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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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There is no 'need' in 'desire'!    

By Garreth Humphris
6733 Views | 23 Comments | 6/16/2013 2:38:06 PM

I've been contemplating some big issues lately - must be the warmer weather and all the sweet young ladies in summer fashion! Seriously though, I have been working on the ideas of the differences between how Chinese might view love and desire compared to myself. More specifically, When you love, how does it feel? When we desire, how is it different from love?

I have be accused of some blog readers of not being serious in my search for love. Some might say I am commitment-phobic or have ’too high’ expectations. That I mislead potential partners because I am concerned about broader issues than just getting married! It may well be true, from their perspective - the main part is how do I try to reconcile the dichotomy.

Maybe I should not try to deal with the full gamat of issues and just break it into smaller issues like many Chinese do...Married? No, get married. Yes, make it work!

So, this is the state of my thinking to date!

In the past (in Western cultures), people used marriage to make babies...to replicate themselves for work, for supporting family, for 'community health'. Perpetuation of a family line, labour force for farming, some strange political amalgam or support, safety, affection and familiarity until our old age - for many people this is still true and is probably fairly entrenched in the Chinese social psyche.

But this has changed over the past decades in Western cultures, having babies is now not the exclusive marital duty...we now want sex, over the longer term, rooted in connection and desire.

The 'love' side of the equation is our need for security, predictability, safety, dependability, financial responsibility, reliability, and permanence - those anchoring, grounding experiences of our life creating our home.

The ’desire’ is adventure, novelty, mystery, risk, danger, the unknown, the unexpected, the thrill of journey, of travel and discovery!

We need to weave both these ideas into a single relationship for the outcome to be 'the passionate marriage'!

In the past, marriage was a mostly economic institution; one in which you were given a 'prize' in terms of children, social status, family succession, good health and companionship - but now, we want our partner to still give us all this...but more! We want a best friend, a trusted confidante, my passionate lover and we will be this for the next 40-50 years. Give me belonging, identity, continuity but also transcendence, mystery and awe. Comfort vs risk, familiarity vs novelty, predictability vs surprise.

Of course, this ’desire’ mostly happens in our imagination!

Love is ’to have’...to know our partner, to minimise the uncertainty and neutralise tensions, closeness and stability of life is the goal.

But desire is ’to want’...to run away from the familiar and start a new journey. We want a distant person, someone we can visit and explore something new with, a bridge to cross, a path to discover, a mystery to unravel.

So are the two somewhat mutually exclusive and could it be that the real difference between people is the balancing point in the relationship between them?

I have had some interesting discussions with Chinese female friends about the key points that attracted them to their partners - the predominant answer has been one of the ’love’ side of the equation. That being they were looking for partners predominantly dependable, loyal and responsible. Of course, asking too much about the other side of the equation would be risqué, but I have also noticed that western females usually rate their partners more toward the other end of the spectrum - that being, there needed to be some ’desire’ in the mix!

This comes back to one of Peter’s recent posts where he comments on the Chinese mother’s idea that foreign men are unreliable because if they lose desire, they will not remain in a marriage! Maybe there really is something in that idea! Not necessarily that a foreign man will ’leave’ more easily, but that there needs to be a longer, more passionate and adventurous side to the relationship for it to grow into a lifetime.

This is an important part of the 'equation’ for me to find a marriage partner as well - I am interested in the ’desire’ side more than the ’love’ equation. In particular, I am looking for a partner that has her own interests and activities so that there is always something new and interesting to talk about! I am especially not interested in dependence - a state where my partner’s whole existence relies totally on my whim and direction! Some men like his idea, but I am not one of them! Show me too much of this and I am not likely to be satisfied in the relationship from a very early point in it!

I am impressed with my partner wanting to make a nice home for me, but I am energised by a partner who has their own life and interests that are separate from mine and they choose to share with me from time to time. I need the peak energy, not just the base load.

I wonder if this is the point of difference - a Chinese family/lady think ’perfect match’ in terms of ’love' prerequisites but may not rate the ’desire’ too high! What I mean is, the ’strengths’ that a traditional Chinese woman may display are not necessarily important on my ’desirability meter’.

Maybe by understanding this a little more about myself, I can make ’smarter choices’ about the ladies I meet - and hopefully not create false-starts for them, and for me!

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#2013-06-16 20:52:09 by prana @prana

如果我没有弄错你的意思的话,我是不是可以这样说:

中国人很喜欢关注某人是否结婚了。

比如我,因为没有结婚,年纪比我小一些的人,他(她)们就直呼我的姓名,而不是称呼“*姐”。

他(她)们也带着异样的眼睛看你。

一些异性甚至想入非非……

所以中国现在的婚姻,大多数都带有“欲望”的性质:财富(房子、金钱)、权力(地位、身份)。

中国人喜欢攀比,也喜欢跟风,大家有的我也该有,多数人不会去考虑是否适合自己,为了某个目的不择手段。

这些人我都遇到过。

有一句话说“人言可畏”,不被他人的言论左右自己的行动,这样的中国人少之又少。

爱的感觉、有欲望的感觉,它们是不一样的。你说的对。

爱是付出,是宽容、是分享、是感恩。

欲望是仇恨、是嫉妒、是占有、是贪婪。

抱歉我用汉语回复。

谢谢!

