I often receive media requests about American men who date Ukrainian or Russian women. Why do Ukrainian women strive to marry Americans? A TV researcher from the ABC production team wanted to know in preparing for her talk show one day.
I have been telling reporters my answer for 15 years. My first interview to Cosmopolitan was in 1999, but somehow it seems that the answer to this question is still not crystal clear, or maybe my version doesn’t fit the official interpretation. So, allow me to put it concisely once again, circa 2015.
Why Ukrainian, Russian, or post USSR women desire to marry foreign men
The short answer: Because they are indoctrinated that they NEED a husband to be happy, and they cannot find a husband at home.
The whole cultural notion in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is: A woman’s happiness is in her family. She is not supposed to feel fulfilled making a career or pursuing her creative passions, but only once she is married with children. Politically, this approach allows the male minority to keep the female majority under control, restricting respectable women’s interests to household duties and self-maintenance (keeping themselves looking beautiful for their husbands). Females are underrepresented in governing bodies, with male chauvinism being an officially acceptable social attitude.
Couple: Erik and Victoria (USA & Ukraine)
Single women are constantly told by people around them that they should find a husband. Even if they do not want one, they are relentlessly pointed out that their social value is low because they haven’t managed to snag a man.
• By the age of 22 a woman is considered deficient if she is not married.
• By the age of 25 a woman giving birth to her first child is considered “an old mother” in the official medical terms.
• By the age of 30 a woman is considered a spinster.
The cultural and social standard for women in Russia and Ukraine is to find a man to marry, and then bear children and take care of her family. A man is expected to provide for the family. Even if a woman is educated and has a great career, she feels deficient not having a husband, as she is living in a society that looks down upon unmarried women over a certain age. Women are taught that anything goes to get a husband, and many believe that they have to hide their intelligence, talents, and abilities, and try not to earn too much money, or they will not find a husband or won’t be able to keep one, because he will feel insecure if she is smarter or earns more money than him.
In a way, marriage to a foreigner is a step to a greater freedom, which allows a Russian or Ukrainian woman to escape this restrictive social structure and develop her abilities and talents, even though her primary motivation in seeking a partner abroad is to realize herself as a wife and a mother, and not to build a professional career.
How demographics contribute to the situation
Demographically, from about the age of 30 there are more women than men. Total males to females ratio is 86/100 in Russia and 85/100 in Ukraine. You don’t need to be an expert to see why it’s hard for a woman who hasn’t found a partner by the age of 30 to get married.
Couple: Damon and Vika (USA & Ukraine)
Early deaths in males are the major reason for significant demographic imbalances. At birth there are 106/100 males to females both in Russia and Ukraine. (See Ratio of males to females by country, Wikipedia)
One of the prevalent reasons of early deaths in men is alcohol abuse, causing fatal accidents and health issues. An average life expectancy is only 62 years for Russian males, and 63 years for Ukrainian males.
• in Australia life expectancy for males is 81 years, nearly 20 years or 30% longer
• in the USA males live on average 76 years, which is 14 years or 23% longer
• in UK a man is likely to reach the age of 79, 17 years or 27% longer
(See Life expectancy by country)
Compared to figures from 10 years ago, life expectancy in males decreased in both Russia and Ukraine, and the overall sex ratio imbalances increased. It’s not getting easier for Russian and Ukrainian women to fulfil their Destiny.
What marriage means for women from Russia and Ukraine
The reason why Slavic ladies seek to marry men from other countries is the same as for western females: to be together in sickness and health, love and cherish, care for each other. The preferred notion in Eastern Europe is still for a lifetime marriage, and divorce is considered a failure.
However, the meaning of marriage for a woman is not only partnership but also gathering a respectable social status. A married lady will value herself higher than her unmarried friends, because she managed to get a man to commit to her. An unmarried woman over 25 is looked down upon, as she was unable to find a man who would put a ring on her finger. In a way, women are brainwashed that it is their purpose in life to find a husband.
Couple: Jerad and Ekaterina (USA & Russia)
A woman commented on my Russian blog: “Everyone knows what the meaning of life is. For women it’s mostly their family and children, and who doesn’t have them, then it’s men and work. For men it‘s work and women. That‘s it. Simple and clear.”
Another lady wrote:
“I believe that the meaning of life is family. A woman should find a worthy husband and give birth to a child. And all her life she should look after her children… A woman is a woman for a reason, so that others love her and she is loved. And even though some may say it means the same, but that’s exactly how it is.”
Another young woman chimed in:
“The meaning of life, as I see it. To give birth to a child, to find a beloved man and live with him happily for the rest of my life.”
