Married Couple Lead Separate Lives in China

I have noticed that marriages are seen very, very differently in China. Yes, it is still one of the most important things in a person’s life…and the parents are very involved in it.. and yes… the divorce rate is very, very low here in comparison to the amount of people who live here.

But the actually marriage… is so… well for lack of a better word STRANGE…. let me explain.

I was talking to my students the other day about going on a little vacation to visit parts of China I haven’t seen before… normal right?.. but one of my students…(high school aged) asked me… “Are you going to take your husband?”…..….I thought that was a strange question… I told her.. of course I will take my husband…why would’t I .. he is my husband? …..I looked around the room and saw a sea of dumbfounded faces.

This made me curious.. but I didn’t think too much about it, because they were high schoolers and really too young by Chinese standards to understand.. but.. .later that week… I was talking about going to visit America in the future… and one of my co-workers said to me… “Will you take your husband with you?“………….I again was shocked by the question… and told them Of course.. if you were traveling far away or on holiday wouldn’t you take your husband?…again with the blank faces.

The last straw was when I was talking to a semi-close friend about moving to another city and getting a job at another school… and they asked me “What about your husband?  What will he do when your gone?”

I almost fell on the floor…. I said… what are you talking about?… he will be moving with me… I wouldn’t move to another city and leave my husband here… and I really wouldn’t move to another country and leave my husband here… for Petes sake it is my HUSBAND…..

I have learned that Chinese couples view things very differently.  When they get married….their lives still stay separate.   They keep separate money, separate friends, separate holidays, separate family gatherings, and even separate homes in some cases.

It really surprised me.  For a country that is so big on getting married before your too old, and the husband having a house and a car  in advance.. after the pomp and circumstance… they basically start leading their own separate lives.

Sometimes, husbands will then move away and live in another city to work.. while the wife stays in the family home and cooks, cleans, and works.  She makes her own friends and has her own entertainment.. and He has his own life and own friends in the other town.  (this will explain the large amounts of husbands with girlfriends… and why it is actually kind of accepted knowledge that the husband and even the wife get girlfriends and boyfriends on the side)

Even when they live in the same town, they tend to lead separate lives… the husband does what he wants and the wife does what she wants.. which is usually devoting herself to raising the one child they have…. while the husband makes the most money and pays for all her stuff.

I guess the reasons for this can extend back to the fact that couples can not really marry who they want.. they marry who their parents want them to marry.   If there is no real love there.. then I guess it is easy to see why they do not spend time together.

However, I see many men and women .. that are not happy in their marriage… but stay married for “face” .. there that is again…(rolling my eyes) because they do not want to seem like an unhappy family, or make their parents look bad by getting a divorce… so they continue to live separate lives.

This will explain why sometimes my husband gets dinner invites and other invitations .. and I don.t get invited… because.. in their mind … my husband leads a separate life like a normal Chinese couple.

However, the are greatly surprised when they see that my husband and I have a marriage that is more American Tradition not Chinese tradition.  We do not lead separate lives, or have separate friends or do things separately… we always do things together.  Vacations, dinners, bars… all together… and the local Chinese people are really fascinated and shocked by what we do.

My friends have learned that if they invite me they invite my husband and now so has his….after a few incidents that showed I don’t go for the separate thing…. and most of the friends we have.. are OUR friends not just his or just mine.   We shop together for food, we walk together and … yes.. it is true.. we talk to each other.. about how we feel and our future.

I have learned that there is not a lot of communication that goes on in most Chinese couples…. they just … go on like they are ..well.. Not married.

Oh.. there are a few that follow the American way of thinking.. in the couples should actually live a life together.. but..for the most part they are all just married by “face” only… and not really a married couple in the sense of the word.

Some married people don’t even know where their husbands or wives are.. and really don’t care…. some wives are more happy when their husbands are gone.. because when they come back… they have to cook for them, or wash their clothes… so pitiful to me.

I will tell you this….America’s divorce rate may be the highest in the world, and fewer people are getting married.. and we are starting to allow same-sex marriages… and China may turn its nose up on these numbers but.. i can honestly say.. for the most part… We Americans get married for the right reasons and try to make it work the best we can.  We still have the insane belief that marriage is something sacred to behold and prized.   We still feel that marriage should be for love and because you want to spend the rest of your life with someone…. not to just show others “Face”… least I do.

until next time….


