absolutely would not do this in your position. Break up with her.

When you marry someone and sponsor their green card you're signing up to support them financially for a certain amount of time, regardless of how they treat you afterward. If you're already feeling guilty and responsible, that won't get any better if things start to go south.

It sucks that her status is so tenuous, it really does. So does the anti-immigrant sentiment so prevalent right now. You can feel bad about that AND not make it your responsibility to solve her problems for her.
posted by olinerd at 6:53 AM on May 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


People marry for a variety of reasons, and often, more than one reason at once. Your marriage is not sullied or less valid if "true love" is not the sole motivator -- marriage has been used for power, alliances, and other mutual benefit for centuries.

This. This is absolutely a cultural mismatch. She's not using you or being abusive, you're not using her or being abusive, but you are just so horribly culturally mismatched that I'm not sure you can get past it, and my heart goes out to you both.

Americans, in my experience, tend to have a much more romanticized view of what love and marriage is than people from other countries. The love has to be perfect such that you would love each other for yourselves alone even if there were no benefit to marriage or it's not True! Enough! To! Get! Married! This often results in Americans living together for years while they decide if they love each other enough to get married forever.

This is not the cultural understanding in a lot of places, including my own background, which is why I can speak to the other side of this. Marriage is much more a commitment to build and work together - the commitment to bake a cake rather than the icing on an already baked cake. You decide that you love each other enough to get married, and you commit to doing the work to try to increase your love for each other. Maybe part of the marriage reasons are financial, or you want to have children, or immigration related. As long as it's honest and aboveboard, it's not a problem, it's just part of the normal pragmatic considerations you make when getting into a marriage. For example - in my own marriage, I wouldn't have gotten married if my husband wasn't established in a career and willing to be a father to my daughter. I loved him, but I was also looking for a stable person willing to coparent. If he hadn't been willing to coparent, or been established in a career, I simply wouldn't have married him despite loving him very, very much.

Her immigration needs meant that she needed to find a US citizen to get married to within a relatively short span of time. This isn't any different than Asks we often see from women who are nearing the end of their childbearing years and need to find a relationship that is moving at a speed that can accomodate it. It doesn't make her a bad person or mean she's just "using you for a green card" (which, as you note, there are some ugly stereotypes about, some of which expressed here in this thread). It doesn't mean she doesn't love you, or is emotionally manipulating you. It means that she has relationship needs that involve marriage. You have been working on a different timeline, and maybe not being clear about it and maybe not understanding the cultural factors she is working with - thinking "well maybe we will get married if this goes well" and not saying, "There is no way I will get married within a year."

This is just a really tragic situation, because through lack of communication, she really has put all her eggs in your basket, and it sounds like you're just not equipped to handle that, and they're going to get broken. That fucking sucks. You have to decide whether it sucks more or less than being in a marriage I'm not sure you're ready for right now. Could you grow into it? Probably, but it will be hard and tough work. You may not think, bluntly, that the juice is worth the squeeze, which is a valid thing to think and feel. But if so, you need to tell her. What you need to do before you meet her is decide whether or not you are willing to marry her on her timeline if the relationship goes well. If you're not, you need to break up with her, for her own sake, so that she can try to develop a relationship with someone else.
posted by corb at 7:01 AM on May 27, 2017 [45 favorites]


Agreed the basic thing here is a cultural mismatch. You have both done/said some reasonable things and some not-good things, neither of you seems to be the Good Guy or the Bad Guy here. But you have very different wants and expectations about marriage, based on personal and cultural factors.

If you decide to take the leap and try to make this work on her timetable, I strongly recommend legal advice for you and couples counseling for you both, ideally with someone who has experience in his sort of cross cultural relationship. You would be signing up for an Advanced Difficulty Marriage, and if you want to do that, you both need some supports in place.

If you don't want to go from "almost no relationship experience" to "Grad-Level Marriage" overnight, that is okay and understandable and does not make you a bad person. But you need to figure that out soon, so you can let her go and find someone whose needs match hers better, because this is not a situation where there's time to ignore it and see if feelings change in another six months.
posted by Stacey at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


I would tell you to marry her, except for all of the arguing. That's a bad dynamic.

If you truly get along, try couples counseling to work on your conflict dynamic.

Nthing that she was traumatized at the border and you were a little, uh, insensitive? I'm afraid, too, that you're not ready for marriage because that's not how a partner behaves.

If you love this particular woman + you BOTH can start being more mature towards each other AND you want to marry her, you should marry her. If any of these points are iffy, you should break up because the immigration pressure is not going to go away, it will only get worse and blow the relationship to smithereens.

People here telling you she is using you don't "get" the kind of pressure involved in terms of her immigration status. I believe you guys have a true connection, and it is also true that she can be deported any second if the political situation changes, etc.. These are not normal times.

