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Georg Vilefort first lived in Hong Kong in 2006. He has now been living in China since early 2009, first in Nanjing and now in Dalian. Georg comes from a background in Engineering and Public Health but is currently teaching English while exploring and appreciating China. Georg has traveled extensively in China and is also exploring a new relationship with a Chinese lady.
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Marriage and Divorce in the West versus the East    

By Georg Vilefort
8533 Views | 11 Comments | 7/11/2010 12:12:43 AM
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I am not sure if I can cover both marriage and divorce in this one blog entry but we will see. There was a question in the forum asking about the difference between divorce in the West versus divorce in the East which I think means China. Maybe before discussing the end of a marriage we should look at the beginning of a life together or marriage in the West versus the East from my perspective.

Marriage

Traditionally, marriage customs in the West are historically based upon religious authority. The majority of people in the West are married in a church setting and as a result, it is a public ceremony and celebration. The officiant is recognized by the civil authority as a legal representative of the state or government, but they are decidedly religious in ceremonial aspects of the marriage. Civil authority was deemed necessary to recognize property rights passed onto heirs and to keep track of who was married to whom.

From what I have seen in China, marriage is quite different. Marriage here is much more of a civil affair. In the West where we would go to the civil office to get a license to get married, here you go to the civil office to register your marriage. You fill out paper work, pay the fees, and presto, you are officially husband and wife. If you have a public ceremony, it is more of a 'coming-out' ceremony where you dress up in marriage clothing, have pictures taken, and have a celebration with family and friends. In China, for most Chinese, there is no religious significance to marriage.

Love in marriage

From what I have seen, heard, and been told by many Chinese, love is not much of a consideration for many marriages. To a westerner, this is a hard concept to understand. In the west love is what drives most people to consider marriage because they want to spend their life with someone they love. I have asked many Chinese in English classes I have taught if they have ever been in love, do they love their wife or husband, do your parents love one another, or who is your best friend if they are married? I can remember only one man that told me his best friend was his wife and he married her because he loves her and she loves him. No one has ever told me that when they were growing up they ever remember their parents expressing love for each other.

In answer to the question, have you ever been in love I have heard, "no, maybe, and yes," with no being the most common answer. In answer to the question, "do you love your wife or husband", the most common answer is, "no I am married."

Divorce

From what I have seen and heard about divorce in China, children are rarely a consideration in the divorce. Parents do not seem to stay together for the sake of their children. If they did stay together for the sake of the children, then why are there so many divorced women with children on the various Chinese dating sites like CLM.? In the West, many but not all couples do stay together for the sake of the children, unless there is violence in the marriage, and even then sometime couples stay together. Usually fathers pay to support their children even if they are no longer living with their children.

It is estimated that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Why is the divorce rate in China and in the west so high? That is a good question and I do not think anyone has a clear answer. I think the reasons are as diverse as the people who are married and then divorced. Maybe our expectations about marriage aren't realistic or there are more options for women in both China and the west than there were in the past.

One phenomenon that occurs in China that has not occurred in the west in more than 100 years is an arranged marriage. These are quite common. What people have told me is that it occurs most often because women have not found a suitable husband, based upon her parents' idea of suitable. Surprisingly, most of the arranged marriages are the ones most likely to fail.

To be continued....

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(Showing 1 to 10 of 11) 1 2 More...
#2010-07-11 00:43:28 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I can't speak to statistics but I do number among my in-laws several couples who I think are clearly in love. I don't think they ever necessarily express their love to each other, and possibly if you asked them are they in love, they would be dumbfounded and wonder why that would be important. Their answer to George's question "Do you love your wife or husband?" might also be "No, we are married?" But I think what they would mean is "What difference does that make? We've never even thought about it."

However, if you watch them interact, the way they support each other, look out for each other, protect and respect each other, you know beyond a doubt that they love each other. And that's pretty much how my parents were and how I'd like to be in my marriage. Wouldn't we all?

