The Cost Of Being A Mail-Order Bride

This is Part II of My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride

Financially it did not cost us anything. Emotionally we were a nervous wreck.

The agency printed my mom’s picture and her short bio in a paper catalog. There was no Internet back then in Lithuania. All correspondence was done the old-fashioned way, through the mail.

The cost of services was passed to the American men. There was no sign-up fee, but men did have to pay $5 for each woman’s address they were interested in communicating to.

Women, most of the time, stayed on their own turf, and never traveled to meet their potential husbands. It was practically impossible to get a so-called fiancé visa that would allow entrance into the United States. The U.S. government was protecting its borders quite diligently from the influx of women who were eager to find happiness in the promised land. Most importantly, women in the Eastern Bloc countries could not afford a plane ticket to travel overseas.

The easiest way to meet was for a man to choose three or four women, and travel to see them all at once.

Why American Men Did It

I cannot speak for all American men who at some point in their lives used mail-order bride services. However, after observing and interacting with some of the men we got to meet over a period of time, I determined 5 types of men who were looking for a foreign wife.

Type 1 men were disappointed in their relationships with American women, and started to branch out to foreign countries in search of something special.

Type 2 men thought that they could acquire cheap household labor who along with cooking, cleaning and laundry would also provide sex.

Type 3 men thought that it would be easier to dominate poor foreign women. They pitched a long and winded explanation of a “traditional marriage.”

Type 4 men were seeking a non-traditional marriage that included extra partners that any sane woman, American or not, would never agree to experience. I’ll leave it at that.

Type 5 men were shy and not comfortable in a wide variety of social settings. It was easier for them to get to know women through correspondence before meeting face to face.

Risks That Women Took

It was (and still is) a very risky business for women. However, a majority of women were (and are) willing to take that risk anyway.

Imagine you move to a foreign country, but you don’t speak the foreign language. You leave your friends and family behind. There is no one to talk to but your new husband whom you barely know. You don’t drive a car, you cannot work, but most importantly, you don’t really know the man who became your husband. Some of women met their husbands only once during the man’s short visit. Some met their future husbands maybe twice.

I am sure that the mail-order bride business is risky for men as well. However, I have never heard a story about a foreign bride abusing, torturing and, eventually, killing her American husband. There is no doubt that both sides encounter certain risks. However, the risks for women outweigh the risks for men.

A man can choose to pay for the divorce and send his wife back home. Women, however, can be stuck in an abusive relationship because they do not have the funds or means to get out. Those women are financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands. Poor language skills limit their ability to find jobs. Some women are unable to report abuse because they don’t know their rights and lack the ability to communicate properly.

Our Story

Our story is not a fairy tale, but it is a pretty good one. My mother was lucky enough to meet an American man, fell in love with him and get married.

You would be surprised to know that the poor language skills are not a real barrier to write letters and get to know each other. Sometimes really bad and broken English is the best way to express your thoughts. Perhaps when we don’t understand each other, we make up things in our mind that help us to understand. Maybe we just imagine things we want to be real. Whatever it was, it worked out well for both of them.

It didn’t happen in one day. In fact, after the parade of men of all five types, my mother gave up on the whole mail-order bride idea. My grandfather, still trying to be very optimistic, asked her to give one more chance to a man who sounded down-to Earth in his letters. My mother agreed with a condition that it was going to be the last American she wanted to see. Ever.

As it turned out, it was her future husband.

Sometimes luck and great timing determine your life path. Sometimes people refuse to follow the path where ever it leads them, and they choose to force their own way through the weeds and dense woods.

Sometimes it all ends well. Sometimes it doesn’t.

UPDATE: Because I was bombarded with questions and requests for more, I am going to write my third and LAST installment about my mom and her American husband. It will be posted next Monday, March 26. Part III is now available here.

55 thoughts on “The Cost Of Being A Mail-Order Bride”

  1. Wow that was moving. You should do a story about your life and your mothers life. Are they still together? I am so glad it worked out for your mother, in all the scenarios you painted, none of them seem like they would have a good end except type 1 and 5. I got 10000000 of questions and my head is spinning trying to process it all while not typing you the 10000000 questions. Part III ??????

    1. Yep, after your comment people were all over me demanding more. More to come! I will post the third and final installment on Monday.

  2. Andrew @ 101 Centavos

    Great story, Aloysa. Your Mom’s good fortune is heartwarming. I know of two similar mail-order bride stories that did not end well. In one case, the man’s poor hygiene caused the breakup. In the other, expectations on the part of the man were much too high (a polite way of describing an abusive d!ckhead). I’ve also known several marriages of western men with Asian women which are just fine. The women could be accused by some of being “passport-hunters”, but the longevity and happiness of the relationship puts the lie to that theory.

    1. We actually met at least three other mail-order brides who ended up divorcing their husbands. Really sad stories.

  3. This is an interesting topic that I don’t know much about. Was it hard to get into the US, even with an American husband? I’m glad it worked out for your mom. It’s certainly risky for the women. I wonder how many actually fall in love.

    1. No, it wasn’t too hard to get into the US because by then my mom was already married. I need to write about it more, I guess.

  4. Fascinating topic, I wasn’t aware that this was still going on. I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to start life over in a new country with someone you barely know, your mom is a very courageous woman! I’m happy that it worked out well for them, and like the other commenters, I would love to hear more of this story.

  5. That’s great that it worked out. Are they still together? I remember reading a story like this in a magazine last year. They ended up falling in love as well and he was an artist and she is now a fashion designer. It worked out great for them!