You have a choice to make, and whether you stay together or not, you personally have some self-work to do. This may not be the relationship for you, but you still need to mature and learn healthier interpersonal skills.
posted by jbenben at 8:20 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


This section of your post jumped out at me:

The major disaster of the trip happened at the US border, when she was taken into a room by thuggish-acting border officers and questioned aggressively. ... She was about to be deported back to her home country perhaps permanently, but that I was there waiting outside (her American boyfriend) seemed to make the officers change their minds, and she was allowed to enter the US with a waiver, but with a stamp marked to reject her with prejudice if any further incident occurs in the future.

OP, did you witness this conversation yourself, or was it related to you afterwards by your partner? Because at first glance, it seems really fishy. If the immigration officers wanted to deport her, I'm not sure why having you waiting outside would have "changed their minds". Didn't they already know you were traveling together when she went in?

It's possible I'm being overly paranoid. It's also possible that her account of the confrontation was distorted to make it fit more neatly into the "you are the solution to my immigration woes" narrative.
posted by teraflop at 8:33 AM on May 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


You are mismatched.

You have never been in a relationship before, and you want and need to go more slowly before making a commitment to marry someone. You've only been with her for seven months and it's been rocky.

She wants to be with someone who is willing to fast track a relationship to marriage so she can get married and stay in the US.

I'm sure you probably do like each other. It doesn't mean either one of you us lying about that. But she's not your answer to "learning how to be in a relationship" and you're not her answer to "getting married and getting a green card."

It doesn't make either of you a bad person, but it does mean you need to let each other go so you can each find a more suitable match. And you hold the balance of power here for now, until you either agree to get married or break it off with her. So YOU need to break it off.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:38 AM on May 27, 2017 [14 favorites]


If the immigration officers wanted to deport her, I'm not sure why having you waiting outside would have "changed their minds".

Because fucking with you at border control and then magnanimously "letting" you in, even though your paperwork is in order and you haven't done anything wrong in the first place, is a thing some people in these positions do. It's traumatizing and you have absolutely no power in that position and sometimes you never learn why you were singled out.

If the OP is at a point to be nitpicking his girlfriend's story to that degree, though, then he should definitely do her a favor and break up with her.
posted by tiger tiger at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2017 [21 favorites]


Maybe part of the marriage reasons are financial, or you want to have children, or immigration related. As long as it's honest and aboveboard, it's not a problem, it's just part of the normal pragmatic considerations you make when getting into a marriage.

Except OP's partner gets really offended when the OP brings up these practical considerations. If she's being pragmatic about this marriage, she also wants to act like getting married to the OP for immigration purposes is offensive.

This is just a really tragic situation, because through lack of communication, she really has put all her eggs in your basket

Doesn't sound like it - the OP's partner has openly acknowledged that she has received offers of marriage from other men.

I 100% understand that cultural expectations are different and visa paperwork is a bitch and when you have few options you just have to do the least bad thing, but I really don't think this woman is being upfront with you. What she says and what she means are miles apart and that alone would make me wary to get married.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:49 AM on May 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


Except OP's partner gets really offended when the OP brings up these practical considerations. If she's being pragmatic about this marriage, she also wants to act like getting married to the OP for immigration purposes is offensive.

I'm assuming that when OP brings up the practical considerations, he frames them in similar terms as he's phrased them here - "a niggling low-level sense that she might be using and emotionally manipulating me, on some level at least, as a convenient way to get a green card". There's a strong difference, in a relationship, between "Hey, okay, so you have some valid immigration concerns, let's talk about how that impacts our relationship timeline" and "I'm afraid you are using me like a tool." In a comparable situation, it's the difference between "Hey, I know you want to have children soon, how does our relationship timeline fit into that" and "I'm afraid you're just using me to get pregnant."

The offense isn't bringing up the issue of immigration - it's implying, albeit perhaps unintentionally, that the OP's girlfriend is deliberately being deceitful, tricking the OP, which plays into a lot of awful stereotypes about "foreign women" tricking "good American men" for citizenship. It's not a great trope, and I'm sure it's not the first time she's heard it. It's important to tread sensitively around stuff like that, and in his current state of distress, I'm just not sure the OP is capable of that.
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


Absolutely do not marry her. Given the arguing, the doubts, the mismatched relationship experience, the outside pressure to accelerate the timeline - marrying would be setting both of you up for failure, and in this context, throwing yourself into an unhappy marriage is not going to make those doubts about whether she's using you for immigration status go away, even if that's 100% not her intent at the moment.

What do you think about moving to her country to live with her for a while, or finding a third country where you can both live legally together for a period of time? This would defer the immigration pressure and give the relationship a chance to unfold naturally. Even if there is a cultural difference in how you perceive marriage, you'll be able to decide much more clearly whether you want to enter into a long-term committed partnership if you aren't filling the role of the one true savior who alone can catch the guillotine before it falls. If uprooting your life and moving somewhere else temporarily sounds like too big of a disruption/effort, then absolutely so is marriage.