29 thoughts on “Married Couple Lead Separate Lives in China

  1. Phil

    “i can honestly say.. for the most part… We Americans get married for the right reasons and try to make it work the best we can.”
    Then why are the divorce rates the highest in the world? If the so called “right” reason really is the right reason then why are there so many divorces?
    Modern China is nothing like how you describe it in your blog. Where are you? and where do you work? The majority of China may have been like this a decade ago, but now, I feel like it has changed drastically and is based far less on “saving face” now then it was 10 years ago.

    1. Phil, I am sorry to disappoint you but your are incorrect about the saving face thing.. and the relationship thing. If you stick to the major cities like Shanghai and Bejing.. then yes. .. it is different than 10 years ago.. but if you go everywhere else in China.. it is exactly how I say.. I live it everyday… I see it everyday…. I am in Zhejiang Province.. one of the richest ones in the country and I hate to tell you this.. but it is like this. You can take my word or you can research yourself.. … things are not as changed as you think.

  2. hi there, i’m blogwalking and suddenly stumble upon this blog post. Very interesting, I never knew this part of new culture of young chinese married couples.

    I am currently married with my Chinese husband but we’re living separately due to immigration reasons in singapore. It sucks, but trying to endure it for the best, we got no reason to come back to china now, so we’re stuck with this option of being married but living separately.

    Anyway, it’s glad to know that somebody out there behind the wall is having the same ideal that we should be getting married for the right reasons. ^^

    1. @ Selvy.. i want to thank you for taking the time to ready my blog… and welcome you to my site. I am so sorry to hear you and your husband have to live separately… i know it must be hard. I hope things work out for you too soon. I know immigration can be a a pain in the ass. I also have a book that will be available around christmas if your interested in reading more about china and the craziness here i have experienced.

      1. Finding your blog is a wonderful thing happened to me today. Me and my husband always gets into a big fight before we were married when we talked about where to settle after getting married.

        He always wanted to go back to China while I was too afraid to adjust with the so-said no toilet doors and all chinese characters that I heard from friends and relatives that already visited China before.

        Reading your blog is like a real eye opening for me and now i started to change my mind about the stereotypical of china. Looking forward to read your book! When will it be out? Btw, can I link your blog?

        1. of course you can link to my blog… and my book is at the graphic artist right now..having the cover designed… and should be out by christmas… you might reconsider living in china.. if it means .. being with your husband. China isnt so horrible.. there are good things and bad things… but.. I am sure.. it is easier for you to adjust to china.. than your husband to make it in another country…. it is a big decision.. but you have to look at all sides.. and being married to a chinese man.. you need to think about his “face” and .. his feelings regarding taking care of his family… he might not be able to do that very well.. in another country… you guys have to work that out.. but i would advice you to really look at the advantages and disadvantages.. before you just throw the idea in the trash… and there are normal bathroom in some places.. lol

      2. The only problem is the currency. If I don’t have 3 person need to feed back in my hometown, I won’t think twice, I just go with him to China.

        He is indeed a filial son, like you said, I believe most chinese guys are. But I also love my parents. His hometown is 6 hours away from my parents which includes thousands of dollars and 2 transfer airplanes, which makes it much more difficult because when I move to China, I won’t have both the money and the opportunity to even meet my parents.

        Right now he tried so hard to adjust to Singapore’s environment, learning english with his chinese accent. I also don’t have the heart to ask him to stay forever here. So at the moment, I asked him to give me some time, to prepare myself and be ready to whatever comes 2 years from now… even if it means going back to China >.<

  3. pearls

    With all the reported craziness towards marriage and relationships created by the mainstream entities…believe me when I say this, it is not being embraced by the masses of truth bearing men and women who believe in the sanctity of marriage and the enriched wholesomeness of the family over here!

    Re disappearing spouses! There are some that deserve the ‘POOF BE GONE’ position, yet I’m thankful that I have personally, only witnessed a few of those out of my many years on this earth! I’ve been told by wives and have observed these couples giving each other space in their homes…like he has his game/workroom and she has her own craft/sewing room! Some are/were socially active in separate organizations, as well, yet were present and supportive when there were functions! Even met a few older couples who had separate bedrooms, but their devotion for each other didn’t change. Well into retirement age…these women kept house (some had cleaning ladies that came in weekly to assist), cooked, and at the ages of 80+ still got it on sexually with their husbands! I’m not making this up folks! I don’t know why they told me this (these women adopted me as their daughter even though they had grown children), except as a much younger woman to teach me as to what I can have and expect to have in a marital relationship with a good man when we age together! I still laugh when I recall one of their sayings to me…there may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire on the stove! LOL! Even knew an older 65+ woman who went toe to toe with a 20+ female who was after her husband. She was a Bible toting, love the Lord, fellow church going woman, too! I mentally applauded her stance…and visibly smiled when she told me the story as she concluded with…”that’s my man!” Love…Peace…Joy!

