Let's be honest here, mail order brides seem pretty weird. Some of the stories people hear sound super creepy, like men picking women out of a catalog. The gut reaction is that its at the least exploitive if not immoral. And sometimes it is. Sometimes the it's exactly what someone expect as the man treats the woman like cattle. A piece of property he owns. But clearly there are happy stories. They start weird, sure, but in the end, everyone is happy and so in that respect, they are no different than any other marriage, even if they began in an unconventional way. Content has been edited for clarity.
Trapped in Marriage
“I was in a class in college and one of the other students was a pretty obvious mail order bride.
She was Thai and the more we got to know her, the more she shared about her relationship. She was in her late 20s and he was at the lower end of his 60s, he didn’t work but had received some big work compensation payout and was apparently quite wealthy because of that. She told us they met online and after talking for all of two weeks, they agreed to marry. My country is a little bit stricter about these sorts of unions, so there were some hoops they had to jump through, like that he had to go visit her for a certain amount of time in Thailand before starting the process, but essentially they were engaged after a few weeks and married within a few months.
The guy essentially wanted one of those stereotypical Asian marriages where the wife was subservient and existed to please their husband. She would tell us he would make her wait till he was done to eat and he would only let her eat ‘ladylike’ foods like salad; he payed her a monthly ‘salary’ which was pretty abysmal and she had to use that for clothing and other essentials.
He also wouldn’t let her go anywhere by herself and would drop her off and turn up an hour before classes ended in case we got let out early to drive her home. I remember we had to do a group assessment and I had given her my phone number and he forced her to delete it. I think the saddest part was when she asked a bunch of us if we could get birth control pills for her because her husband kept destroying her scripts/pills, and you could tell she was absolutely terrified of getting pregnant. The weird thing, though, was that she wasn’t terribly bad off in Thailand, her family was apparently quite wealthy and she had her own home over there, but for whatever reason she didn’t want to live there.
Personally, I would have run the second I saw that purple-faced blob of a ‘husband.'”
Ditched For Fake Love
“One of my uncles, who is Filipino, convinced one of his white coworkers to marry his 28-year-old niece, who was still living in the Philippines at the time.
The guy was at least 20 years older than her. The relationship was really rocky in the first 2 years. She hated him, basically. But she stuck with the relationship, got him to go to church and they were more or less a real couple.
About ten years into the marriage, the guy needed a kidney transplant. Months pass, he can’t work anymore and she’s spending all her free time outside of work taking care of him at the hospital while he’s waiting for a kidney. I visited one time while he was in the hospital and she broke down, telling my other relatives and me how much she loved him and she didn’t want to lose him.
The doctors finally give him like less than 3 months to live if he didn’t get a kidney and after a month and half later, he got the kidney, recovered, and went back to work within a year’s time. At a family get-together, he bragged to everyone including me about how amazing he feels and how much he thought he was dead and that he was blessed to have a new lease on life.
Then, a few months later, I get call from him saying that he’s met someone online. He found a 21 year old single Filipino mom from Cebu and already filed divorce papers against my uncle’s niece, who was almost 40 by then.
He is a terrible person.”
A Creepy Teacher
“My high school teacher would peruse mail order websites in class. This was in 2001. He went to the Philippines over Christmas break and met her and her family. He was engaged by the time he returned. I was a giant nerd and spent my free time in the library or in his English class. I was very petite (4ft 11in & 95 lbs) and he asked me if I would go wedding dress shopping with him as I fit her height and weight.
He had to get his first marriage annulled. He had three kids with his first wife. One of her requirements was that they get married in the Catholic church in the Philippines. He married her over the summer and she came back with him. She stayed with him for about 10 years and went to school. They eventually divorced. He is in his 60’s and has had several mail order brides from the Philippines that he shows off on his social media.
His most recent one is in her late 20’s. He visited her a few month’s ago and they are starting the immigration paperwork.”
They Both Wanted A Better Life
I married a mail order bride. Or at least what people today call mail order brides.