On a side note, I agree that some of your understanding of the visa situation sounds off, and I wonder what's at the heart of it. There's no visa that caps one's wages, for example (except that for au pairs, and if she were an au pair she'd have a set two-year stint). There's also no visa that one's employer renews every six months. And while it's true that you can't work full-time on a student visa, I've done the ivy league phd program thing and nobody there is holding down a 40 hour/week outside job. I'm certainly not saying she's lying to you - there are all kinds of situations I can imagine that would result in you phrasing your question the way you did that don't involve her trying to be deceptive - but it makes me even more certain that you shouldn't let your sense of duress over the way you perceive her immigration status cause you to enter into a commitment like marriage.
posted by exutima at 9:00 AM on May 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


I feel for both you guys. But there is a solution, which is breaking up with her and letting her find an American guy who is ready to marry her on her timeline.

This will get her what she wants, and will get you what you want, i.e. your (perfectly understandable, wise, and reasonable) desire not to marry her on her (perfectly understandable, wise, and reasonable) timeline.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Mod note: One deleted -- Folks, please address answers to the OP, this isn't meant to be a discussion among the peanut gallery.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2017


Meanwhile, we've made plans for her to move in with me upon her return, as I continue to acquiesce and show commitment in various ways and convince myself it's good and healthy, despite persistent doubts.

Oh, and whatever you do, do NOT let her move in with you. No, no, no. Dude, you think you have doubts NOW?? When she's moved in and you can't get rid of her, you're going to look back at this and seriously kick yourself. You don't want her moving in before she does it -- that's not going to get better.

Your brain is saying, "Don't do this," so don't do this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


OP, all else being equal, it would be highly unusual to open a joint bank account 7 months into a relationship (or I guess sooner than that). It makes sense if you need to, in order to establish a case for the purposes of getting a visa.

This was a thing my ex and I talked about when we were planning to stay together in a country I don't live in (his). The conversation went like this: "Hey, we need some paperwork to back up our relationship for the visa application, they're looking for joint finances, we should open up a bank account". "Ok, let's do that". No one cried.

If she were being above board, honest, she'd have made that explicit. Instead, she made out that you were impugning her honour. She did that because she knows you're not entirely sure you're up for this, and because she knows you're inexperienced and do care for her. She may like you, but those facts do not matter as much to her as staying does. She's taking advantage of your nature, here, and it's not right.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


all else being equal, it would be highly unusual to open a joint bank account 7 months into a relationship (or I guess sooner than that). It makes sense if you need to, in order to establish a case for the purposes of getting a visa.

When you hear these things, it's important to remember that people are always talking from within their own cultural context. It is abnormal within the cultural context of the poster and perhaps even you - that doesn't mean it's abnormal everywhere or with everyone and it is absolutely not proof of malice.

Many people share joint bank accounts as early as 6 or 7 months, especially if they are planning to get married. It depends on what your relationship timeline looks like how you will interpret that. This is one of the many, many examples of why cultural mismatch is so hard, and it's also worth noting that just as you have these blind spots, so absolutely does your girlfriend. That may be why she reacts so strongly to these things - because in her cultural context, they mean something that you may or may not mean to be conveying.

Honestly, I think your girlfriend does love you - which is why she's staying in this relationship even though pragmatically speaking she should cut bait and look for someone more marriage-minded. Be kind to her, and be kind to yourself. If you don't want to marry her, tell her explicitly, tell her you are not planning to change your mind, and go cold-turkey. But remember her kindly and this experience kindly, and take the lessons you have learned into your next relationship.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


>it's important to remember that people are always talking from within their own cultural context

Fair enough, so OP I'll share a bit more about my context, which is that I'm a second gen (parents immigrated from an Eastern European country) Canadian with ties to both the local diaspora (including several waves of immigration​) and people still in the Old Country. I have friends who've married for love and less for love. I'm no *authority* on what every person from every country does but frankly this duck is *quacking*

(And to expand a bit more on that $50K offer, though I'd rather *not*, it was made to my brother for *my* hand [sight unseen]. I mean I'm sorry but this stuff happens.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I have a friend who has a lot of serious life logistics problems that would be solved by marriage. The stress of the problems themselves and the weight of the knowledge that they could be solved by marriage messes up my friend's ability to sustain healthy relationships. Your girlfriend's story seems to echo my friend's.

I don't know your girlfriend, but I think it's very possible that this isn't her abusing, gaslighting or playing you - it's her being destroyed by a monstrous situation.

