posted on 01-27-2014 at 15:38
Lessons Learned from TLC's 90 Day Fiance
We're only three episodes into the TLC series "90 Day Fiance," and already there are signs of trouble on the horizon. Check this article against some of the typical stumbling blocks couples experience along the 90 Day Fiance Path. I count 4 of the below offenses already in the books, LOL!
10 Ways To Make Your 90-Day Fiancé Completely Miserable
by Bud Patterson
Vice President A Foreign Affair
Author of the Best- Selling Book "Foreign Bride101: A How-To For Nice Guys"
The TLC Series 90-Day Fiancé, which chronicles 5 international couples (the men are American, the women are from other countries,) as they navigate through their first 90 Days in America together, is mesmerizing stuff! Long overdue, we finally have a reality show that covers an otherwise completely overlooked but critical part of every international couples journey to the alter. When a foreign girl gets a fiancé visa, the result of a 6 month application process which culminates in an interview at her country’s American Embassy, the hourglass tips over on what will be the most challenging period of each international couples' courtship. Each couple will need to arrange the girl's relocation, move in together, and make wedding plans.
In the past twelve years, while working with A Foreign Affair, one of the world's most successful and highly visible international marriage agencies, I became acquainted with hundreds of couples in the 90-Day Fiancé process. To the best of my knowledge, most are still together and happy. There were a few couples, however, who did not survive that first 90 days, usually due to some negligence on the part of the guys, who meant well but clearly were not prepared for the realities of cross-cultural marriage.
What follows is a summary of their mistakes, and admittedly, a few of my own. Guys - if you aspire to have a happy 90-Day Fiancé of your own, read and heed this list! Here are 10 Ways to Make Your 90-Day Fiancé Completely Miserable and probably regret the day she ever met you.
1. FAIL TO BUY HER A ROUND-TRIP TICKET FROM HER COUNTRY TO YOURS AND BACK - WITH THE RETURN TRIP DATE RIGHT AROUND THE END OF HER 90 DAY FIANCEE VISA PERIOD.
Why buy round-trip airfare if you're going to go on and get married and live permanently in America? Of course you don't expect her to return to her country at the end of her 90 Day Fiancé Visa, but to stay on with you happy and in love. It is critical - absolutely crucial - however, to take pressure off of her by letting her (and her family) know that she is in charge of what happens to her and her child the whole time she's here. She needs to feel relaxed and able to count on you to let her go if things don't work out. Obviously, having her go home in the end is not the desired outcome you’re looking for, but if you want her to be comfortable during that first 90-days, you have to provide her with an exit clause, if she ever needs one. Tell her you love her, of course, but - bottom line - if she cannot stay, you will help her return to her family. Tell her you will be crushed, that you can't imagine having come this far only to lose her in the end but that you ultimately want what is best for her and her child. Then tell her to just relax, don't think about marriage right away; don't make plans for anything permanent until she is ready. Ask her to try and find things she likes here and to just enjoy her time. Take the pressure of this enormous life change completely off her shoulders. Your reward will be a happy girl who feels empowered and in charge of her circumstances. I know the vast majority of men in the 90-Day Fiancé process understand this completely.
2. FAIL TO ALLOW HER TO PERSONALIZE HER LIVING SPACE. I cringed to watch Russ and Paola, one of TLC's 90-Day Fiancé couples, move into Russ's parent's house. Russ brought his lovely Colombian city girl all the way to rural Oklahoma to begin life together in the snug confines of Russ's bedroom. That's right, one bedroom complete with model cars and little-league trophies. That would be their entire living space, under the watchful eye of Russ's scrutinizing parents. Paola - she's cool. On camera, she is always smiling, supportive and level. I get the feeling she’s smart enough to suspect the show's producers are looking for land-mine episodes where something unexpected causes her to come unglued. While her initial reaction is "no big deal," you know there's trouble on the road ahead as Russ nervously tries to negotiate space and privacy from his speculative family.
Guys - we're cavemen. We don't decorate our caves. We don't need to. Your 90-Day Fiancé, however, will want to personalize her living space in order to feel she is living peacefully in your mutual place, not that she's uncomfortably occupying YOUR living space. Look around the house. What can you live without? Donate your old towels, blankets and dishes to charity. Take her to Sears, Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Linens and Things, Kohls, Pier One or some similar store and tell her to buy those things herself. Whether you need the items or not, appoint her with the task of updating your furnishings. This gives her a pleasant distraction from all the change related conflict going through her head.
