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Opinion / Blog

Thoughts of marriage

By teamkrejados (blog.chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2015-08-03 18:55

A couple of months back, one of my Chinese friends came to visit. We were enjoying coffee and conversation when, all of a sudden, he pops off with: “I'm getting married.” Color me poleaxed! Isn't that the sort of announcement one rushes to tell friends, breathlessly and full of excitement? That wasn't the case here. Joe dropped his news casually, mid-conversation, as though he were telling me he would eat dinner out that night.

Much is being made of romance, finding one's true love, and 'love conquers all' in China these days. The divorce rate is staggering, reportedly because there is no love to the union or the romance has faded, although other factors also make the list: deceit, or getting a better apartment, for example. Meanwhile I, romantic at heart but disbelieving of the soulmate myth – that there's someone for everyone or the German version of it: for every pot there's a lid - I, long-time single, ponder the marriage question.

Marriage, by definition, is the union of two or more complementary elements: pork and peppers, peanut butter and jelly, jazz and blues, human and human. However, one can enjoy jazz and not like blues, eat peanut butter with bananas and serve pork with other vegetables. Human marriages are stretching traditional definitions: America has recently legalized homosexual marriage, a step behind other countries. But human marriages almost always come down to love, don't they?

Or do they? Why do people get married these days?

About a month after Joe's marriage announcement, we were again enjoying a visit. He started talking about wedding plans and asked me to attend his wedding in October. Of course I agreed and, since he opened the subject, I asked a few questions.

“What about your new apartment that you are decorating to suit your tastes? How will your wife fit in it?”

“She will keep living at her house and I will live at mine.”

“What about when you have a baby?”

“Baby will live with my mama. Mama lives close to me.”

By this time, I'm not exactly understanding this marriage. He explained:

“She loves her work, and earns a lot of money. She does not want to let her life go just because she marries. Her work is close to her home now, and far away from my home or work. It is better this way.”

I can certainly understand her wanting her independence and not give up her work but I can't understand how this marriage is going to work.

I think about all of the good marriages I know: Chuck and Marjorie, George and Chris, Ann and Ron, Sam and Penny. These are long-time married folks with the exception of Sam and Penny, but those two are no less devoted to each other than my other friends who've been in it for the long haul. All of the good marriages I know of are true partnerships that require a lot of compromise and a lot of work no matter how long they've lasted.

Contrast that with this young couple I'm acquainted with, who got married last year and now have a 2-month old baby. He went to another city for work because there were no good teaching positions in his village. His wife had the baby on her own, and then moved back in with her parents so they could help take care of baby. The new father returned home, his teaching done for the summer and, rather than seek out his wife and child, he headed to his parents' home and agreed to a divorce via text message.

What did they get married for???

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