Last Updated on 07 September 2011
Pros and Cons of Marriage to a Chinese Woman
In response to your Guide’s chapter on “Advantages to Having a Chinese Wife,” I wanted to offer my personal experience with the pros and cons of being married to a Chinese woman, especially in China. I’ll just write them out in list form for you.
- My wife is intensely devoted and committed. Her devotion comes from the heart, not because she needs or wants something, i.e., some extraneous agenda). Her love is quite pure and clearheaded, which can be very difficult to find back home, at least in my experience—she is not “damaged.”
- She does not exhibit a jealous and/or needy character.
- She is very responsible and frugal. She is not covetous or warped by consumerism.
- She is very adaptable and treats me like I am the head of the family. That said, she gives her input directly, often with great insight. Nevertheless, if my decision is final, she accepts it because she trusts me.
- She has the patience of a saint, with me and with others, but knows when to put her foot down.
- She works hard and has had a stable job working for the same institute since 1996, moving gradually from being a simple part-time teacher to becoming a full-time vice-professor and head teacher. She’s only 33, so that is quite an achievement, in my opinion.
- She does not try to “change me”, allowing me to pursue my goals as I see fit. She does gently point out character foibles that should be worked on, and because of that, I am now a better and more focused person.
- She has a near-ideal balance between “traditional” Chinese values and progressive “western” values. In other words, she is conservative and liberal where it matters.
- She believes in “goodness” and positive ethics but is not religious. That is important to me, as I am a committed atheist—I do not believe in supernatural beings/spirits. (I hope that that does not offend you. I do respect folks that believe in God or gods, as long as their beliefs help them be better people and as long as those beliefs do not interfere in any way, shape, or form with the life and choices of others.)
- My wife can be very helpful in situations where the language barrier can be a problem. (However, this can sometimes cause people to assume that I can’t understand a word of Chinese and that she is just a personal translator/assistant, or worse. That, in turn, can from time to time cause some ignoramuses to act disrespectfully toward us, but especially toward her.)
- She has a good (albeit relatively poor) immediate family. Her mom, dad and sister are great, particularly dad.
Dad experienced quite a lot during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. He doesn’t talk about that stuff much though, as it is too painful to discuss casually. To this day, he won’t eat cucumbers because that’s all he ate for about two years during the GLF, for example. This man’s selflessness towards his family is something to marvel at. I could go into details but there’s no need to. Let’s just say that he is the best person I have ever known, surpassing even my paternal grandfather.
As for mom, she was an oldish Red Guard during the CR, but was involved with the very conservative factions. Mom’s personality is a bit more distant than dad’s though and she nags everyone a lot. She’s a good, upright lady though.
Note: I just turned 38 yesterday and have had several long-term and short-term relationships back in the States, including one person with whom I lived with for three years and to whom I was engaged. My point is, back home, all of the women I had been involved with exhibited to some degree the opposite of some or all of the good traits I mentioned above. It is safe to assume (as your Guide makes entirely clear) that many Chinese women are at least as “damaged” as so many American girls. I think I’m quite fortunate to have met Debbie.
- My wife can sometimes be too cautious when making big decisions and has a tendency to worry. I suppose that this is not specifically a Chinese trait and many people everywhere exhibit this flaw: After eight years here and almost six years of marriage, I’m still trying to figure out if this is culturally related…
- She will sometimes allow others (Chinese) to get away with things that would be entirely unacceptable in a modern and “civilized” culture. She does this in order to stay focused on our long-term goals. This makes sense and it is often the wise thing to do, but it does royally piss me off sometimes.
- She will not leave her job and move on unless we are 100% ready to depart China. In other words, we must have a certain amount of capital before we take the plunge in the US together. This is sound and perfectly reasonable, but it does place a huge burden on me, especially since, frankly, I don’t like the PRC as a whole (see below).
- Although my wife is an associate professor of English in a vocational school and her English is far superior to that of most Chinese teachers, she occasionally has trouble grasping the more subtle qualities of our language. Also, I have a pretty large vocabulary but I can’t use it to its fullest because otherwise she would simply not understand me.
I have to tone down my language by about 15%, which sucks because I really wish I could communicate with her at the level that I would use with my professional peers. (If she were to take the IELTS test, she would be somewhere in the 7.5-8 range, which is not quite fluent and definitely not that of a very well-educated native.)
The sum total of the above is that we sometimes get into arguments. That said, these problems have been decreasing as the years go by. Regarding her parents and sister, I can only communicate with them by using my very limited Chinese, as their English is non-existent. Therefore, I can’t develop those relationships at a deep *intellectual* level.
- Although my wife has good friends (a small group of people that are carefully selected), I can’t communicate with them, except with my limited Chinese (see above regarding Debbie’s parents). They are also not the most culturally cosmopolitan people in the world. That said, they are good people.
- Although she is very industrious, she sometimes doesn’t take care of day-to-day stuff around the house if I’m in another city. In other words, when I’m not around she can sometimes neglect mundane stuff; upon my return, the house will sometimes be a horrible, dirty mess. I think that this related to the Chinese trait of “negligence.” Fortunately, this only seems to apply to dealing with our little apartment. She’s really “on it” otherwise.
- She is not especially knowledgeable about art and high culture, but then again, not many mainlanders are… She generally has good taste though.
- When we go out to do important errands (especially errands that involve some bargaining or bureaucracy), we are often not treated with the same level of respect and courtesy as if we were doing these things separately. In the eyes of mainland Chinese people, we seem to have less “face” when we are together—not always, but perhaps more often than not. When we do important errands separately, things usually go smoothly; when we are together, problems can crop up. Our view is that this problem is a simple case of ignorance and bigotry, and maybe even jealousy on the part of some locals. Sad but true…
The following factors aren’t really disadvantages to being married to a Chinese woman, per se, nor do they speak specifically to Debbie, but I will include them here because I know these things do add stress to our relationship.
- To be blunt, I dislike (and sometimes detest) 80% of the people I interact with in this country, and I think that I have many quite legitimate reasons for feeling this way. (The great majority of that 80% are male mainlanders.) I only stay to continue amassing the right amount of capital to securely transition to the U.S. because I love her and she is worth the sacrifice.
- Related to the above, having to stay here for such a prolonged amount of time is torture vis-a-vis my professional background. I won’t get into details but there is no opportunity for me to practice my profession in China and it’s impossible to find anyone I can even have an intelligent discussion with about it.
- Also related to the above: N*O*I*S*E. I hate it.
Well, that’s about it, I think. I hope that this information helps you a bit with your research.