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My girlfriend isn't a citizen of the US and I am. We've also have only been dating for 4 months.

So when we first started dating she said that if I wasn't ready for commitment in the range of 1-3 years, then we should reconsider continuing our relationship. She laid out her reasons, with the main one being she needs a green card, but also most of her friends/family are married already. We're in our late 20s and in her culture women are typically married before that age. My own thinking was that 1 year seemed too soon, but 2-3 is reasonable if we're happy in our relationship. I told her that I can't predict the future, but if we're happy then I don't see why we couldn't get married.

After 3 months together (1 month ago) she pressured me to move in together. It came down to an ultimatum of we live together or we break up. I really liked her (loved?) so I caved. In my mind the worst that would happen was we break up and she moves back out.

So recently, she's been hearing about all types of family issues back home and she brought up marriage to me. She knows I think it's WAY too soon so she began begging me to marry her. From what she said, she wants to become a citizen and be a pathway for other relatives to come to the US. Her begging went as far as offering to pay me. Each month, I donate $100 to a foreign charity that I strongly believe in. She brought that up and said that "why can't I help her if I'm willing to help those people?" We argued a lot, but are now in equilibrium again. She told me that by helping her I'm helping her entire family and the younger generation.

As strange as it sounds, I do believe she cares about me, but I also think she needs to think of her family. Everything she says tears at my soul and makes me feel horrible. I want to help, but I know deep down that this isn't what I should do.

I want to lay out reasons why this is a bad idea. Here is what I want to say:

  • Both of us could get in severe trouble. Even if we "love" each other, the US is going to be extremely suspicious of a marriage after only knowing each other for less than a year.

  • I'll be required to support her for at least 10 years. Even if she doesn't sue me for support, the government could if she ever goes on unemployment.

  • I could lose half of everything in a divorce, even with a prenup because I've heard a lot of times those aren't enforceable.

  • A wedding, ring, etc are all expensive. She already mentioned we don't need this, but it's going to look even more suspicious if we don't have any of it.

  • We just don't know each other well enough. So while I believe I love her, any marriage at this point is fraud even if no money is involved.

  • My friends are going to think I'm "crazy" and probably assume there are other motives (which there are of course). They already thought I was crazy to move in together so soon.

  • I have other issues that I also need to worry about, such as my dad's failing health.

How can I lay out my reasons to her without reading them off like cold facts?

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    I'm a little bit confused. How much of your discussions revolve around your relationship and its readiness for a stronger commitment, and how much around more mechanical concerns (like making it easier for her to become a citizen and bring her relatives to the country)? If it's a "real" marriage, I don't see why seeming suspicious to INS would matter. Your concerns seem unevenly split between concern over a situation you would not be in (assuming it's not a green card marriage) and an aversion to marriage in general. What are her immigration prospects without a citizen-spouse? – Upper_Case Mar 11 at 15:12
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Appeal to emotions

Maybe the first thing I would recommend would be to stay really grounded on how you feel. To make it OK for you not to want a marriage at this moment of your life. The more aligned you are with your decision, the more sincere (and convincing) you can be, and the more you can avoid hurting her, because this is not about her, it's about how you feel and you being honest to yourself.

While "cold" facts can be very overwhelming, they are not the core of your decision not to marry now.

The problem is not that it's too soon for a cultural standard but that you feel it's too soon for you.

Below the fear of what everybody thinks (including the government), there is the fear of the marriage not working.

With statements like

So while I believe I love her (...)

and

I could lose half of everything in a divorce (...)

you expose that you just don't feel ready to commit at that level. And that's perfectly OK.

Explain how you feel, what you want from the relationship right now, how the pressure is making you ponder whether to continue or not, and make clear that it's not lack of caring for her. I would avoid mentioning money, legal consequences and other people judgements, because while you have to consider them, they are not that relevant to the root of your decision and would give space for the conversation to deviate somewhere you don't want to go now.

I would go with something like:

I deeply care for you and I feel something real. Honoring my feelings for you, I refuse to make promises I can't keep.

I wish that the right thing for me and the right thing for you would be the same, but if our priorities are too different we need to either balance them or to go separate ways. I am being honest with myself and as much as it pains me to hurt you, I will never do anything that I don't feel adequate for me. I am deciding to respect my own process to be ready because when I marry, I want it to be a slow-growing and shared excitement, not a rushed pact.

I would like to continue the relationship and support you in all the ways that I can, let the love grow by itself at its own pace. I believe that you feel something real for me too and I ask you to please understand that the pressure we would acquire would be too much for a 4 month relationship.

  • I like your approach, but I believe in her mind if I say "no", I'm making her choose between her family and myself. She believes that she needs to get married to save her family and that's what pains me and makes me feel selfish even though I don't logically believe I'm being selfish. – Joe Mar 11 at 15:52
  • @Joe are you able to contact a charity that aims to support people from her family's country? That might make it less her family or you – BKlassen Mar 11 at 15:58
  • @BKlassen I didn't think of that, but I'll look into it. I may also suggest helping her send money home because by my country's standards her family is very poor. However, I think she will most likely say that my suggestions are not enough. – Joe Mar 11 at 16:04
  • @Joe, perhaps you can lay out a set of options that do not include marriage and do not compromise your posture like helping her find a better job or supporting her to visit her country more often. – Aurinxki Mar 11 at 16:15
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    @Joe If her initial visa has expired, unless she has a pending application for an extension, then to me that means she is currently overstaying illegally. I'm sure you understand the visa situation better than me, but like I said, I would just be cautious. From an outsider it looks like someone with a questionable immigration status found someone sympathetic (you) who they might be able to pressure into a green-card wedding. – David K Mar 11 at 20:02

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