Why Russian and Ukrainian ladies don’t want to marry men from their own countries
They do. Russian and Ukrainian girls have relationships and marry local guys every day of the week. However, some women, due to reasons of personal nature (involvement in studies or career, high requirements, insecurities, poor communication skills etc.) are unable to find a man to get married. As they mature, the demographical profile of their age group changes, and women outnumber men, making it difficult for single females to find a partner for a committed relationship.
Couple: Simon and Tatsiana (Australia & Belarus)
Russian and Ukrainian women decide to join international dating sites only when they have run out of options at home. Very few people ever have a dream, “I only want to marry a foreigner.” They date at home, aren’t successful in finding a lasting relationship that could potentially lead to a marriage, and then they look around and try other options, which they believe could give them what they want — a good husband.
After reaching the age of 25 a single woman becomes rather desperate to get married. Many girls who hastily jumped into marriage at 18-20, get divorced within 1-5 years, and often left to bring up a child on their own. Father’s participation in kids’ upbringing is usually limited to paying alimonies and rare visits. Sharing custody is a foreign idea for Russians and Ukrainians, and children usually live with their mothers. A woman with a child is considered “damaged goods”, and has fewer chances of remarrying.
What makes foreigners attractive to Slavic ladies
The common notion to believe that Russian or Ukrainian women only marry western men to immigrate is totally wrong. If this was true, foreign men wouldn’t need to make several trips to Ukraine trying to find a bride; ladies would take any foreigner and wed on the spot. But it’s not so.
Truth is, living in a better country does make western men more attractive to Slavic ladies, but only because foreign guys have the traits that Ukrainian and Russian women value in their partners: fidelity, ability to provide for a family, a respectful attitude towards women. However, girls also have other requirements such as age difference, education, desire to have children in a marriage, and others.
The major difference here is the level of requirements. Just like with average salaries, what you consider basic in your country, may be “a dream come true” for someone in Ukraine or Russia.
• Australia’s minimum salary for casual employees is $16.87/hour, plus 9.5% pension fund contribution by the employer on top of that, effectively $18.47/hour.
• Ukraine’s government employees earn today $200/month. That’s less than the lowest paid Australian employee will earn in 3 days.
Couple: Martin and Elena (Canada & Russia)
• Most western men don’t cheat on their wives. Most Russian and Ukrainian men cheat on their wives regularly or from time to time. It’s a husband who never cheated on his wife who is extraordinary.
• A woman who takes care of the household without any help from her husband is rare in western countries, but it is considered quite normal in Russia and Ukraine.
• Most men in Russia and Ukraine abuse alcohol, which is one of primary causes of early deaths in males. While it’s a problem in other countries as well, the scale of it differs dramatically.
• Domestic violence is a huge issue in post-USSR countries. Only in Russia 14 thousand women die every year due to injuries inflicted by their partners or family members. Police prefer to stay away from family disputes, and there is no system of protection orders and quick actions on acts of domestic violence. Most Russian and Ukrainian women either suffered themselves from gender violence, or know someone who is in an abusive relationship. Cultural norms encourage controlling behaviours in men. For example, the vast majority or Russian and Ukrainian women see jealousy as a sign that their partners really love them, and believe that a man who wouldn’t take “No” for an answer is genuinely attracted to them.
If you think of living conditions and social norms for a woman in Russia/Ukraine, western women lived like this in 1950’s. As American and European women had fewer rights back then, Russian and Ukrainian women in today’s societies are brought up to bow to men, even though on paper they are equal.
Couple: Marcus and Oksana (USA & Russia)
Although people in Eastern European countries have all the modern gadgets, computers, mobile phones, unlimited Internet etc., most of them live in small apartments and use public transportation to get to work. The recent economic crisis where both Russian rouble and Ukrainian hryvnia lost 1/2 of their value, only made the situation worse. Especially, with price hikes in all sectors, and family incomes remaining the same. Current salaries of Ukrainian government employees are only $200-300/month.
In this situation, where a single woman’s biggest concern is to find a “worthy” husband, a candidate from a western country with a yearly income of $30,000 looks like a prince on a white horse.
• He can provide stability for a future family, which most Ukrainian candidates cannot.
• Less aggressive and more polite in general.
• He is ready to get married, while most local candidates prefer simply to live together.
• He doesn’t think she is too old if she is 25-30, and doesn’t see her children as a problem.
• He doesn’t abuse alcohol.
Is it any wonder he seems amazing to Russian and Ukrainian women, no matter how he looks? As long as he is of an appropriate age group, he is likely to be accepted.