I went online, found a site very much like a regular dating site, and started chatting with maybe 100 Filipinos live on yahoo chat. I liked one in particular after a few months- I had a real, almost paranoid, fear of scammers, so I picked one that seemed like the opposite of a scammer. She was not in makeup, she was not wearing revealing clothing, she was not living in Pampanga (a big tourist destination for this kind of thing), and she did not ask for money. I cancelled my account on the service and video chatted with her for 6 months, 4 hours a day, to make sure it would work out. I also went there 5 times over 6 months. It worked out well, and I brought her to the US and married her.
We have a little girl. We get along pretty well. I know that she married me to get a better life, but I married her to get a better life, so that’s OK with me.
Living the Dream
“My wife and I just celebrated our 1 year (married) anniversary. We met on a website (like match.com but for international dating) about 3 years ago. I had been divorced about 3-4 years and not having much luck in the dating scene here. I figured what the heck, I would give it a shot.
I chatted with some women from the Philippines and some from Vietnam. Was a little rough at first, ran into plenty of women that would bring up $$$, or family trouble they needed help with right away (also involving money). Then I met my wife. We exchanged a few emails and next thing you know we are chatting on Skype while she is at work and spending 8-12 hours per night Skyping with webcams, just hanging out like long distance couples do. She would watch tv, I would play games, whatever, just being together was the most important thing. It was just comfortable and flowed naturally. She had joined the site herself as she had broken up with her boyfriend some months before and wanted something different. She knew English really well as she had studied for like three years when she was in college in Vietnam.
I went to Vietnam about 4 months after we met online. I was still a little worried, of course, flying half way around the world to meet a girl I met online, not knowing how any of this would go. Well it went great, and I went back 6 times over the next 2 years.
It was INCREDIBLY difficult with the distance, and really only being able to see each other 1 or 2 times per year for like 3 weeks. We made it through though, and in 2015 my mother and grandmother went with me to Vietnam and we got married there. She came back with me that time and things are going very well here. We love each other a lot. There are cultural differences and her adjusting to the USA way of things can be difficult at times, but overall its been way easier than I thought. I am just really glad we don’t have to be separated anymore, all of that time apart physically actually strengthened our relationship I think as it REALLY made us work on our communication.
It’s the best relationship I have ever been in and I don’t really see it as a ‘mail order bride’ situation. I met my wife online like most people do nowadays, she just happened to live halfway around the world. Like any relationship it can go well or it can go bad. This one worked out wonderfully, and I am so thankful this woman is in my life everyday.
BEST WIFE EVER!”
From The US To New Zealand
“I guess (depending on your definition) I could be considered a mail order bride. In my last year of high school in the US Midwest, I joined a website that advertised meeting people around the world. I joined looking for more of a pen pal than a relationship. I met this guy who was a couple years older than me and also just looking for a Pen Pal. Well after almost a year of emailing back and forth (along with regular webchats) he offered to pay for me to go over and tour his home country (New Zealand).
I jumped at the opportunity and two months after graduating high school, I headed to New Zealand for a month. Long story short, I got there and discovered New Zealand was about 50 bazillion times better than the US and within four months of returning from my trip, I went back. Now, six years later, we’ve been happily married for four years and have an almost two year old little boy.”
Purple Birthday Cake And Other Wonderful Things
“Although my parents were always too ashamed to admit this to anyone but myself and my sister, my mom was a ‘mail order bride’ about 23-24 years ago. This was before all the online companies that do this, so my father had to find my mother in a sort of magazine catalogue of Filipino women.
He sent her letters, and she replied over the course of a year. They finally met and my mom moved to my dad’s tiny hometown, got married, and they had two daughters together (one being myself). They were both looking for a better life, and someone who would treat them better than past partners had. And they both got that, plus it turns out they both have the travel bug. So now they’re retired, living a nomadic life traveling the globe, and they got more than they ever hoped for.
Sure, I’ve always known there were some serious cultural differences between my parents that they’ve never been able to fully reconcile. My mom, being from a very traditional village in Northern Philippines has a hard time understanding a lot of North American norms and beliefs, and they butt heads over a lot of small things. These cultural clashes have taught me so much though, and their collective love of travel and culture has inspired me to study anthropology and travel around the globe.
I can’t imagine having lived in a home where we didn’t eat bacon and rice, pancit and steak, or purple (ube) birthday cakes on a regular basis.”
