I Was Once A "90-Day Fiancée"

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Driving around still causes me anxiety especially when it means going to unfamiliar places or driving through freeways. I still get overwhelmed with the serving size of dishes at restaurants, and I do get particularly shocked at the drink sizes. If memory serves me right, the small soda here in the U.S. when we go to fast food places is the equivalent of a large one in the Philippines (at least, it was when I last visited around six years ago).

Don't even get me started with even more serious things such as filling out your tax forms, buying a home, etc. I still struggle so much with a lot of the financial side of things and it's embarrassing. Not only did I not have to do much of that by myself when I was in the Philippines, the government and financial systems are of course also quite different. Different societies, different norms.It's just a fact of life and one that any migrant has to seriously deal with.

The Foreigner and the Significant Others

Another thing that draws me to the TLC show is that it makes me wonder how different it would have been for me, had I ended up in Britain. Would I have found it even harder to fit in and be accepted by my ex's family and friends, because I'm of a different race? Would they have also assumed that I only married for money or a visa, a "better" life abroad, just because it was a stereotype? Would they have maybe even labeled me a mail-order bride? These are the things that the women on the show are dealing with.

I find it so offensive that most of the families and friends of the men featured on the show just easily give in to their fears that the marriage would be a sham; that the foreign women are only in it for a chance to live in the United States. I know these fears are rooted in reality. Yes, they do happen. But I suppose there's an element of race inequality that I find so strongly implied in their protestations. Some of the women struggle with the language. Most, if not all of them, appear to be economically disadvantaged compared with the men they are engaged to.

Though all these factors (and others) probably come into play, what I feel as the strongest influence to the stigma directed at these brides-to-be is the fact that they are foreign, they are different, and therefore the unknowns are further multiplied.

Any marriage is a coming together of strangers, if you think about it. It's even further complicated when it involves two strangers from two different races and cultures. I think it would be interesting if the television show featured the women's families' sides of their stories, or how the women dealt with their families and friends after they revealed their future plans. I bet they are just as apprehensive as the men's families and I know this because I lived through it, especially with my ex.

He's not Filipino, and what made it "worse" was that we met online. It was bad enough that they (my family and friends) didn't know who he was; they also questioned the authenticity of our relationship. When they finally met him, somehow it alleviated some of their apprehension. At least then they knew he wasn't some kind of Mr. Snuffleupagus, either a figment of my imagination or someone fake. But the sadness over my leaving the country and anxieties over how my life would be like abroad, alone and alienated from everything familiar, was still there.

A lot of people who knew about my engagement also wondered if it would or could work out given the cultural differences. At the time, I spent an insane amount of energy trying to defend my relationship to others, trying to justify my choices and assure them that I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Though this person and I didn't end up together, in a way our redeeming truth is that we've managed to remain very good friends. And though much of our relationship is/ was virtual (we only spent almost five days together physically, face-to-face), our friendship remains one of the most real and lasting ones I have to this day.

From Someone Who's Been There and Still Here

I don't know how the series 90 Day Fiance will end. I don't know if some of the couples will end up parting ways, realizing that the differences are insurmountable. I do know that I'm rooting for love, being the hopeless romantic that I am. I know better than to say that the challenges these couples are facing are easy or can just go away over time. However, I will say and hope that they believe enough in love and commitment, and understand how those two need to go together. It's not just a feeling. It's constant and never-ending effort. The men on the show need to be supportive and patient like they've never been before or thought possible. The women are giving up so much, practically their entire lives, and they deserve someone who is willing to ease them through the transition and make it as painless as possible.


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