#2010-07-11 01:55:18 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

I will also add my own observation here. In the two years I taught in at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu I had hundreds of young Chinese women as my students. One of my most memorable sounds from China is the collective sigh of disappointment that would emerge from a classroom when I would have to cut off a romantic movie midway through because of time constraints (or before it got to the naughty parts). No other type of film elicited this response from the students. So, my experience with these young women is that they were hopeless, or rather hopeful, romantics who believed passionately in the notion of finding their soulmate. I can't speak for the guys because my classes were ninety percent female. The legend of the butterfly lovers shows this sentiment has a long history in China.

#2010-07-11 14:50:15 by chrisfr2 @chrisfr2

in the past 3 years, i've been introduced by my chinese colleagues to some very nice and interesting women. Most of them around 30yo, divorced, with child...
and most of the time, the first question they asked me during the first date was : "do you plan to marry fast ??"
The typical exemple was a wuxi woman, with good situation. She married her husband at 23yo. they had a son 1 year after, then divorced 4years after... She told me her husband was introduced to her 6months before they marryed ... and she didn't know him at all so discovered bad habbits after wedding....
Now she was living with her son, mum and aunt in the same appartment... and she had "GREAT PRESSURE" from them to find a husband quickly...
..... to be followed

#2010-07-11 14:56:22 by chrisfr2 @chrisfr2

... and
I can not imagine her interest was not to know if we will match together or not, but just she was searching someone to marry to escape her mum and aunt pressure... So i ended there the start of our relation.

2 months later, she sent me a mail that she had find a guy : 53yo, retired from army, and she had already married him.

When i ask her about love : "it's my husband!"

When i talk about it to my colleagues, they just answered "she's married, that's most important, she will take a lover later"

Is this what is called a "traditional chinese woman, family oriented..." ???
thanks: I prefer a modern one, career oriented!

chrisFR2

#2010-07-11 16:56:49 by riccixue @riccixue

My view is:If love each other, can choose to get married,It is both the need.Because you wish each of a serious commitment, loyalty;Of course, also can choose not to marry,Maybe that has feeling of love forever more meaningful,Of course this is both agree to a kind of means.If no longer in love,Just need to end the relationship and marriage without meaning,Although there are many people who have children.But you can't change your love your children,So, just need to make the right choice,At least have a new life,If you live happiness,The same children feel your happiness.this is it!

#2010-07-11 22:37:35 by chicagousa @chicagousa

I am really intrigued at your article's content. I intend to marry a Chinese girl someday, but, do I have to make sure she understand our different view of love and marriage here in the West? It worries me to kow that I just might be marrying someone who has different concepts about something so important to us such as Love and Marriage.

#2010-07-12 08:34:03 by greg17 @greg17

I am right with you on this chicagousa. This has been a very enlightening article to me and I thank the author for presenting it. I have been in contact with a lady for a little over a month and had already noticed the differences in our values about love. I was starting to think, maybe she was just looking for the other benifits of a relationship with a Westerner. After reading this article I now know if we do find a sincere woman that values real love, she would indeed be a rare find. But is it worth the risk, especially after chrisfr2 comment (3rd last paragraph)?

#2010-07-15 02:30:31 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

Interesting discussion. It is certainly relevant that the woman I interacted with were all relatively young. Perhaps it is a generational thing? Perhaps as one gets older and maybe especially after one is divorced, one gets more "pragmatic" about marriage? I would love especially to hear from Chinese women about this. In any case, I think you touched on a fascinating topic and I look forward to more posts on this as well as comments from others.

#2010-07-16 08:11:42 by histguy @histguy

I agree completely. This thread is getting very interesting. I would like to hear from the women as well!

#2010-07-19 12:22:02 by santashelper @santashelper

I am not sure if any of you have mentioned this however it should be of interest. I have met and dated 4 woman in china that after getting to know them and actually interested in 2 of them they told me they were already married? Two of them were doctors and the other two held very good positions in business. I asked them why they would lead me on to take the time to get to know me and yes even tell me they loved me while all along they were married. One doctors said she had not seen her husband in 10 years and the others had similar stories. My point being that they are alot of attractive and wonderful woman for the sake of loosing face will remain married to the first man for life. Has anyone else incountered this? But all said they did not want to be alone for for the rest of life

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