She Used Him
“There’s this guy I’ve known since elementary school who went through a mail order bride debacle sometime in the last 5 years. He was raised by a very religious and overbearing mother and he was really small and kinda funny looking, resulting in quite a bit of teasing in his life. This was not helped by the fact that he had a hair trigger temper and would call down the wrath of God upon those who made fun of him. Needless to say he didn’t have much luck with the ladies. I’ve not seen him since high school but my friend’s mother knows his mother and the story goes like this:
He met a woman from the Philippines over the internet. He went there to meet her and get married, then brought her and her daughter back to Canada. Shortly after this, she arranged to have her mother brought over also. Almost immediately after that, she left him and moved out with her mother. In the time between meeting her and her leaving, he had given her upwards of $30k! I had this story verified by another friend who works at the same plant as him. I feel sorry for the guy because he’s been beaten down most of his life and this is the second time a woman had left him in the span of a few years. But that’s another story…”
“My father had one.
She was clinically insane and 4 kids later, she left my dad after building up a string of lovers off Craigslist. A few months ago, we found out she left back to her country and she tries to call sometimes, but I’m glad she’s gone and I continue to advise my dad not to answer her calls. When I say crazy – I mean completely insane. There was 10 years of it and it started early, but my dad is an idiot and turned a blind eye.
She tried to kill herself when my dad found out she lied about her age and she was actually 10+ years younger than him and he was contemplating leaving her.
She got pregnant immediately after they got married, she had 4 kids back-to-back, refused to work, maxed out his credit cards, took out more cards in his name, would wait up late at night to complain to my dad who worked graveyard about me, and was extremely jealous of me and my dad. She wouldn’t cook for me and then would scream at me about making a mess of the kitchen if I cooked for myself. She slept around with men off Craigslist, and would bring her kids and make them sit in the car or at a park while she did her deed. She threatened to kill herself and/or her kids on multiple occasions. She wouldn’t let me play with or talk to my half siblings, and told them lies about me. She threw away my stuff, went through my room and kept keeping things she liked. She would complain about anything she could that might be wrong with her. She told people she had cancer and that her only son is mentally disturbed, when he isn’t he just acts out because of her. She attacked me unprovoked one night, and she ruined the car my father got her by keying it to garner sympathy and then broke the door handles off in a rage.
There’s so much more. Her residual poison still peeks its ugly head out in her children but hopefully they will recuperate.”
Happiness Is A Motor Scooter
“I used to work retail with a Filipino woman who was a mail order bride. She was a tiny little thing, around 35 years old, and her husband was a very large, stocky white man around 50-55.
I thought it was very weird when she first told me, but when I met him and saw them together, it actually seemed like a nice fit. He was always coming into the store to bring her lunch or to buy her things, and pick her up from work on his motor scooter. It was pretty cute watching them ride it together. It seemed like he really enjoyed spoiling her, and when she talked about him, she seemed very much in love with him. It didn’t appear that he was particularly wealthy or anything, but he treated her very well and they seemed very happy. Just before I left that job, she had just became pregnant with their first child.”
Short Engagement, But Happiness Achieved
“My brother went to Russia a few years back to visit a girl he had met online. He only stayed about four days, which made it an expensive and short visit, but probably a good idea if you’re not sure what’s going to happen when you actually meet.
Several months later, she came to visit us and surprise, they’re engaged! My mom was not expecting this, but I was. You don’t bring over a girl from another country and introduce her to your family because you’re ‘just friends.’
They spent the next couple months getting the paperwork organized and then she moved to the US and then two months later they got married. He had their buddy officiate at a pretty little ceremony at the lake, just immediate family.
She and my brother are around the same age and have similar interests and they seem really happy together. She is going to school and I now have a niece.”
My uncle lives on a farm. His neighbor (in his 60s) married a 28-year-old Japanese woman. She’s the ultimate ‘trophy’ mail order bride!
