The Short Version: When people decide to look outside of their geographic region for a long-term, meaningful relationship, they often start with plenty of questions. That’s where the Transpacific Marriage Agency (TMA) can help. Founder Bruce Smith has plenty of advice for Western men who want to connect with Japanese women and vice versa. Over the last 25 years, TMA has facilitated nearly 8,000 marriages, and 40% of its clients get married within the first 18 months. Bruce understands the challenges in making a long-distance relationship last and offers tips to help others find the love of their lives.
If you have a few preconceived notions of what an American man is like — or what a Japanese woman is like — you’re not alone. Bruce Smith, Founder of the Transpacific Marriage Agency (TMA), knows all about those perceptions because he helps connect men and women from opposite sides of the globe.
“People have presumptions and assumptions, and we have to educate them. When people join the agency, they’ve gotten to the point that they need to find something different than what their current environment provides, and a lot of that rests on their presumptions about what people in the other cultures are like,” he told us.
Bruce has helped facilitate relationships for 25 years and has plenty of advice for people who want to find international love. A significant part of his job is educating clients on the realities of both cultural differences and human similarities. He teaches people that relationships depend not on where people are from but on shared values and healthy communication.
That’s why he’s been responsible for nearly 8,000 marriages since founding TMA in 1994. Perhaps even more impressive is that fewer than 10 of those marriages have ended.
And the agency’s client-first policy means that TMA will tell potential members if its services aren’t right for them. Bruce understands the challenges of connecting internationally, and wants to set his clients up for success.
“There are some hurdles that people need to overcome when they’re pursuing an international relationship,” he said. “It’s hard enough when you live in the same town, but when you live halfway around the globe, speak different languages, and have different cultures and expectations, there are a lot of additional challenges.”
Getting help to overcome those cultural hurdles — as well as the legal barriers — can mean the difference between a failed relationship and a marriage that lasts a lifetime. That’s why Bruce gave us some of his tips from his years of experience in this industry.
1. Understand Your Potential Mate May Have a Different Perspective
Bruce understands the beauty and the richness that comes from the Japanese culture after having lived in Japan for many years. He’s also lived in South America, Central America, and the Middle East, so he’s familiar with many cultural norms and values around the world.
“I am interested in people, cultures, and creating structures that break down barriers between others. When you cut through all the misinformation, the same wants and desires generally drive people around the world,” he said. “Our job is to help people make that less rigid.”
When it comes to connecting Japanese women and Western men, Bruce said his team spends a lot of time helping people understand the Japanese culture while also helping Japanese women better understand the Western viewpoint.
“They’re not right or wrong, but it’s an educational process. We include information that we’ve learned over the years that drives interests of those seeking international love,” he told us.
2. Manage Expectations in Terms of Finding the “Perfect” Love
Bruce said many clients come to him with a laundry list of demands of what they want in the perfect partner. One of his top tips is to let go of those demands.
“When they finally find someone and decide to get married, only a few of those items on the list are still important. Chemistry gets involved, and there are many things they didn’t think about when they made that list,” he said. “Part of our job is to help people get real. They say they want all these things, but what they really want is a great relationship, love, and a family. Those are shared values. If you come in with ‘I want. I want. I want,’ it’s not a good formula for a relationship.”
“Part of our job is to help people get real. They say they want all these things, but what they really want is a great relationship, love, and a family.” — Bruce Smith, Founder of TMA
Clients who sign up with the Transpacific Marriage Agency do get some assurances upfront that other members of the site are legitimately looking for long-term relationships. All clients undergo a background check to ensure they’re legally available to marry another person. If a potential client is separated but not divorced, they must present a divorce certificate before they can sign up with the agency.
3. Work On Your Communication Skills So You’ll Be Understood
Bruce encourages his clients to learn good communication skills because he said they’re vital to a successful relationship. Since not all communication is verbal, Bruce also encourages people to pay attention to body language and be considerate of others.
“No one is going to marry someone without connecting and seeing if they have similar values. The key to all relationships is communication, whether verbal and non-verbal,” Bruce said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work because people are thinking of themselves rather than the other person — or ‘me’ rather than ‘we.’ Part of our service is to help people see that it’s not all about them.”
Transpacific Marriage Agency clients can browse profiles to find members who pique their interest.
Of course, communication also comes with understanding cultural differences. Thanks to movies and the media, people in both Japan and the West have ideas about each other that may not be correct. That’s why it’s all the more important to communicate clearly with each other.
“For example, Japan is a very male-dominated society, and many women think that a non-Japanese man would be more liberal and more conducive to the way I want to live my life,” Bruce said. “What they find is some truth and some falseness to that thinking. Our job is to help educate people about the reality. It’s all about relationships, communication, and shared values.”
4. Make Sure Your Finances, Career & Life are in Order
Bruce’s agency has been successful in connecting people for lifelong love by helping them overcome cultural hurdles. But clients also need to come to the agency with their personal lives in order.
“If you’re looking to marry someone who’s thousands of miles away, certain things become important quickly. First, you have to be financially stable. You don’t need a million dollars, but, if you’re unemployed, your chances of finding love are also going to be poor,” Bruce said. “I don’t want to take money to help someone when they have other important challenges to deal with.”
With clients in more than 60 countries, the agency doesn’t discriminate, but Bruce and his team try to provide people with realistic ideas of what they can expect in an international relationship.
“We let people know what their chances are. In every culture, some people aren’t nice, so some Western guys don’t meet our cut,” he said. “But that’s why we do background checks on all our clients. We have to look out for what’s best for our members.”
TMA: Helping International Clients Make Lifetime Connections
Of the nearly 8,000 marriages the Transpacific Marriage Agency has fostered, about 40% of those clients got married within 18 months. At the 30-month mark, the number of married clients climbs to 60%.
Bruce said part of that success is that the agency doesn’t rely on an online search system; instead, it focuses on making connections the old-fashioned way: find those who share similar values.
That approach has worked well for Bruce, who also employs other strategies that stand out in the industry. For instance, both men and women pay for TMA’s services. Some companies require just the men to pay, which Bruce said doesn’t work well when it comes to facilitating a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
Bruce Smith founded the Transpacific Marriage Agency to foster long-term relationships.
Bruce wants to help relationships grow as organically as possible, even if they’re across the globe. He accomplishes that by preparing his clients — through his advice and guidance — for the challenges they face.
Because marriage isn’t all about initial attraction or a list of traits you want in another person. It’s about merging two lives into one harmonious union through shared interests and experiences.
“Things that aren’t really at the front of your mind at the beginning become more important over time. Politics, religion, family lifestyle, diet, health — and a whole list of other things come into the equation when you have a long-term relationship and marriage,” Bruce told us. “You have to be able to get along. If you don’t, you’re going to have a much harder time having a successful relationship.”