  6. Wow, that’s a really inspiring story. Sometimes the risk is worth the reward, and even if it’s not, you will have an experience to look back on and hopefully learn from. Your mom is a very brave woman. My stepmom wasn’t a mail order bride, but she did move to the US from South Africa after meeting my dad for only 2 months. She left her family, her son and her whole life there. I always admire women that can do that.

    1. It wasn’t easy, I have to say. It wasn’t easy for my mom, me and the whole family. My mom is a very strong and a very brave woman.

  7. This is an amazing story. It must be so scary to know all the risks a mail order bride is taking – there’s only so much you can learn about a person with correspondence and a few visits. Even folks who have been married for years realize that their spouse wasn’t the person they thought he/she was. I’m glad it worked out OK for you guys.

    1. Sometimes, as you said, you can live with a person all your life and not know him. Sometimes you can get to know each other in a few letters and in a few short visits. Life is stranger than fiction.

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  9. This is a very interesting story! So happy it all worked out. I too am interested in how you and he got along.

    I think your 5 american men types are very close to the type of people that are found on online dating sites. Not to say that there aren’t some great people on those sites. There are! But there are also a lot that fit into your 5 categories.

  10. Great job, Aloysa… Such a fascinating story.
    I assume that the American husband is a #1 or a #5.

    Is there going to be a part 3 where you let us know?

  11. I’m glad that it worked out well for your mom! I’m sure it doesn’t for many other women (as you say).

    Looking forward to the next part…

  12. I love this story! You are a great writer, Aloysa! I hope your mom is still happily together with this man. Is she? I truly believe in love and think it can happen like this, not just with the traditional beginning we sometimes think of. Thanks for sharing your story.

  13. I’ve been on the edge of my seat for the next installment, and I’m happy to read that things go well. Thanks again for posting such a personal story.

    1. I can’t believe you missed it, my friend! make sure to come back for the third and last one on Monday. 🙂

  14. Your mother and you were very lucky that she found a man whom she actually fell in love with – so that is sort of a “fairytale” story in a way. I’m looking forward to the next installment- I’m really rooting for “happily ever after”!

  15. What an incredible story. Your mother sounds like a strong, courageous woman!
    I’ve only heard about horror stories about mail order brides and it’s good to know that there are happy endings, even if they are rare. I’m excited to hear the rest of the story!

    1. I think mostly horror stories attract attention. But there are definitely good stories with happy endings. It is too sad that people mostly talk about bad and not so much about good. 🙂

  16. I look forward to reading the rest of your mother’s story. I’ve never met a mail order bride, but I’ve worked with several women who were part of arranged marriages – sometimes there is a happily every after. I’m so glad your mother found happiness.

    1. I think arranged marriages is somewhat similar to mail-order brides. However, I believe there is a huge difference. If a mail-order bride has a choice to reject a man, in arranged marriages there is not such choice.

  17. You hit most of the points I thought as to why men order mail order brides. The two I hear the most have been 1 and 3. Though some women think that those to go hand and hand.

    I have friends who have married women from other countries and when some of our American women friends see how she behaves and the things she does they are just in awe saying that couldnt be them.

    Yet all the men are just looking like did I make a mistake.

    1. How interesting! I am going to write my last installment of the story and I will discuss all type number 1 and 3. 🙂 Not to give anything away! Some men are more traditional and more conservative than American women. I think it was one of the big reasons that Americans started to branch out overseas in search for a partner.

  18. Analytical Planner

    I saw this post and then saw the first part. So I went and read the first part first! I love the story! I can’t wait for the third part on Monday.

  19. It’s great that your mom found the right person. I don’t know of any marriages like that, but I think it can work. I guess it is a bigger risk for the women and I’m really glad your mom was picky and took her time with it.

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  21. This reminds me of a guy I knew who brought someone here from the Ukraine. They wrote each other for near a year before he brought her. She brought her values, traditions and little else. What everyone thought was surprising is how they communicated. She silently went about helping him, and they wrote letters to each other during the day. In time she learned his words but I don’t remember how well. I remember him telling us about certain words and how he picked up a few names he’d call people when upset that were in Ukrainian. Oh, and I remember her being upset when someone called her Russian, they both stopped talking to certain people afterwards.

    1. Hahaha! Yes, don’t call a Ukrainian Russian. It will be very upsetting. Russians are not liked or respected in Ukraine. 🙂

  22. Thank you for sharing this fascinating story. I love reading posts where you put a cultural perspective into PF. 🙂

  23. What a story! Can’t wait for Part 3! I’m glad things worked out for your mother. You might have to work on the screenplay and bring this story to the big screen. I’m sure it would do gangbusters judging from the response you’re getting!

  24. Mary @ Buy Sell Funds

    What a great story. Thank you so much for sharing. People really tend to be judgmental with the idea of mail-order bride. But the undeniable blessings of human nature will always contradict that negative impression.

  25. I understand fully since I found my wife online 11 years ago. We wrote to each other for a year before I traveled to Vietnam to meet her and her family. I took the time to write an honest first letter and went to a pro photographer to make the best first impression with my photo. She had 15 other men corresponding with her from cousin placing an ad on Yahoo personals. We have a 7yr old son together and are very happy. I have shared my thoughts on my podcasts Seeking Asian Women

  26. Karin @ HR Degree Directory

    I have nothing personal against Mail-Order Brides. In fact, I admire those women courageous enough to take the risks.

    I admire your mother who took the road to be one of the mail-order brides just to save the family from starvation. Your mom should be commended for that. God things happen to good people.

    She’s lucky to have found someone who will treat her as a woman, respect her as a human being and love her as she is.

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