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Marrying A Foreigner? Tell Mom First!

Updated on September 2, 2015


In my late teens I wondered about the woman I would marry. Who would she be? There was no doubt I would marry, if I could find the right lady. But there was plenty of time to consider that at the young age of 18.

First, there was the all important matter of securing employment. In 1970, the Viet Nam war was still raging, so it was an unexpected event when I enlisted in the Army. Later, I went into the Marines. (See

I had planned on making the military a career therefore the employment problem was solved. In 1976 I received orders to Okinawa, Japan. It is there I met my wife to be. She was to be the source of many events which shaped my life… good and bad. We did what many military people do when marrying a person from a foreign country. She got a visa and passport and met me in the states where we married.

At this time I was stationed at Naval Air Station, Millington, TN, so she arrived at the Memphis International Airport. There she got her “Green Card”. There are many servicemen who discover at this point they’ve been had. The lady disappears. However, mine didn’t.

I had not told my family about my new wife, “Tommie”. It was going to be a surprise. Boy was it ever! Let me point out here my family wasn’t prejudiced. They just happened to be older and wiser than me. My folks were a career Air Force family and had been overseas several times. Therefore, they were aware of problems I hadn’t foreseen. Since, I had married without discussing it with my family. They decided to let me learn the hard way.

They knew major problems were on the horizon and were expecting phone calls asking for assistance. So, when our car broke down during our move to California after separating from the Marines we were in for a rude awakening. (See My older sister, parents and aunts and uncles refused to accept charges for my collect calls. Later, after meeting Tommie, my folks saw what I had and accepted her with open arms.

The first problem was language. Tommie could speak just enough English to get by, but was wholly inadequate in reading and writing it. This became the cause of much exasperation. Whenever I said anything to her, I had to repeat it at least three times in various ways until I found just the right words she understood to get my message across. I exaggerate not.

She refused to take any English lessons. After 21 years of this, it became so much easier just not to say anything. That led to a serious lack of communication and eventually our separation.


Another problem was her family. Naturally, she missed them. But her getting to visit them was a dilemma. We couldn’t afford it. It was about 7 years into our marriage before she was able to visit them again.

Different cultures were another source of contention. She had been raised in a different religion and, as was many of her family, extremely superstitious. They believed in ancestor worship and consulting fortune tellers. Therefore, she did things I found very odd. For instance, to keep our house safe from evil spirits, she bought 12 boxes of salt, mixed them with water and washed around all the doors and windows. At the time, there was a grave yard out behind our house.

Needless to say, these things put a strain on our marriage. But not all could be blamed on her being a foreigner. We had the common problems most other married folks have in addition.

In conclusion, anyone considering marriage to a foreigner should give it serious thought first. And don’t forget to tell your mom before you do it!


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Actually Cats, after 21 years it got too much. I left her in 1996. There were many other problems I couldn't deal with and it my health was at stake.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Well, advice well received..however, I believe in today's world, some of the difficulties you and Tommy experienced would not be so pronounced as the world has "grown much smaller." And we are all more 'worldly wise.' I am convinced that your relationship and marriage were based on a deep affection and love/attraction for one another which was, sadly, complicated by the realities of day to day living and I have no doubt you two did run into some prejudice. Nonetheless. you've come out a-ok and have lived to share the tale with us. Up Useful interesting.