    1. @Pearls.. you are so right… I remember meeting a couple that had been married for 57 years.. and I said.. how could you guys put up with each other for so long… the wife said..”he is kind of like my pinky toe… not sure what it is there for .. but i am use to having it around….” That woman cracked me up…. Not bad for a Black woman that was born before TV was invented….hehehe…

      1. pearls

        That’s sooooo cute and hilarious! Pinky toe…LOL! One thing I definitely know for sure…our people will surely have you on the floor laughing, with tears streaming, while holding your side, telling them to stop…when it comes to their relationship experiences albeit good or bad, it will NEVER be a dull moment of sharing!

      2. pearls

        P.S. I still can recall Al Green blasting through the front screen door of our home one spring day when I came in from school. My mother actually met me at the door…grabbed me by my wrist…pulling me towards the stereo, at the same time…telling me to listen to this man! It was hilarious! She began snapping her fingers and swaying to…lay you head…upon my pillow! Another time…on a weekend, her friends were over, sitting at the dining room table singing in unison…to…I’m so tired of being alone…well…all I can say is Al Green was to them like Luther Vandross was to us! My mother didn’t like reading romance novels, but she loved music! Music was their determined and preferred medium to keeping the romance going as long as possible! LOL!

  4. I think some of what your talking about is based on the cultural difference of marital closeness is in Chinese culture relative to men’s social power. It is really a man’s world in China more so than other countries like the U.S. I remember being told this when I took two years in Mandarin in college during the ’70s.

    1. @Sam…. Yes, it is still a man’s world here in China…and the women that are strong and intelligent end up never getting married in some cases. Marriage is still a status symbol to them… the most beautiful, wife that can produce the most strong and handsome sons… funny how somethings dont change.

  5. Ami

    This is interesting. From what I know, people in my husbands family live together. His parents are happily married, as are his grand parents. I don’t know about the others in his family, but his parents own 2 homes together. They live together in one and rent out the other. They also own a business together and go on business trips/vacations together. We have received photos of them out with other couples and it’s refreshing to see how healthy their relationship is. Hubby has very traditional ideas about a marriage partnership and I like his thought process. He also embraces the American marriage dynamic. He never leaves my side and we go everywhere together. I was away from him for 1 month once, while I was spending time with my parents in NY, and we missed each other too much. We couldn’t wait to get back to one another and we both cried upon seeing each other at the airport! S

    I wonder if it is the newer generation that lead this separate lifestyle? There is so much there that hubby reads about as well as hears about from family members, and he just can’t wrap his mind around/relate to. He just shakes his head 😦

    1. Ami, Your husband’s family is one of the few that I mentioned. I think he really hasnt been back home to China in a long time. Things are different. It isnt just the younger couples.. unless you call 25 to 50 younger. Even my husband’s mother and father do not visit us together most of the time.. he will come without her a lot. I think it is more and more linked to the fact that more and more people are marrying for money… and being pushed by their parents to marry for money. The basic requirements are car, house, money… if you dont have it.. your parents better have it. Actually, your husbands parents sound pretty wealthy.. because… the houses are not cheap in China. 1 million RMB is the average cost… and they own a business … so that puts them at a different level. They are also more open-minded and western than you think .. because they accept you so easily. The traditional Chinese w/Chinese couple are exactly how I described. I have witnessed … people with their girlfriends or boyfriends.. when I KNOW their husbands..and wives and their children… so yes.. it is pretty bad…Im sorry to let you husband know .. that China.. is not the China when he was a kid…

      1. Ami

        😦 This is so sad! What you said is what he’s been reading about and hearing from his family. I know that he won’t fully grasp or believe it until he sees it and it will be a mighty rude awakening once in person! WOW!