#2013-06-16 21:06:37 by prana @prana

并不是每个女性的想法都是一样的。
一些女性找到了她所爱的人,而那个人也非常的爱她,于是,她就有了希望。
有了希望,她们就会付出自己无私的、伟大的爱,为自己的丈夫,还有孩子们!

#2013-06-16 23:11:57 by panda2009 @panda2009

In pop culture, love gets conflated with desire all the time. From childhood we learn you can like something, or you can love it, as if it’s only different degrees of the same thing.

Love is all selflessness. It’s the opposite of need and attachment. To an individual it’s a sensation of allowing, rather than seeking. Letting go, rather than grasping. Love is subtle and silent and delicate, and in its beginnings it can be drowned out easily by attachment, lust and fear. Desire is simple and often reckless. We need to manage it carefully to avoid causing harm. Desire is the intention to change something, to reject what it is in favor of what it could be — something better, more secure, more pleasing. Love is the intention to let that thing be for its own sake. A lot of us grow up thinking that to love is simply to want very badly. It’s hard to be sensitive to love when you’re overrun by desire. Love isn’t something that can be done badly, if it’s love at all. Desire can happen at the same time as love, but it’s not the same thing. Love reveals itself when you release your need to have the object of your affection, and see that there’s no reason to make it yours. That it exists at all is enough. To love something is to disappear in its favor — to die to your own interests so that it can be what it is.

In evolutionary time, love is new, and we’re still learning to used to it. It’s a much more sophisticated human capability than desire.

Desire’s been around forever. It’s a high-horsepower engine. It’s loud. It handles poorly. It only goes the way it’s pointing. It needs a sober driver, but it makes you drunk. To love someone is for their happiness to be the same as your own. And so love is the dissolution of the borders between you and me and them. Those lines are conceptual and imaginary anyway, and love gives you vision clear enough to see the world without them. It takes practice to give up “good for me” in the name of “good.” In the grand scale of evolutionary time, human beings are only at the beginning of experimenting with this — working with something bigger and more important than personal desire. But love is already everywhere, at least in the background. It’s too conspicuous to be marginalized, even among a population largely driven insane by mismanaged desire. We need to learn to navigate our desires better in order to love fully. We’re working on it.
It’s an interesting time to be alive. We’re graduating from a culture of desire-driven lives to one of love-driven lives. The solution to the world’s problems will look more and more obvious as more people begin to understand that and make that transformation. The first step is knowing the difference.

#2013-06-17 05:46:34 by DanielButler @DanielButler

I think I might share this issue.

#2013-06-17 11:11:08 by anonymous6581 @anonymous6581

There are diagrams for those

http://www.hookingupsmart.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Triangle-2.png

http://unscrwed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Intelligent-Relationships-610x858.jpg

http://www.2browngirlstalkaboutlove.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/loveflowchart.jpg

#2013-06-17 12:50:37 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@prana
I think that ´life thoughts´are a long line along which we slide - one days in the middle, some days at one end or the other...

I am not specifically talking about ´ownership´of anything - rather the ideas of what is satisfactory or what would make me ´happy´- the cultural and community expectation, as well as my own hopes and dreams.

So I tend to think that in traditional cultures (like China, but also others) that people are more likely to settle on the ´love´end - that is heavily based on family and security and may discount the other end of the line a lot more!

Of course, every individual is different - but even when you meet Chinese people who may appear more ´desire based´in their approach - they often revert to ´what they know´which is the other.

It is not about being selfish or hedonistic - it is understanding that there are differences and these need to be ´explored´ rather than assumed to be the same! One of my next blogs explores this further - the idea of distance and closeness.

The example you give is important, I do see that ´great love to family´ is important - but to exclude the hopes and desires of the individual is not a positive thing to me! - I would hope that my life partner would continue to study, have outside hobbies, go to meetings with friends, independent trips and travel, and things away from the family to create happiness and adventure for herself... nourishment away from the family - If she so desired! And I would also hope that she would have the same trust as I do of her to allow me to do the same!

#2013-06-17 18:32:59 by anonymous6589 @anonymous6589

aussiegump, you are INDEED a MONKEY zodiac sign personality , super LOL.
some other zodiacs don't think / act like you. You might consider finding another monkey girls

#2013-06-17 18:59:22 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

I don't think (and obviously you do not either) that safety and excitement are mutually exclusive, although I think you are right to point out that on one level they can exclude each other. That is, the more we feel safe and comfortable with someone, the less likely we are to be excited by them. But I think the thing that bridges these two conditions is: Intimacy. Intimacy require knowing someone over time, and requires a level of comfort and safety so that we can reveal ourselves to that person. And we find that when we do open up and become intimate, the sexual/desire part of the equation reaches a deeper level than the initial excitement, which inevitably wears off. Without intimacy, the desire part is going to fade away, and that is why many marraiges become emotionally empty. But with intimacy, I think it truly is possible to maintain that level of sexual desire. I heard a program with a number of post-80s Chinese women saying how they were demanding this intimacy in the relationship. My sense is that Chinese guys still have a long way to go on this topic, and that part of the reason for your woes on this issue is that you are a pioneer on this subect in China.

#2013-06-17 20:19:09 by prana @prana

@aussieghump
你是说:双方有自己的空间,有自己的爱好,要彼此相互信任是吗?

#2013-06-18 10:28:35 by 345 @345

I also agree with your statement.

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