Mail-order marriages, also known as brokered marriages, have become increasingly common over the past few decades. These marriages involve citizens of wealthier Western countries selecting spouses from less developed countries through matchmaking services. With the rise of online dating and international marriage brokers, connecting people across borders for marriage has never been easier.
But how often do these international arranged marriages end in divorce? Let’s take a look at the data and trends surrounding divorce rates for mail-order brides.
The divorce rate for mail-order marriages is estimated to be between 20-30%. However, the divorce rate varies significantly depending on the country of origin of the foreign spouse. Marriages involving brides from Russia and Southeast Asia tend to have lower divorce rates, while marriages involving Latin American brides have higher divorce rates.
Background on Mail-Order Marriages
Mail-order marriages involve a groom from a Western country, such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, or Australia paying a fee to an agency to connect with a prospective bride from a developing country like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, or Mexico.
The process usually involves men browsing online profiles of women provided by the marriage agency and selecting potential candidates. After some correspondence and getting to know each other, the man will typically travel to the woman’s country to meet her in person. If all goes well, they may decide to get married soon after that initial meeting.
Men who pursue mail-order brides are typically middle-aged, divorced, have limited dating opportunities in their own country, and are looking for a spouse who they feel will be more loyal and hold more traditional values. For the foreign brides, marrying a man from a Western country can provide greater financial security and a chance to emigrate for a better life.
Divorce Rates for Mail-Order Marriages
Getting exact statistics on mail-order marriage divorce rates is difficult since many of these unions are not formally tracked. However, estimates generally range from 20-30%.
One of the most comprehensive studies on the topic was conducted in 1986. The research found that couples who met through mail-order bride services had a divorce rate of about 20% after 5 years, compared to the significantly higher divorce rate of 40% for couples who meet normally in the United States.
So at least based on that early study, the divorce rate for mail-order marriages was about half that of the general population. However, a lot may have changed in the 30+ years since that data was collected.
Divorce rates for mail-order marriages can vary drastically depending on the country of origin of the foreign bride.
According to immigration statistics, marriages between American men and foreign wives from Russia and Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam tend to have lower than average divorce rates. Based on US immigration data from 1980-1985, only 4% of marriages between American men and Russian women ended in divorce.
On the other hand, marriages involving Latin American brides have significantly higher divorce rates. For example, over 40% of marriages between American men and Colombian women end in divorce within 10 years.
|Foreign Bride Origin
|Estimated Divorce Rate
|4% after 7 years
|Southeast Asia (Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam)
|Latin America (Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, etc.)
|40%+ within 10 years
The reasons for these differences are complex. It may relate to cultural differences that make adjustment to married life more difficult with Latin American brides. The more significant age gap between American grooms and Colombian brides compared to other mail-order marriages could also be a factor. The higher economic inequality between the spouses for Latin American unions may also cause higher instability.
Common Reasons for Divorce
When mail-order marriages do end in divorce, the reasons cited tend to fall into a few common categories:
Language and Cultural Barriers
Many mail-order marriages suffer from issues stemming from language barriers and significant cultural differences between spouses. Some foreign brides have little grasp of English when they arrive in the United States, Canada, or other countries. The large cultural differences also make adjustment difficult even when they learn more of the language. This can isolate foreign brides and hamper communication, leading to unhappiness and finally divorce.
Different Views on Gender Roles
Men pursuing foreign brides typically expect women with more traditional values and views on marriage and gender roles. However, foreign brides may adopt more modern egalitarian views on gender roles upon arriving in a Western country. This can lead to unmet expectations and conflicts over household responsibilities and decision-making, eventually resulting in divorce.
Some foreign brides may enter into marriage purely as a means to immigrate to a more developed country, with no real intention to remain married after obtaining permanent residency or citizenship in their new country. Once secured with immigration status, they seek divorce immediately. However, outright immigration fraud makes up a relatively small percentage of divorces.
Some mail-order marriages unfortunately end in divorce due to domestic violence. Foreign brides can be especially vulnerable to abuse due to social isolation, language barriers, lack of family support, and uncertain immigration status. However, overall domestic violence rates in mail-order marriages seem comparable to the general population rates.
Reducing Divorce Rates
There are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of divorce in mail-order marriages:
- Look for a reputable international dating and marriage agency – they should thoroughly screen female clients and have some system for matching clients based on shared interests and compatibility.
- Be realistic in expectations about things like cultural adjustment and views on gender roles. Discuss these issues early with your prospective spouse.
- Make an effort to truly get to know your prospective bride, her background, interests, and views during correspondence and ideally at least several in-person meetings before marrying.
- Consider foreign language lessons for both you and your partner to improve communication.
- Be patient and encourage your partner as she adjusts to her new life and culture.
- Ensure she has opportunities to make friends and establish a social support system separate from you.
With effort by both parties, many challenges in mail-order marriages can be overcome. Seeking help through counseling or support groups at the first signs of serious issues is also important to prevent irreparable damage to the relationship.
The limited data available suggests the overall divorce rate for mail-order marriages is around 20% to 30%, considerably lower than the 40% rate for traditional marriages in the United States. However, divorce rates can vary widely based on the foreign bride’s country of origin, with unions involving Russian and Southeast Asian brides faring better than those involving Latin American brides.
Language and cultural barriers, differing views on gender roles, immigration fraud, and domestic violence are some of the common reasons these marriages may end in divorce. However, there are steps couples can take to overcome challenges and reduce chances of divorce.
With effort to really get to know each other and patience as both partners adjust to new lives together, many mail-order marriages remain stable and long-lasting.