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Trouble at Home ?

You can pick up almost any magazine that carries ads for international introduction services and you will find quite a few advertisements for companies specializing in various Asian countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Why the demand?

I've talked with hundreds of men who were clients of my own company, or some whom I simply met on the street in Latin America, or who participated in T.L.C. tours, and the now predictable answer to my question about why they prefer Latin women is that they simply cannot tolerate the American woman's behavior and attitude anymore, and that they don't have these problems with Latin women. I believe that there is a lot of truth to this, but I also suspect that it is a simple answer to a much more complex issue.

Lets deal with that particular issue for a moment. There really have been some major shake-ups in American family structure and sex role behavior during the last 30 years. The stable family of the 1950's largely became a relic of the past as American women entered the job market and found that they could be economically independent and responsible for themselves and not have to depend on a man to take care of those things. The wide-spread women's liberation movement of the 1980's demanded a change in men's behavior at home, at work, in the street, and everywhere else that men and women had contact with each other. Men had to step back, take a deep collective breath, and try to figure out what to do next.

Different men have dealt with the situation in different ways. Most have adapted a great deal, and many are, in fact, finding that not having to consistently play the traditional male role a bit of a relief. I wonder, though, if perhaps the baby wasn't accidentally dumped along with the bath water as the women's liberation movement changed the patterns of relationships between the sexes. Those men who have been willing to discuss with me the issue of American women, beyond a superficial level, generally express a kind of sadness that comes from missing something important in life; as if the hopes they had nourished earlier for intimacy, sharing, and building a future with someone they could depend upon, had been dashed with no chance of recovery.

About the Men

A Woman's Day article published in 1984 reported the results of a sociological study conducted with some 250 men who had utilized an Asian introduction service to attempt to locate a wife. The average age was 37, the majority had at least two years of college, they had been married at least once, most were white, and 63% earned over $20,000 (1983 dollars) per year. It would have been simple enough to have kept my own records, because quite a lot of this information was provided on my application forms. But I didn't, and I no longer have the forms. The above describes fairly well the clients I did have, however, and I think also fairly closely fits the general profile of T.L.C. clients that participate in tours. I would estimate, however, that the average age is a bit higher, probably closer to 40-45. Clients have ranged from their early twenties to mid-sixties, and most are successful in locating mates if they make the effort to do so.

Aside from the fact that men who are looking for a Latin American wife feel pretty empty inside when they contemplate life with an American woman, what are the other motivations?

* A YOUNGER PRETTIER WOMAN Bruce and I have sat around and discussed this issue many times, and it has also been a topic of discussion with a number of clients. The truth is that Latin women are frequently willing to marry a man 10 to 30 years older than she is. And, other than in Latin America or Asia, where can a man marry a beautiful latin woman that many years younger than he? The immediate temptation is to suggest that a young woman is looking to an older man for financial security (please see next section), but there really is a lot more to it than that. Maturity is highly respected in Latin America, and a latin woman realizes that she can have a more stable marriage with a mature man. Most of my applications from the ladies stressed their desire for a stable and mature man.

[Do not assume that I am recommending a wide age spread. I am not. You will, as you read further, discover that I recommend common sense].

*MARRIAGE STABILITY The United States has an extraordinarily high divorce rate: approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce (higher in some areas and lower in others). It's not only expensive, but it is bad for the morale. I do not know what the divorce rate in Latin America is as a whole, but it's a lot less than that, and not only because of the strength of the Catholic Church. Marriages between Latin women and North American men have the low divorce rate of only about 12%. That's a major improvement. Latin women are reared to see marriage as a permanent thing, and they will go to great lengths to see that the bonds remain strong. Interestingly enough, by the time an introduction service's clients get to them, the men are ready for a stable marriage, too. They have either been through a divorce or two or have enough mature insight to know that a growing and lasting marriage is the only kind of marriage worth having.

*MARITAL FIDELITY Over the years I have read a number of surveys published by both women's and men's magazines showing the percentages of married women who have had affairs during their marriage. These include Woman's Day, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, and a number of others. The percentages of infidelity among American Women ranged from about 35% to about 60%, with the readers of the more racy magazines having a higher rate of infidelity. Several years ago I read a survey, done by a government agency, and published in a national Costa Rican newspaper. The survey reported infidelity rates between lovers, married people, by ages, etc., but the analysis comparable to those published by the American magazines showed a marital infidelity rate of 14%. And Costa Rica, incidentally, is reputed to have the most flexible moral standards regarding sexual behavior, in all of Latin America. Latin American women sincerely believe in sexual fidelity.

*TRADITIONAL ROLE BEHAVIOR Quite a few American men have had problems because their wives have chosen to work outside the home. I think that it's not generally because they want a submissive and dependent wife, but that when two married people pursue two separate careers a number of conflicts can arise, including the ever-present specter of infidelity. Most of the women that you will be meeting through an introduction service are middle-class girls and will, in all probability be employed because of the necessity of earning an income. Some will be professionals who have spent a number of years preparing for their careers. In general, though, the absolutely most important goal for a Latin woman is to have a husband, family, and her own home. I have yet to receive an application that didn't express this ultimate desire. She wants to be a wife and all that is implied by the term, provided that she is treated well. If she is already involved in a professional career and wants to continue it, it will probably be considered less important than her role in the home.

About the Latin Women

Most are middle-class girls, most are in their 20's and 30's, most have never been married, and most do not have children. Those who have gone to the trouble of having a photograph made (and they are expensive in Latin America), filling out an application form and mailing it in, are specifically interested in meeting a North American man. Some very few are looking only for a pen pal or friendship, but the vast majority want a husband. Why do they want a foreign husband?

*A MORE RELIABLE HUSBAND A common theme running through applications from the latin women is that American men are considered to make better husbands, and that they are sick and tired of Latin American Don Juans who don't know the Spanish word for responsibility. The problems usually revolve around drinking and infidelity. Unfortunately, heavy weekend drinking is a favorite male pastime in Latin America, especially within the lower class, but also common in the middle class. The complaint is that money spent in bars could be better spent if used for the family. Sexual infidelity has long been part of the Latin American male's culture, who frequently have mistresses (middle and upper classes) or who visit prostitutes (lower class). Although women accepted it in the past, they never liked it, and the more modern Latin woman simply won't put up with it.

*ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL GAIN It would amount to ignoring reality if I were to say that most didn't hope to improve their situation in life. Every Latin American country is third world, and no matter how hard someone works, it is very difficult to earn enough money to make any real gains. But is there anything wrong with wanting to make some net gains in life? Don't you yourself do whatever you can to improve your situation in life? Doesn't an American woman also hope to marry well? Why, then, should it be any different with a Latin woman? The truth is that there is an economic component, but I do not believe that it is as important as other considerations.

*MORE SEXUAL EQUALITY As they are in Spain, Latin women have always been second class citizens and they still are...both at home and on the job (although this is gradually changing). Latin women don't want to be like American women, but they are aware that American men will treat them more as equals, and they do most definitely want their basic humanity to be recognized. Married Latin women are frequently confined to the home, allowed out only for shopping or to visit her relatives. Physical abuse is common. The modern Latin woman is tired of it. She wants to be respected, and she believes that the American man will respect her.

Balanced Equation

Examining the above, it doesn't require a genius to recognize that American men generally represent what the Latin women are looking for and vice-versa. This isn't to say that every Latina will be good for every American man, but the needs are there on both sides, and there seems to be an adequate supply on both sides. I hope to see more and more of you getting together. - James N. McLeod

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