3. IMPOSE YOUR UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE ON HER OR HER CHILD. One of the easiest mistakes for men to make is to expect your 90-Day Fiancé to handle the typical salty / high fructose corn syrup infused American diet. Something as simple as Domino's Pizza may be a little much for your girl at first, though she'll probably try it eventually. Foreign women will be used to their native diets and, chances are, if we let them buy whatever food they want they'll cook us some tasty and healthy dishes. Find a grocery store with a large produce section. Many cities have international food stores that carry spices and products that we don't find in the more mainstream markets. If you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods nearby - these offer more choices for fish and veggies and - by the way - attract a culturally diverse customer base. It might be interesting for her to hear people talking her language as they shop nearby. Especially if she has a child, let her cook what they are used to eating and don't force micro- waved dinners and canned ravioli on them. If your girl is from Russia or Ukraine, she'll introduce you to borscht. After awhile, you'll be begging for it.
4. FAIL TO BEFRIEND HER CHILD.
It's interesting and unfortunate that none of the women in the TLC series have children. Children obviously create a life-defining opportunity for men to become fathers and mentors, but they also add to the overall challenges. Children need friends, lots of activities, health and dental insurance, and constant nurturing. One thing men in the 90-Day Fiancé process will learn - as the child goes, so shall they all go. A struggling child will stress the bride-to-be out to the max.
Understand her child's needs as they relate to school and social behavior. Help the child find playmates. (But be gentle not to overwhelm him /her with too many introductions.) Visit with the child's new school principal to prepare the staff for his/her specific needs as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student. Ask your local library for age-appropriate books in the child’s native language. Show your 90-Day Fiancé right away the good father you plan to be, but don't be too disciplinary right away. Ease the child into a new routine of expectations. Don't try to redefine acceptable versus unacceptable behaviors all at once.
5. FAIL TO HELP HER COMMUNICATE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Buy or make her a Russian keyboard and download fonts and software that allow her to send and receive emails in her own language. Foreign television programs can be viewed over the Internet and are often available from cable or satellite dish services. There are many similar "apps" available for tablets, iPads and phones. Order Latin American, Russian or Ukrainian television that comes to your home via a high-speed Internet connection for a small monthly cost. Have it installed before she arrives so she can watch the same stuff here she used to watch at home! Buy phone cards or calling plans that give you great rates for her country, enabling her to call home frequently. Skype, FaceTime and other video conferencing apps will be useful. Look for forums on the Internet for brides from her country. They exist! These can provide tremendous support from women who have already made the transition.
6. FAIL TO ANTICIPATE - AND PREPARE FOR - UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES. Plan to have health and dental insurance available for your fiancé and any dependent children. Have a savings account with a little tucked away for anything unexpected, like a child falling off a bike and breaking an arm, or someone getting a toothache. This is critical. Remember that you are solely responsible for the well-being of any foreign citizen you petition.
7. FAIL TO PREPARE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR HER ARRIVAL. Educating your friends and family on the challenges international women face in the 90-Day Fiancé period is a priority you must address weeks, if not months, before her arrival. Help those closest to you understand the realities of her relocation. Tell them she may be a little shy at first and that she may not speak conversational English right away. If you have adult children you should settle any personal financial / inheritance / insurance issues before she arrives to ensure good relations. Be very sensitive that she may not feel she fits into your social circle right away. Stand by her side when others are around. Avoid putting her in awkward social situations and help others to get to know her. Once her true charm and personality come out, they will all understand perfectly why you fell in love with her in the first place.
8. FAIL TO GIVE HER ACCESS TO MONEY AND EXPECT HER TO SHOP A LITTLE. Let's face it - money matters are, at times, a hot-button issue for many couples. For all sorts of misguided reasons, guys might try to control spending by limiting a 90-Day Fiancé’s access to money. This is usually a BAD idea. Intelligent, resourceful, independent women aren't going to enjoy feeling like a kid asking for an allowance. You can help your thrifty foreign girl out by not refusing her money, rather, by helping her know where to find a good deal. Most foreign women will be all over that.
