Little Known Thai – US Annulment Option
By Lone Star
In retrospect, I can't think of anything as vital to first-time visitors to LOL, as reading your column and readers' submissions…before we gullible Yankee cowboys set foot on Thai soil, where inevitably we will fall in love, and fall even further by getting ourselves unexpectedly but good and tangled up in a spider's web of expensive emotional and financial sticky situations, from which we will have a very difficult time of extricating themselves–albeit always broken hearted, cash poor, but probably a lot wiser from our Thai love affairs &/or marriages.
I am a long, tall Texan in my late twenties. I used to commiserate at my job with a married lady originally from Chiang Mai who worked in Austin with me. During our times of long talks, I was just recovering from a bad year in which my losses included a lot of my former anchors in life–some friends, steady job, and most importantly my girlfriend—yes, it was a mighty drought of a year. During this period of recovery my acquaintance from Chiang Mai would continually say how much better (more honest, more satisfied in love) the young women were in her homeland of Northern Thailand. I would always laugh and say how I wished she had a single sister! I told her that if she did, I would be over there in a blink–with bells on. Well, as it turns out–she did have a cousin, who had recently split with her long time Thai boyfriend. Did I want a pen-pal? Hmmmm
Well, I got cold feet–when I started tallying the problems of a long-distance relationship: language barriers, distance, cultural chasms–the obstacles seemed immense. Eventually however, with the help of a translation service, her cousin, whom I will call Tabi, and I began to correspond. She did seem a perfect little Thai college girl, whom I began to fantasize about rescuing from poverty and the philandering Thai men she wrote of wanting to avoid ever again—so in my primetime scenario my Thai Cinderella and her faithful Lone Star could live happily ever after, riding into the sunset of love.
After many months of writing, and sending photos, and occasional phone minutes, I finally went to meet her. It seemed to be love at first sight. Although our time together was short, she fulfilled all my expectations. She was "different" than many of the girls I met there. Tabi had serious goals–like her dream of setting up her own graphic design firm. She worked like a servant to take care of all her family's needs plus go to school and work nights in a restaurant.
We didn't see all that much of each other alone there in Chiang Mai, as she had so many family, school and work obligations. Language was also a barrier. But, surprising myself and my family, before I flew away, I signed marriage papers at the amphur (I had no idea what I was signing–which seemed to be just the prelims for a wedding later on with Buddhist priests and so forth). Anyway, we did it and we were an impending married couple, destined to wait out the visa process to finish the dream we had started–(or maybe not?)
A few months into our Visa Waiting Agony, while she was studying English on my dime, her letters seemed to change. The amount I was sending her had become inadequate—although she had no new expenses. She would also seem to develop a deaf ear when I would ask her to be more frugal, so that I could save for our honeymoon and her trip to Texas. As soon as she spent money frivolously, against my implicit instructions not to, she would start try the process of trying to cajole from me yet more money to replace her "allowance" which went to impress friends and family with conspicuous consumption items.
Even this wheedling wouldn't have been so bad, but then she got nasty about it. Whenever I balked at increasing her allowance (she still had her job, same apartment, nothing changed financially) she became a vixen, but I knew if I caved every time she overspent, and demanded replenishments, then it would become a habit.
However, although the overspending was her fault, She started acting as if I were a villain, she started name calling, threatening to become a bargirl if I continued to "starve" her. Any time I relented, she again became a pussy cat—until the next time for her allowance, and the process would begin all over again. In my mind's eye I would see her going to Target or Old Navy and spending all our grocery money on impulse buy items. Used to being dictated to by her family, and dutifully trotting home to give them all her tips each night, despite their not really needing it—I also wondered how long she would be happy being a Thai Cowgirl in Texas, miles away from all her habit patterns and preferred temperatures (social and Celsius.)
My relationship which before my trip, had consisted of emailed Sweet Nothings, which it seemed a little premature for her to be sending before meeting me in the flesh…now weren't there at all, except as sign offs to long letters in which the entire context dealt with her expenses, and money this and money that…I, Me, My….with no mention of Texas, Me, or Marriage…as if we were co-investors in the Stock Market of my Wallet.