That doesn't mean that you should marry her - unless you think that absent the stressors you might progress to marriage anyway, and even then a lot of premarital counseling seems like a good idea. But as you try to figure this out, I hope you are very aware of the distorting effects that this kind of life situation has on someone's baseline personality. Stress, fear and precarity fuck with your personality so much - someone can really try to hold it together around the person they love, and be themselves much of hte time, but still have everything fall apart into stress and anger and crying regularly because it's too much to handle.
posted by Frowner at 10:02 AM on May 27, 2017 [12 favorites]


Right now, she is in a precarious situation that could be resolved by marrying you. You have this power, to choose whether or not to make her life stable and secure, at least to a much greater extent than it is now. And you won't tell her whether or not you will use it to help her.

I dated my husband for a long time before we were married. I wanted to get married for a lot of reasons, primarily because I loved him and wanted to have children with him and spend my life with him. But for three years before we were married, he had extremely good health insurance while I had none, and I had regular medical expenses (including the cost of my birth control) that came out to a couple hundred dollars a month, and I resented it ENORMOUSLY that he could have made those costs $0 with a visit to the courthouse but refused to do so. Whenever we would talk about marriage he would just say "someday" or "sure, eventually," but he refused to give me a timeline, and meanwhile here I was in this terrible situation that had nothing to do with how much I loved him but which still could have been fixed with a marriage. I can't tell you how small and helpless and desperate I felt.

If you trust her, you should marry her. If you don't, you should break up with her. But to carry on in this position where you hold her fate in your hands and refuse to decide one way or another is cruel.
posted by KathrynT at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2017 [21 favorites]


I have lived, worked, and studied in the U.S. with various types of visas, and "tourist visa that needed to be renewed by her employer every 6 months" sounds fishy. Employers do not renew visas, unless what you mean is that her employer is submitting supporting paperwork. When you say "tourist visa" I assume you mean a visitor visa, which has a number of restrictions, including "Visitors are not permitted to accept employment or work in the United States." B1 visa holders can conduct business in the U.S., but it's intended for temporary pursuits, such as visiting the U.S. to negotiate a contract, or seek investors. Repeatedly entering the U.S. on such a visa, and not for short visits, would make Customs and Border Patrol suspicious, and this would have been the case regardless of the political climate. So I don't feel she is being entirely honest and open about her visa status and options with you.

Add to that your lack of relationship experience, and the doubts you've had since early in the relationship, I don't think this is the right relationship for you.

As for whether to stay in the relationship or break up, you have to decide quickly, because her visa situation means she does not have the luxury to wait around for you to finally make up your mind.
posted by needled at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


I'm seeing this through the eyes of someone that had to marry if she wanted to stay with her partner. If we'd both been born in the same country we would have quite happily just lived together forever, but no matter whose home country we had picked to live in we'd have to marry so the other could stay more than 3 months. So we married. We had however been friends for many years before we became more than friends so it was a less scary decision to make than it could have been.

Even now with the green card I get shit every single time I go through Immigration, I have been pulled aside & questioned about every stamp or trip in my passport, I finally got a new passport & they question me about the lack of visas & stamps. You cannot win, marriage & a green card will not solve this problem, citizenship might. I'm terrified every time I speak out against our current president that at some point that will come back & bite me in the ass & I'll get deported. This is a very unsettling time for immigrants in the USA.

Having said all that your whole relationship sounds like a surging mess of miscommunication & cultural expectations being different. Of course she's scared of all the things that could happen, I'm willing to bet cash money she doesn't want to have to marry you to feel secure any more than you do, but she doesn't have a lot of options. . I'm quite sure part of her resents that is the only option. I'm sure she'd like to take the relationship slowly & take her time but she doesn't get to have that choice, you do. You can take all the time you want and what happens to you if something goes wrong, nothing. What happens to her, she loses a huge career chance & her whole life is turned upside down. I'd be angry as hell at a partner that didn't seem to understand that. You have a very uneven power dynamic in your relationship unfortunately to go with that you both also have some terrible communication skills.

Quick question though, answer it straight away without thinking or waffling. Where do you see yourself in this relationship in a year. If immigration wasn't an issue, do you still see yourself with this woman? Does that idea make you happy?

If you really want to stay together couples therapy might seriously be a good thing here, if only so you can both learn ways to communicate better. Be aware of cultural differences too, I'm from Australia & my husband is a midwesterner & we had a huge wall of cultural differences between us that we had to work out and still do, and we had the added advantage that we are both native speakers of the same language. Couples therapy helped us both work through that.
posted by wwax at 11:05 AM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


I hesitate to say this because I don't want people to assume I'm painting ALL Eastern European women this way. Here goes, though, and this is purely anecdotal.