        You are such a great window into all that is taking place over there. I can’t thank you enough for having this blog!!! Luv ya girl 🙂

        1. I can understand his confusion and lack of belief… i never thought living in China I would see what I have seen here… somethings.. are just .. unbelievable… I guess.. i expected more from them.. coming from such an old history… I thought they would have some .. hidden secrets.. that i could learn… so far… the language, kung fu, the art, the writing.. is about all i can honestly say.. stands up to the reputation… the people are a totally different story…

          Your very welcome.. and I try to tell it like it is as much as I can.. without getting censored… hehehe… I wish you guys the best… and cant wait until you move here… hehehe

  6. Kelly

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who notices this here and finds it strange. Do you think that with the growing influence of western culture it will change anytime soon?

    1. @kelly… yeah.. it is strange.. but .. I dont know how soon it will change.. they seem to like life this way… and we all know they are not good with change.. they have trouble moving out of their homes…

      1. Kelly

        I fully agree with you. You would think it would change, but they are so stuck on their traditions. I swear, some days if I hear, “Well you see, China has a very long history…” as a prelude to explaining why their behaviour is more right than what I have been brought up to believe…I’m ready to punch that person in the mouth! 😉

        And I also agree with what you said to another poster – I think it has a lot to do with marrying for money and the huge influence of family here. I guess if I was just introduced to someone my family approved of, was married off to them within a couple of months, and didn’t really know them at all, I might be keen to continue living my separate life rather than putting on an act with them too.

        1. @Kelly… I started laughing when I read your comment… I know what your talking about with the… “See, China has a long, long history….” I hear that all the time.. when ever they try to solidify their actions. I too.. want to just stick something in side their mouths to shut them up… I also .. here “USA has only 200 years of history…. blah, blah, blah” I always tell them.. yes.. and in that short time .. we have just about created everything on the earth, and is the most powerful country in the world…. they just shut up to that…. hehehehe…. so good to see some that is experiencing the same things… as I do.

  7. pearls

    In reality…the whole lot of them are already DIVORCED! They are divorced spiritually and emotionally, regardles of it being on paper! God made this union beautiful and foolish mankind perverts it to fit his way! The whole lot who tips and dips around because they didn’t marry who they love has already lost their face! Give me R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (song by Ms. Franklin) and LOVE anyday!

    About the statistics! I’m thankful that there are many more Americans willing to find and live with that special one just for him and just for her, solely to share their life and this journey with! I see a lot more happy people over here who are making it work for them in their marriage, despite what the statistics are stating! Also, even though the couples over here are aware of being individuals many make an important effort to grow together, overcome difficulties together, share learning experiences together, and laugh together! While growing up, I remember my parents getting together with other couples for dinner at each others homes…still have those photos! AA parents had and still have Friday/Saturday date nights…it didn’t openingly start with the Obamas and won’t end with them! I used to babysit for a couple who had Friday night dates and also observed other AA married couples in the neighborhood going out for a night on the town, as well! This is still happening…believe me! Over here…whoever tips around, will get caught and when it happens…may God have mercy on their soul and behind!

  8. This is so true – I’ve seen it with so many of my Chinese friends. But they aren’t happy with it. They see how my husband and I are so close and do everything together, and I’ve heard from several of my closer Chinese girlfriends that they wish they had what we do. I feel really sad for them missing out on some of the best things in life!

    1. @Nicki….when i asked my husband what kind of marriage he wanted .. chinese way or American way… he quickly said American way… he also prefers this type of marriage. I am not sure .. why most the chinese couple have this way of thinking. They always say traditional thought.. blah, blah, blah… but you control your own marriage… tradition or not… if you dont like it change it. One girl even told me.. men dont like to be controlled… I said that is not control that is mutual respect… they just dont get it… I guess.

  9. Christelyn

    Wow. Your blog is truly an education. I had no idea. So let me ask this: if everyone has a honey or a ho on the side, do they openly flaunt this to one another?

    BTW, your close relationship with your husband is probably one more reason other Chinese men covet you!

    1. @Christelyn… it is funny you ask that question because i asked the same.. hehehe…. actually.. it is a hidden relationship because you dont want to lose face on the fact that you have someone on the side. I have even spoken to women that are ..surprised that their husband has another woman… (i think they knew all along but now trying to save face) …. The husband usually puts the “second wife” up in their own apartment, gives them money, etc. If it is the wife.. she does the same… puts him up in his own place, etc.

      Second wives and Second husbands are the whispered around but no one admits to having them. It is like all of China is a big smoke screen for all the crap that goes on under the table. You dont want your neighbor to think your husband or wife has another man or woman… so you “play” like you are happy…. I just dont get it…. why play married when you can actually be married to someone you love and care about?

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