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Dating Advice # 178: Green Card Marriage

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

She's ready to try anything, just to add the prefix 'Mrs.'

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have never been married. I am pretty much on my last straw of the dating scene. I have no problem attracting men. It just seems they are always the wrong one with many problems, or they’re not willing to commit to marriage. It isn't always easy for me to travel to meet a date, and many men do not want to bother with the hassle of traveling to meet me.

Anyway, I have the chance to enter into a green card marriage. I have had this type of proposition before, but declined, as I hoped for a real marriage someday. Well, the someday has never come and I am sick of saying I have never been married. It would also be a big financial help at this time. I can at least die saying I have been married, even if it is not a real marriage.

Is this a crazy idea, or is it a reasonable attempt for a woman my age?


Dear Allison,

We are truly sorry that you are in so much pain that you are about to give up hope of ever having a real marriage. We don't think that this green card marriage is going to do anything more than allow you to use the prefix "Mrs." before your name. It won't be a solution to your financial difficulties -- it can even cause financial problems down the road if your "husband" tries to get a share of your assets when you divorce. And even though you will be able to use a label that tells the world you are married, the fact that inside you know the truth can cause you more emotional pain than you are now experiencing.

We personally know four individuals who entered into green card marriages. Three of the relationships were so difficult that both parties regretted their actions. One of the couples actually had a relatively happy life together for several years.

More than discouraging you from getting involved in a scheme that is legally and emotionally troublesome, we'd like to discourage you from giving up. Yes, it is harder for women in their 40s to find suitable marriage partners. We know how dejected you are after years of unsuccessful dating. However, we have worked with many older singles who were able to discover reasons they did not succeed in the past. They changed their outlook and their style of dating. And they got married -- to real partners.

It sounds like one of the reasons you've had trouble with men in the past is that you've been attracting -- and perhaps even been attracted to -- men who are emotionally unavailable or afraid of commitment. In addition, it may be possible that you have been projecting an air of desperation that has turned off some potential partners. We sense this because you mentioned being approached about green card marriages a few times in the past. Is it possible that other people have picked up on certain cues you've projected and have made these offers to you?

Wouldn't it be better to gain an understanding of the reasons why you've had difficulties, and address them? Then you can go on to have a successful courtship that leads to marriage. A goal-oriented therapist should be able to help you do this.

In addition, there are a number of books that women in their 30s and 40s have found to be very helpful. Rachel Greenwald's Finding a Husband After Thirty-Five has excellent pointers about networking, which is the key for women in your age group finding a match. Myra Kaplan has written Finding a Keeper, which uses a different approach for women 35 and older. And Shaya Ostrov's The Inner Circle has methods for turning your dating history around.

We hope that you'll decide against going along with a fictitious marriage, and work instead at identifying what has been impeding your success, eliminating it as a barrier, and adopting dating practices that will lead you to build a lasting life with the man who's truly right for you.

Rosie & Sherry


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