Last year I traveled for over a month in Eastern Europe and Russia with a very, very attractive white male friend. We were obviously not together, so whenever we'd go to bars, he'd get hit on aggressively by a certain type of woman once they realized he was American. Now, this does happen to him elsewhere, but it was more the content of their conversations that startled us. It was almost like an existing cultural thing where many of these women spoke of their unfulfilled dreams of working/ studying/ living in America, and finding an American man to be with was such a wonderful thing. These women are predominantly beautiful and seemed to think that American men who found them attractive would be willing to oblige. My friend recounted to me at least four or five conversations of this sort, and I doubt he would concoct such stories - we've been close for years and he's a reliable, honest friend. Then, on the flight home to LAX, I was sitting next to a Lithuanian woman who asked me who my friend was (she had seen us at the airport), and when I told her that we weren't together, recounted her story of how she met her military American husband, how she married him so her son (from a different Lithuanian husband) could go to school in California, and how she now lives apart from her husband because she doesn't care for him, but wants to make sure her son is provided for. She also wouldn't stop talking about how attractive my friend was, which I found amusing. The thing is, the whole time she was talking to me, there was no sense of awareness as to how some might find her manipulative or wrong. It truly felt to me that she was providing her companionship, good looks, etc., to a man who was in turn giving her a green card. There was also no real love there, though, but perhaps there used to be and it's gone now.

Now, I'm not judging a culture or country here, as this theme of finding American/ men from Western countries to wed and thus build a better life in a developed country is an idea pervasive even in some Asian cultures.

The point I'm trying to make here is that even if she is wanting to marry you to get a green card, she personally doesn't view it as something wrong. If you're wealthy or are positioned to be, then she may truly think that in sharing your life with her, that that's something you should be willing to share as well. There doesn't seem to be this concept of 'too soon', or privacy, which again isn't limited to that culture but to many outside of the United States.

Whether her intentions are nefarious or not, you are clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. This is not the last woman you'll meet. She's plainly told you she wants a green card. She wants to share your money. In this country, you can get yourself in a load of trouble when you're financially responsible for someone who isn't in a stable situation. You have a right to be uncomfortable, because what she's asking for is a lot. And to start off a relationship this tenuously isn't a good idea. I've been in a situation where I'd have had to go back to my home country, but never did I ask my boyfriend at the time to marry me and certainly would never have pressured him to do it. He knew my situation and would have risen to the occasion had it come to that, but it didn't. I believe your insensitivity to her circumstances is wrong, however, I also think she's battering you over the head with this so much you're reaching the end of your tether. Honestly, this particular situation reeks of manipulation, so...

...fucking run.
posted by Everydayville at 11:18 AM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


I understand the temptation to look into the details I've given or omitted regarding visas and question them, but her situation is a bit complex and I've verified the details and have no reason to believe she's lying about any of that. The 5 year student visa is one of the more likely options for something more long-term, but presents difficulties of its own, and we live in the Bay Area where the stipend is a joke for living expenses, and I'm not sure I make enough to support both of us, and a potential child as well, for 5 years. This is another major problem, though - frankly when looking at the practical aspects, I see myself having to largely support her on my income during this time, and I see a rough road for both of us, and instability. But when I brought up her income/stipend and money considerations for the next years - practical considerations that absolutely do have an impact on our lives if we are to be together - she was outraged that I would even dare to talk about it. That I would be so shallow as to boil down our being together into whether she earns enough money to satisfy me. I think that's a mischaracterization of what I was saying - I was merely bringing up a difficulty that we'd have to face head-on, not ignore - but she interpreted my words in a way that made me out to be materialistic and egotistical. She also says she'll soon have a bigger income than I will once this is all sorted out, and that seems possible.

But I keep trying to ask myself the question - given that i’m almost certainly setting myself up to be voluntarily immersed in a kafkaesque nightmare legal and political situation that will last years or decades, and also might have to significantly support her for a few years during this stressful time, wouldn’t it be easier to just find someone else who permanently lives and works happily in America and doesn’t bring these precise existential horrors? 7 months is still pretty early in a relationship. We agreed during our meeting that she won't move in just yet. And she's overseas for the summer, so I'll have some time and space to figure things out. Would I even have gone on the first date if I knew about all of the attached problems that will come with a LTR with her? I wouldn't have.
posted by website user at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2017


There are too many pieces of her story that don't add up. The tourist visa that she's supposedly working on. The Ph.D. program that is begging her to come but apparently won't pay her a stipend to live on. Those things plus the fact that she's been pushing really hard since the 4-month mark to do things with you (like open a joint bank account, move in together, etc) that would help her spousal visa application without acknowledging that that is what she is doing would make me very wary if I were you.

And PLUS all that, you two don't seem to be able to communicate well or support each other very well. Cross-cultural relationships can have some really hard moments, but they shouldn't just be hard all the time: you should mostly be having fun together and enjoying each other's company.

The fact that your relationship thus far has been mostly full of struggle and strife and difficulty meeting each other where the other one stands is a sign that you're in a bad relationship. The cross-cultural thing is, in a way, a red herring. Think of it this way: if this woman was not from Eastern Europe and was from, say, Wisconsin, and was pressuring you to move in, set up a joint bank account, get married and support her through her Ph.D. and was pressuring you to do all of those things NOW NOW NOW, would the situation be clearer to you?
posted by colfax at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Would I even have gone on the first date if I knew about all of the attached problems that will come with a LTR with her? I wouldn't have.

