In Russian Community
From Russian Bazzar
The newspapers commonly repeat the phrase "harsh immigrant
fate," a phrase which indeed has become so common that some
(especially those who have been in this country for a long time)
begin to suspect that it is pure nonsense and has no meaning at
all. Joking aside, behind the phrase are both facts and numbers.
For instance, the fact that a huge number of newly arrived families
fall apart in the first few years of immigration. On the other hand,
many victims of these divorces once again acquire new families several
years down the road. This process is a very large part of our lives,
and though the press is not so interested in it, to us it is far
more important than the recent political scandals. For commentary,
for an analysis of this processes one ought to consult a specialist.
Our correspondent talked to a psychologist specialist on
family issues and director of the Galatea dating service Larisa
And so, new citizens often divorce
One can say with satisfaction that the stream of divorces has narrowed
by this time. The same families who stuck through the tough years
will remain strong. As for the families which have fallen apart,
as sad as it is to admit it, in 80 percent of the cases the women
served as initiators of the divorce.
The man tries to hang on to his family with all his might in hopes
of using it as a jumping board from which he can rise up in his
life. For a man his family is his haven where he can always rest.
Its a home base from which he can become educated, acquire
a new vocation, with time come into his own and begin repaying his
debt to the family.
Women are less patient (though they would like to think otherwise),
and for this reason life during the first years of repatriation
for them seems hopeless. They are pursued by a fear that, being
married, they will never again build a normal life and they leave
their husbands. They leave in hopes of meeting someone in the future,
having gotten rid of the burden of their former husbands. Another
five or six years passes. The woman is on familiar terms with her
new country. The everyday reality of her new life no longer frightens
her as it did before, and she yearns to live with a person of similar
background, to talk till midnight, to eat potatoes and herring for
breakfast and read Russian books.
Could it really be true that all the women who left their
"Russian" husbands find native boyfriends?
This happens extremely rarely. Most often the women choose to rely
only on themselves. They turn into single mothers. Often the women
leave their husbands specifically for the opportunity to collect
financial and moral support from those social and federal organizations
that target single mothers and remain closed to men. Of course,
this does not make them happier or better off.
But one must admit that single mothers, the most socially-protected
category of women, often perform miracles: they get jobs and take
on a vocation, they buy houses and cars. The single mother will
deny herself clothing and makeup, but her children will get no less
from her than they would in a full-fledges family. And it is when
the financial problems are more or less taken care of that the problem
of loneliness arises.
And here the "issues" come up. The children are no longer
used to having a man in the house, but this is not the main problem.
The difficulties posed by the children are nothing compared to those
posed by the elderly parents.
There is no unhappier creature than the single 40-year-old woman
who shares an apartment with her children and her aging parents.
Here is a standard situation. The woman does not have the courage
to buy an apartment alone, so she moves in with her parents. Lets
say, together the family buys a two-bedroom apartment. That means
that one bedroom belongs to the child, the grandparents sleep in
the other, and the woman is left in the living room. She is the
breadwinner she feeds the entire family, works for up to
12 hours a day, but in order to go to sleep she must wait for the
whole family to be done watching TV. There can be no talk at all
of bringing a man into such an atmosphere.
Coincidentally, a man will fairly easily stay in the house of a
woman with children. But hell never stay in the house of a
woman with parents. A man brings a bit of something for the child
and feels all right. But he does not at all wish to run into the
older mother on the way to the bathroom, who will look him up and
down and ask, "What are you doing here?" And thats
why, when a 40-year-old woman, living with an 18-year-old son and
her 70-year-old mother comes to see me I urge her to analyze her
family situation. Does her family want her to marry? Will they be
willing to play along?
And what about the circumstances of single men?
The single man is almost always worse off than the single woman.
Even if he can find a decent job he almost never has an apartment
and quite often has no car. If a single man comes into the home
of a single woman, that home will bloom their monthly wages
will come together, the home gains a "masculine hand,"
and so on. But the woman often cannot understand how it is that
the man cannot acquire an apartment or a car on his own and rejects
him as unfit for life. In this the woman forgets that she, unlike
the man, usually receives help from the government or from her parents.
Though one must admit that in general women do usually learn the
ways of a new country better than men. The man often doesnt
even have enough money to court with style. Not to mention that
women and men often assess the same situation completely differently.
A man will often tell me that he does not spend money on a woman
whom he has just met, since he does not yet consider her to be his.
But the paradox is that unless he courts well (and let me assure
you that no one has called off courting yet) the woman will
never be his its a vicious circle.
Does the motive for divorce depend upon age?
People above 50 divorce because they simply no longer can stand
each other. Among the really young the 20-somethings
the reasons for parting are the same as in any other country on
the face of the earth: say, they have realized that they have nothing
The specific of immigration divorce comes up among middle-aged
people. Its in this bracket that women leave their men because
they feel hopeless. A woman who is 33 or 35 feels that if she does
not leave her husband immediately she will never return to normal
life. The men forget that they must go on creating a myth, that
they must always display new possibilities for the future: he must
reassure the woman that he will get a job, that theyll take
vacations abroad, etc. Women, as is well-known, love with their
One could say that you and your agency are at the fore
of the war against human loneliness.
I try to wage war on divorce as a family counselor, but my main
work is to bring together people who are alone. You could say I
am a matchmaker. Its a long-forgotten word, but today this
vocation is needed again.
But the world is a small place. Its as if everyone already
knows each other, or at least they can meet on the street. Does
this interfere with the work of a matchmaker?
I try not to put together people from small towns, or else if it
doesnt work out between them they will later feel awkward
about meeting each other. On the other hand, it is absolutely impossible
to bring together two people who live far apart. However magnificent
a young woman might be, not every man can withstand traveling an
hour and a half to spend an hour there and another hour-and-a-half
back. Thats why I think that a family service must keep as
close to the community as possible. There must be a dating service
in every neighborhood, and family counselors should simply be everywhere,
on each street like barbers.
Theres a common belief that only the most desperate
go to dating services, those who no longer harbor hopes to meet
someone on their own.
People use dating services not just for lack of good looks or other
shortcomings. Busy people of all ages, those who have no time to
be looking for liaisons or those who simply dont know where
to look. Most people also dont cut their own hair or fix their
own watches. In the same way, such a difficult task as finding a
partner for life should be entrusted to a professional.
As far as Im concerned, the most important thing is not to
go looking for a new partner but to sort out the troubles in your
own family. If this is not done in time, old problems will carry
over to a new relationship and play a destructive role. If not all
is well in your family, think about it, and analyze it honestly,
objectively seek a solution to disputed problems. Ill give
you more details on how to do this in our next session.
Translated from Russian by Katya Kumkova-Wolpert
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