One area of confusion during fiancé visa time happens when your girl needs to buy clothing for herself or her child, especially if she is from the Former Soviet Union. Clothing in the FSU is typically very expensive. Walk into any mall and you'll find plenty of clothing stores that cater to younger, fashion-minded women on a budget. Many foreign women don't seek to spend unnecessarily but will need access to money in order to buy the things they would normally buy for themselves or their children on a weekly basis. Be sure to allow for this!
9. FAIL TO GET THOSE DOCUMENTS READY! One of the worst things you can do to your new foreign bride is to use her Adjustment of Status application as a bargaining chip for things you want. Once the two of you are married you will need to submit a separate set of forms to adjust her status with the USCIS. The law allows you some time to submit the paperwork, which will eventually allow her to work, drive, get a social security number, and travel legally back home. These are the documents that lead to her first Green Card. Men sometimes make the incredibly BAD mistake of stalling to send those critical documents in and sometimes they make the HUGE, COLOSSALLY DUMB mistake of threatening not to send them at all when a girl has a bad day. There are a whole host of reasons why you don't want to manipulate your marriage with threats to not submit her Adjustment of Status documents - not the least of which is - IT'S ILLEGAL. Courts can also see it as a form of spousal abuse. You’ll probably lose all respect your foreign girl has for you as she sees herself completely at your mercy. Foreign women NEVER forgive any attempt to manipulate or control them. Remember, guys - foreign women come here for LOVE! They literally redefined their whole lives for LOVE! They do NOT come to be treated here by us as their native men could have treated them back home. In fact, there is something particularly offensive about that. It's something they don't expect from us so when we treat them as their native men might - they feel tricked and betrayed. Our foreign women, like anyone else, would like to have the same rights and privileges here that they had in their previous country, like working, banking, driving, traveling, etc. It is our responsibility to provide for those things. Believe me, guys, pour all the respect, love and nurturing support you can at your girl and her child and you will get something powerful, passionate and rare in return!
10. FAIL TO OFFER A REASONABLE PRENUP. TLC’s 90-Day Fiancé couples are mostly young. We'll have to wait and see if the subject of prenuptial agreements is introduced. Prenups are a sensitive subject for many international couples. Premarital contracts are often not popular in other countries or not enforced and women from some countries will give little consideration to them prior to the 90-Day Fiancé period. Guys usually make the mistake of introducing the idea at the last moment, giving ladies a minimal chance to understand the typically unbalanced, one-sided document in front of them. Men who feel they have assets to protect are entitled to protect them of course, but throwing an War and Peace sized prenup in front of your 90-Day Fiancé at the last minute will only cause confusion and hurt - not what you want weeks before you stand at the alter together.
Attorneys will advise you to offer a prenup that is balanced; taking her needs into consideration should things not work out. If she has a child, the child's needs must be considered. You will need to produce a copy of the prenup in her native language. It might be a good idea to have her own attorney consult her. To do otherwise risks having your prenup not stand up in court if you ever have to exercise it. I suggest you bring the topic up way in advance, do it gently, and offer it as an agreement you both will enter into together. Tell her you recognize the great change she is going to undergo to be your wife and live with you here in America and tell her you want her to feel confident and in control about her life here at all times. I have seen sensible, considerate prenups strengthen a relationship. I've also seen ridiculous "you will never grow your hair more than an inch without my written consent" prenups that only led to the end of the relationship. 99% of guys applying for a 90-Day Fiancé Visa are nice guys who only want to secure their future with a beautiful foreign girl they can't live without. The occasional knucklehead usually ends up alone and does little more than provide campfire stories for the rest of us.
There you have it, lads! 10 Ways to Make Your 90-Day Fiancé Completely Miserable and probably regret the day she ever met you. OR - 10 opportunities for you to embrace to make your fiancé’s transition to life in America as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Here's a bonus number 11 mistake:
11. FAIL TO READ MY BOOK, Foreign Bride 101: A How-To For Nice Guys! It's loaded with more candid advice on welcoming your girl and her child home!
Get more helpful advice about your 90-Day Fiancé by calling the author, Bud Patterson at (800) 576-3367 ext. 204, M-F 9-5 PST.