There's your answer. If you had it to do over again, you wouldn't. Why would you stay in this relationship another day?
posted by KathrynT at 12:08 PM on May 27, 2017 [27 favorites]


Would I even have gone on the first date if I knew about all of the attached problems that will come with a LTR with her? I wouldn't have.

Then do not marry her, period.

Doesn't matter who's right. It doesn't matter if she's manipulating you or there are just severe cultural mismatches. Really, none of the rest of your question matters but this: if you had known, you would not have signed up for this.

Well, now you know. You don't want it, so say *no*. Do the both of you a favor and do it sooner rather than later, so that you can both move on to find partners who are going to work out.

Here's the thing: everyone comes with baggage. Indeed, my current LTR has all sorts of difficulties, and has had worse in the past: health problems, money woes, fights, her horrifying extended family, differing expectations based on subcultures...

Through it all, I have never woken up and said to myself, 'I wish I were single,' or worse, 'I wish [whatever ex] had stuck around instead.' Never. That is one regret I have never had. Sometimes life is great, sometimes it sucks, but I always know I made the right decision about who I'm stuck with.

You need that in a marriage, period, because living with someone - hitching your bank accounts together, committing to waking up next to them for the rest of your life - is huge and getting out of it is absolutely terrible. Even without marriage involved, us breaking up at this point would be herculean.

Also:
I'm not sure I make enough to support both of us, and a potential child as well, for 5 years.

A lot of people here have spoken from either side of the immigration divide. My perspective's different: my childhood was destroyed by a green card marriage that went horribly sideways. Don't have a kid with someone if you can't even discuss finances in a civil fashion. Again, doesn't matter whose fault it is.
posted by mordax at 12:12 PM on May 27, 2017 [13 favorites]


i’m almost certainly setting myself up to be voluntarily immersed in a kafkaesque nightmare legal and political situation that will last years or decades

Honestly, your updates make this whole thing pretty odd. I ask this with all compassion to you: then what, precisely, is your question here? The entire way you've set up this up is sort of Kafkaesque. It's an unbelievably sketchy situation -- her weird visa that causes her terrifying border issues yet she apparently keeps leaving and reentering the country, she'll soon have a larger income than you while pursuing a PhD program that has a terrible stipend, the yes she's moving in/no she's not, the Ivy in the Bay Area, she has a host of available men to marry her, you're suddenly talking about not only marrying her but now there's a child in the mix --

what actual situation is going on?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


I think this is so simple that I must be missing something. She wants to marry you soon. You do not want to marry her soon or ever (seems to me.) No need to declare a good guy or a bad girl here-- you can't give her what she wants so why drag this out? Her problems will only worsen if she falsely thinks of you as an option; and the more desperate she is, the more pressured and resentful you'll feel. No good for either of you.
posted by kapers at 1:55 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


wouldn’t it be easier to just find someone else who permanently lives and works happily in America and doesn’t bring these precise existential horrors? 7 months is still pretty early in a relationship. Would I even have gone on the first date if I knew about all of the attached problems that will come with a LTR with her? I wouldn't have.
You just answered your question better than anyone else could have. Now you just have to figure out how to act on what you know.
posted by metahawk at 1:56 PM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


You don't want to marry her. You feel bad for not wanting to marry her, because you do care about her. But you don't want to marry her--either for her visa or for love. So please don't marry her.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


But when I brought up her income/stipend and money considerations for the next years - practical considerations that absolutely do have an impact on our lives if we are to be together - she was outraged that I would even dare to talk about it. That I would be so shallow as to boil down our being together into whether she earns enough money to satisfy me. I think that's a mischaracterization

I'm sorry, OP, but all this immigration stuff aside, you really should not marry someone when this has been your experience. I was willing to believe you that the trust issues were coming from "inside the house" so to speak. I was willing -- after your first update -- to think that maybe I'd judged her prematurely and that maybe the vibe I got from reading the question was unfair. But marriage is like agreeing to become business partners with someone for the rest of your life. The fact that she keeps getting too offended to discuss things with you makes me strongly suspect that you two are not good long-term partners.

Beyond that, she keeps pressuring you. You sound like a considerate person who can communicate well about emotions and respect multiple points of view. That's great. But it should really be going both ways, and it's not. In that first follow up, you were able to represent her point of view in a fair-minded, even generous way. It sounds like you're not getting that same level of understanding from her. Imagine if the roles were reversed. Wouldn't you be able to understand "yes, I can see you need more time," and "yes, I can see that you feel (understandably, even if not accurately) suspicious," and wouldn't you recognize those as important emotional realities? It sounds like she doesn't extend that emotional generosity to you. Her reaction involves emotional manipulation ("you'd do it if you loved me" is manipulative, and so is making the point that other men have offered to marry her) and defensiveness. That does not bode well for a future together.

