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”…..at least I do.
until next time….
- Will This Marriage Last? (time.com)
- Marriage and Adversity – the need to become friends – part II (codybateman.org)
- Choosing Limbo: What Do You Think of Undivorcing? (blogher.com)
- Tyra Banks talk show episode “I don’t need a husband” (nowpublic.com)
- Gabriela hits Aquino on divorce (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- What is Legal Separation? (brainz.org)
- Marriage and divorce: Clintons or Gores? (beliefnet.com)
- Not Divorced, But Not Really Married (outsidethebeltway.com)