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Pros and Cons of Marriage to a Chinese Woman

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Chinese Girl

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.

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

JAC


Comments  

 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanSweatdeal 2010-02-19 06:20
Awesome. Glad you found someone great. Sounds like you need some younger Chinese male friends. A lot of males will still look down upon the girls and foreign guys, but if they know you’re a good guy, young Chinese males are really supportive of these relationships.

PS. Well, not supportive… they just treat you equally.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanRichFromTampa 2010-02-19 06:20
For over 10 years, I have been married to a woman born & raised in Tianjin. You hit home when you remarked that a Chinese woman will ALWAYS value the opinion and/or directions of a fellow Chinese, before and above that of her husband, or any significant other Westerner. No matter the issue, the result is pre-ordained.
 
 
# RE: RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanJAC 2010-02-19 06:21
Hi Rich,

I did not say or imply that my wife always values the thoughts of other Chinese more than my own (or her own, for that matter). She never feels that way. On the contrary…

What I said is that in order for our agenda to be more effective, she will allow some latitude to people that don’t exactly deserve any. It’s annoying (for her and I), but it makes sense. She does not care for such people, and has little but contempt for them, but she is able to hide that much better than me. I’m pretty easy to read in such situations…
 
 
# RE: RE: RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanLongTian 2010-02-19 06:21
I feel sorry for you. My Chinese wife isn’t like that at all. She always supports me against any and all. In the rare case where the antagonist is her parents, she will first play mediator, but if both sides are clear and won’t budge, she chooses me. I made that a condition of marriage, and she has never let me down.
 
 
# RE: RE: RE: RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanJAC 2010-02-19 06:22
That’s pretty much how it is with us, except that the antagonists are never her parents and that I did not have to put that down as a condition…

I too feel bad for Rich because what he said about his problem being universal over here is simply not true.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanJanus 2010-02-19 06:22
Having lived in both China and India (as a white American) I can say that Indians are in general much more open and friendly to the foreigners in their midst (in a country where everyone is a minority on some level, it’s rather harder for them to form an “us vs them” attitude. Indeed a Christian Indian in northeast Indian whose first language is English may feel they have more in common with me than with a fellow countryman who follows Hinduism/Islam and speaks Malayam/Hindi/Kannada/Bengali/etc…of course india has no shortage of other problems, but open-mindedness is not among them.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanLongTian 2010-02-19 06:22
The only huge difference I noted here was the fact that your wife is very cautious when making big decisions. That must be a personal trait of hers, probably due to her family being in tight financial conditions and her feeling like she is the provider. Most Chinese, including my wife, make big decisions very quickly, mainly because they feel protected by the relationship “net”.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanJAC 2010-02-19 06:23
My wife does not feel like she is the provider of her parents. They are very much self-sufficient, albeit of quite modest means. She also does not rely on social networks for anything important (she dislikes the whole guanxi thing, feeling that it is often dishonest, and even corrupt). She’s very independent. As you mentioned (and as I alluded), her cautiousness with big decisions is probably a personal trait, not a specifically Chinese thing.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanStoneJock 2010-02-19 06:23
Very interesting insight into China and your wife.

My journey is slightly different in that I have a Chinese wife (mainlander) but we live in Australia.

My struggle is with the cultural differences we have, which in my view are extreme. At face value this may not be obvious, but much of what you see in China the country, I see in my wife, the good and the bad.

This is still the case even after her being in Australia almost 20 years.
 
 
# RE: Pros and Cons Marriage to a Chinese WomanJames 2010-02-19 06:23
I also have a great wife and her devotion to my also great stepdaughter amazes me. I also tried some Australian girlfriends after my first wife who I can only describe as a nightmare,befor e I met her and just could not believe in the west how the rude useless and lazy kids came first and you were a auto ATM machine without thanks. I have spent this year around 40000 on my stepdaughters education. It was never asked for at any time. I paid to relive my wife’s burden and return the happiness she gives me. and because of the effort I have seen my stepdaughter put into her studies.
 
 
# Going homeCrystal 2010-03-30 17:27
From your description I could understand that you are waiting till the right moment to go back to U.S. with your wife.
Aren't you afraid that "there is nothing more permanent than temporary" and after X years you will be still amassing capital in China?
 
 
# RE: Going homeJAC-LMG 2010-04-10 16:58
I know... but that will change soon, especially since I no longer really feel that it is so important to have large capital to leave. Related to that, I no longer wish to work in China -- too corrupt and unpleasant, at least for me. The original goal was to take off around 2015, but now I will try to be out no later than 2012. That would be a full 10 years here, which is more than enough. I can't continue putting my career on hold.
 

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