I'm sorry, but I don't think you should marry her. I think you two should break up for good.
posted by salvia at 3:47 PM on May 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


But when I brought up her income/stipend and money considerations for the next years - practical considerations that absolutely do have an impact on our lives if we are to be together - she was outraged that I would even dare to talk about it.

Duuude. She's so fucking out of line here it's not even funny. She's gaslighting you for voicing your own very valid concerns over the entire situation. That's extremely selfish and deceitful. Her outrage isn't from her feeling offended, it's from frustration in not getting her way and you basically calling her out on her manipulative bovine doodoo. This whole marry for green card idea seems to be a thing in that part of the world.

wouldn’t it be easier to just find someone else who permanently lives and works happily in America and doesn’t bring these precise existential horrors?

A thousand times, yes. Heck, you could find one of the thousands of women who are here on student or work visas that wouldn't want you to marry them, and wouldn't behave this selfishly if things didn't work out. Like I mentioned upthread, I've been in her circumstances. I was ready to go back to my home country and, if I couldn't come back to America, go to graduate school in Australia or the UK... basically put in the effort to get myself to where I wanted to be, like most honest people would. If her actions towards you showed humility, honesty, compromise, and consideration towards your concerns, I'd tell you to strongly consider marriage. This person seems selfish, callous, manipulative, deceitful, and unkind. Even given that she is likely under immense stress due to this situation, there is no justification for her behavior towards you (even though your own insensitivity may or may not be valid.) Nothing good can come of you marrying her. As hard as it is, you have to walk away, and guess what? She'll apparently be okay since she has other men that are willing to do the needful. Let them take this on. You know full well you don't want to, nor should you.
posted by Everydayville at 3:59 PM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Nthing that you must not marry this woman. You don't want to marry her. Getting browbeaten into marrying someone you don't want to marry is a major life mistake. Don't do it.

Your hesitation about getting married here is totally reasonable and sensible, but even if it wasn't, even if it was just a feeling you couldn't explain, that's enough reason to not get married. Do not get pushed into marrying someone you don't affirmatively want to marry.

Once you're clear in your mind you can decide what to do in the relationship. At a minimum, you should be clear and direct that you are not willing to get married any time soon. However, I think you would be wisest to just break up. It's very hard to break up from your first real relationship, but it rather sounds like things are not very good any more and will only get worse. You will survive the breakup and so will she. I think once you're out you'll feel mostly relief.
posted by mattu at 5:24 PM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you marry her, at some point you will sit down with an immigration officer for an interview. The IO will have examined every part of your file. Will look at your body language, your comfort with her. You had a trip with her and were so overwhelmed that you needed time alone. This interview does not bode well for your seemly too honest nature.

Also when you sponsor someone for a green card that is your spouse, said spouse gets rights, like welfare that you are in the hook for a minimum of ten years up to a lifetime, even if you divorce. Are you okay with that?

Honestly, if you were my younger sibling, I'd do everything in my power to discourage you from this. You don't have the equipment to know if she is playing you or not. I have no doubt that she finds you tolerable. But in love with you? I doubt it.
posted by Monday at 6:14 PM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Visas are weird, and I suspect some of the fishiness other comments are picking up on is mostly you not really describing what her visa situation is very well. Which happens - I've been on some kind of weird visa or another most of my life, and even my closest friends & family don't really understand what my deal is no matter how many times I explain it to them. (Maybe if you could tell us what the specific visa type is we can figure out whether it's actually a visitor visa or not? US has so many subvisas that the distinction can be lost.)

Immigration is a mindfuck. I have been in situations similar to your partner a couple of times. Once it was in Australia, where I was already applying for permanent residency but the app was taking forever, and at some point my then-boyfriend and I wondered if we should just get married to make paperwork easier. We had been together about 5-6 years at that point and really the relationship was on its last legs, and I couldn't really stand to be in that city anymore (partially because bridging visas are the worst). But it was something we seriously thought about for some time. Eventually we didn't follow through on it, we broke up, and I relocated, but we're still close friends AND my PR eventually came through so that was sorted.

I also faced this in the US after my student visa ran out. I'm not actually surprised that there would be Ph.D. programs without stipends - international students often end up having to pay for their study, and of course they'd be begging you to study, they can get money off you. I had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me I should just get married, even though I had just gotten through a really rough breakup; one friend even offered to marry me and sometimes I think I should have taken her up on the offer. There were other options, but they were so arcane and required more money than I really had. Eventually I left.