As the tenure of our separation grew longer, hearts are suppose to grow fonder. The opposite was happening in her case. She didn't worry about my faithfulness to her or our bond, but whether the walking ATM was online and ready to supply her current and future needs. Our agreement about the wedding ceremony flew out the window…costs had exponentially increased, as well as the threat that if I didn't provide her new demands then it was a No Go — she would take me to the cleaners in divorce court.
It was around this time that I started looking for answers on the internet…. When I described my situation, old hands in the game, told me in no uncertain terms that I had been conned, bamboozled, tricked…any name for a sucker was applied to me plus the advice Never to Return to Thailand, or I might lose more than I thought was possible—even loss of life was suggested for her "loss of face" — although No One seemed to even know about the last-minute paper-signing. I read one entire year of Stickman's Reader Submittals, with a lump in my throat. Was my little college co-ed actually a marriage scammer? I compared notes: yes, her major was accounting; yes, she had tattoos; yes, she wore too much makeup because she claimed she was too dark-skinned; yes, the restaurant she worked in didn't serve food just booze; yes, she lied about her whereabouts and who withs; yes, she was full of stories about stupid farangs which her friends gleefully bested…so on, and so on. And, yes, like a million other suckers, I kept making excuses. I thought some evil translator was writing those vituperous letter which had started coming in place of the sweet letters; yes, I kept thinking if I got her to Texas she would revert to the lovable girl I had originally fallen for. But no…she seemed further and further away from thinking about Texas in her future—only manna from her Texan. I had always told her, from the git-go that I wasn't one of those oil-rich Texans. I wasn't ever, nor would I ever be the sex tourist type. I am a plumb dyed-in-the-wool traditional, Christian, love-honor-and respect type of husband and I would have wanted that reciprocated. I hadn't ever given a second thought to Thailand before meeting her cousin, and certainly never even knew it had the reputation of being the brothel of Europe. My mind doesn't even go in those channels.
Well, we got to the stage where we decided to call it quits. Then I was introduced to the idea that I would have to leave the Lone Star State to return to LOL to free us both up again. I frankly didn't trust this scenario as I'd read columns about retribution being hammered on farangs from jealous boyfriends, et al… No longer quite the dupe, yet from all the many many embassy and law firms I contacted, no one seemed to see another option. They do a little double talk in the Thai lawyers' sites, where they seem to insist that both parties be present for an uncontested divorce or annulment. I also read about how one might be thrown into the slammer, assessed fees, and never be able to leave the country until they were paid. Contraband might be "planted" on you, and your only option would be to come up with a bribe fast. I seemed to be in a Catch 22, and no one from the columns or forums seemed to have any answers except to return to LOL….
Finally however, I got ahold of a Texas legislator and questioned this procedure. He had an inside number for the main US Thai Embassy (instead of all those answering machines.) To my great surprise, when the right person was contacted, it seemed that yes, annulment papers could be mailed from the Embassy to me, from me to Tabi, signed by her at an Amphur, then mailed back to me, wherein I would take them to the Thai Embassy in the states which holds jurisdiction over my state, and there I could legally signed these papers and Voila…a legal non-contested divorce/annulment which would be legal in both countries.
So, that last bit is the info I wanted to impart to anyone who needs to extricate their broken hearts legally….the papers can be effected long distance from the two parties' embassies. Since it took me about a month's worth of investigation to find this out, I pass it along in hopes that it will help some other poor sucker like I was.
What do I now think of the chances of a Thai-US union making the grade long-term? I think the best chance would be if you met the Thai person in the States, and they liked our country and wanted to stay. As a student or business person in the US, the Thai national would have assimilated or accepted a lot of our values. Then I think a pre-nup which covers all the bases is de rigeur. With a US education or business ties, one would know that the Thai person could "make it" economically in this country. Women have almost equal-footing here, and few want to be dependent on a husband. A union of equals seems to me to be the only ones which stand a chance of enduring. I think Similar Values are the keystone to a successful marriage. I can understand why many Thais dislike Westerners, from the ones they meet who are On the Prowl. Just as Thais write to these submittals that most Westerners will Never even get a chance to meet the better Thai women or men…likewise, in general, I don't think most Thais Ever get a chance to meet the better Westerners. The best people of any culture share similar enduring spiritual and cultural fundamentals, fundamentals–which isn't abbreviated as devil-may-care Fun.
Some good info here about the annulment. I would have been furious about the cousin introducing you to someone who worked in "one of those types of restaurants".