When she moved into his house, it was a little run down (standard single male behavior). She took his truck into the town library everyday to use the internet to learn home improvement techniques from YouTube. She installed a huge deck and replaced all the roofing on his wool shed (as it leaked). Pest control is common on Australian farms. We were out one night and shot a few kangaroos. She gets out of the truck and walks over to the dead carcass, drops to her knees while reciting a prayer, then pulls out a knife and starts surgically cutting up the animal, putting what’s edible for the dogs in one pile and what’s not in another.
The last time I was at my uncle’s farm, she was learning generator maintenance as the power goes off every few months.
The Signs Are Obvious
“I see mail-order brides at my job (bridal industry) quite frequently. They’re not hard to spot.
-They are foreign women, usually either Asian or Eastern European
-They speak little to no English. This makes communicating with them extremely difficult.
-They are younger women, looking to be in their twenties and thirties.
-They are shopping with a man who is clearly a local, as in: usually white, speaks English well, and references living around here. This groom is always much older than the bride, but not necessarily an old man. He usually looks to be about 40-60ish. They aren’t necessarily unattractive, fat, or creepy either.
-Just like the bride can’t talk to us, she usually can’t talk to the groom either. Occasionally the groom will speak to the bride in her native language, but they never communicate in clear English. Sometimes the man’s family will tag along. It will be very clear that they do NOT know the bride, cannot communicate with her, and are embarrassed to be there. Just communication issues for EVERYONE involved in this purchase
-They will shop early in the week and in the evening. Our store is very close to an airport, so I honestly think that a lot of the time, they go straight from landing to wedding shopping. We see a lot of international clients for the same reason-it is actually cheaper to fly to the US, buy your wedding outfit, ship it home, and fly back, than it would be to just buy everything at home.
-The wedding is happening by the end of the week, at the most in two weeks. Sometimes the wedding is the next day.
-Because of these limits, they only buy off the rack. There is no time to order anything they may need.
-They usually do not want alterations because they do not want to spend the money or wait for the work to be done. It is infuriating for us to see a tiny little Asian woman in a dress that is 8 inches too long on her, she’s clearly uncomfortable, and to have the groom tell us, ‘Oh no, it’s fine, we don’t need that.’
-They always buy. There’s no ‘well, let’s see what else we find’, or ‘let’s think about it.’ These people are on a time crunch and they need something now.
-The groom picks the dress, calls most of the shots, and pays for everything. We can’t even communicate with the bride enough to know what kind of dress she wants, how she feels in the dress, or what she would change. We either have to depend on the groom to translate when we’re lucky, or just outright let him pick. As a result, they usually end up in cheaper and ugly dresses.
These are the indicators I can think of for now. These are always incredibly uncomfortable experiences for the entire store, but we try to be as nice as possible. My line of thinking always is, ‘This woman has just moved here to marry a stranger and she has no one. She’s probably scared and homesick. If he’s controlling or evil and she needs to leave, she needs to know that Americans are nice and will help her.’ It’s a sticky situation to find yourself in. You know this marriage isn’t illegal, but it is probably exploitative and immoral.
There has only been one case where I felt like outright abuse was already happening, and I still feel like trash for not doing anything, but at the same time, I don’t know what I could have done. The bride was a clearly mentally handicapped young woman who looked to be from Southeast Asia. Several members of the groom’s family came shopping with them, and they were determined that none of us would get too near her. They wouldn’t let us help her look at gowns, get in and out of dresses, nothing. The bride kept her right arm scrunched up by her side and stared at the ground for most of the appointment. Any time she did make eye contact with any of us, we all saw the same thing-absolute terror. I’m not sure if the groom was a sick fetishist, or if he was unaware of his bride’s health before she came here. Either way, this girl was clearly unable to consent to a marriage and EVERYONE involved in that wedding knew but did nothing to stop it, including us.”
In It for the Long Haul
“My friend Richard has a mail-order bride from the Philippines. He’s a scruffy long-haul trucker from West Virginia, she’s tiny, slender, and ten years his junior.
At first she cooked, cleaned, and kept his bed warm, but after a few years she told him she wanted an education. He put in a ton of overtime and saved up enough to put her through college. She’s a physician’s assistant now and makes more money than he ever has, but she still makes him dinner and makes a point of always being waiting at the door when he gets back from a long haul.
They’ve been together for 20 years now and it’s a joy to see them together.”