I can imagine if everyone's telling her "just get married!!", like people were to me thinking they were being helpful, it'll start to get to her and she takes it out on others. It's hard to think about every other option there is when a lot of people don't even know there are other options and are being bombarded with Marriage/Study/Work/Asylum. I understand that marriage is a big deal for you, and I feel like it's probably a far bigger deal for her than she's letting on, but she feels so pressed for time and options that she can't really afford to think about marriage as a concept beyond "it lets me stay". And her getting upset at you about talking about the practicalities of it may be her trying to manage her cognitive dissonance - not wanting marriage to just be a pragmatic thing, but feeling like she has to, and not liking the reminders thereof.

This situation sounds like a mess all around, and some of the mess is really not something you or anybody else can understand unless y'all have been in this situation before as the immigrant/visa applicant. "Kafkaesque" does not even begin to describe it. I'm sorry this is going on.
posted by divabat at 6:23 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


You really sound like you want permission to break up with her, and are making the case to us so that we will come back and tell you what you already feel- that you should break up with her.

Seriously- break up with her.

Sure immigration is a mindfuck, but you sound so. pervasively. unhappy. in that relationship.
Sure immigration is difficult to talk about, but in a good relationship you should be able to talk nevertheless and feel kinda good about the talk sometimes because you love each other and you're weathering a difficult situation together.

You are not a bad person for breaking up with someone. It is not your responsibility to change your entire life for someone else just because they are in crappy circumstances. You do not have to feel guilty about your niggling doubts and you do not have to ignore your intuition simply because she is a victim of circumstance.

Also, as a second generation Eastern European with family in the old country- this sounds fishy to me too and at the very least like you both have a gaping mismatch on values that isn't going to get easier with marriage.
posted by hotcoroner at 7:31 PM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


To be fair to her, I don't think she doesn't care for you. I do think she loves you, in her way and I do think that she is partly motivated by that love. I mean, if she is very conventionally attractive, maybe she's not lying when she says she's had offers of marriage. Who knows. I don't think she's 'playing' you necessarily or her intentions are 100% shady. But she is very noticeably in a desperate situation and these situations don't bring out the best in people.

We all want something in life, and people lie to themselves all the time; they think if they just won the lottery/moved countries/met someone awesome/found the perfect job/have kids, their lives will be perfect and their problems all miraculously fixed. I think she has boxed herself into this fantasy-- this dream of the perfect life-- and she is convinced that marriage is the solution to the very real looming problem. And she's not totally wrong, it would solve some of her problems. But there would be a myriad of other problems, because life tends to throw them at you. But I think she's in denial about the reality of it--that despite the immigration issues you two are horribly unsuited and will not make it as a couple-- that reality is too scary. And the worst thing is, the more desperate she gets, the more she sees this mirage Oasis and convinces herself she can reach it. She wants it to be real, so she tries to convince you. But the louder she shouts, the more she's just really trying to convince herself.

Don't marry her. Trust me when I say you guys don't gel on a fundamental level. Everyone is flawed, but some flaws are complimentary in relationships, and some flaws when mixed are just fatal. I recommend reading about John Gottman's four horseman -- communication styles that often predict the end of a relationship. If you see your relationship in this, then it's a pretty good indication of failure.

If you do marry, I'm pretty sure it will turn into a marriage of convenience in time, then divorce, and if that's not your thing, that's fine. And it's going to suck, and hurt her, but its time to pull the plug, so she can sort out her problems and do what she needs to do to get out of her predicament as soon as she can. The alternative, hanging on when you're not sure, isn't doing either of you any favors.

I'm sorry. Best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 10:15 AM on May 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Unless you're the sort that enjoys drama, that sounds like an awful relationship. I wouldn't even think twice about hitting eject.
posted by jpe at 4:21 PM on May 28, 2017


If you truly get along, try couples counseling to work on your conflict dynamic.

No, not at 7 months. At 7 months you run.
posted by jpe at 4:26 PM on May 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


The 5 year student visa is one of the more likely options for something more long-term, but presents difficulties of its own, and we live in the Bay Area where the stipend is a joke for living expenses, and I'm not sure I make enough to support both of us, and a potential child as well, for 5 years.
There are no Ivy League schools in the Bay Area. If you're using Ivy League as a synonym for "good", you're probably referring to Stanford, which provides subsidized housing for students, including families, and plenty manage a comfortable lifestyle there. Berkeley has less student housing, but the surrounding neighborhoods are relatively affordable -- if single students can get by, a couple where one person has a real job definitely can. I have tons of friends who did PhDs with stipends in those schools and their lifestyles were pretty decent.

Now, if you go to smaller schools in the Bay Area, that's a different matter, but then perhaps it's not worth it.

The 5-year F-1 student visa is one of the most flexible visa options possible, except that it restricts work to on-campus during the semester (20 hours) and you need to get permission to work off-campus. But it's really not that bad compared to, say, an H-1B work visa that comes with a cartload of restrictions.
posted by redlines at 8:36 PM on May 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


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