I’m a 24 year old American woman with a problem — I’m having an affair with a married Chinese man. I didn’t want to get involved with someone who is married, but he and I just have this amazing connection, and chemistry. The thing is, I know he has a child, but he tells me he loves me and enjoys being together with me.
I’m worried about what other people might think of us, as I think some of my coworkers know. I also wonder if there’s any chance we might actually be able to be together (he once talked about leaving his wife), and if we’d ever be accepted as a real couple. What do you think?
When it comes to extramarital affairs in China, you’re not alone. According to the 2010 study by Zhang, approximately 15 percent of Chinese men and 5 percent of Chinese women have affairs.
Historically, Chinese men used to have the right to multiple partners, even purchasing concubines that would live together with their wife. That’s an illegal practice now, but that doesn’t stop men from looking for an ernai (mistress) to support on the side. For many Chinese men, mistresses are still a status symbol, just like their Mercedes or BMW.
Should your coworkers know, they probably won’t be surprised. Many Chinese believe Western women are all just a bunch of oversexed foreign floozies who will sleep with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I doubt they’d rat you out to your friend’s wife — especially if at least one of them has a skeleton in the closet (or, more specifically, a lover in their bed). But they’re probably jealous of your man — he doesn’t just have a lover, he has a foreign lover, and how many Chinese men can claim that? (For those of you itching to indulge this idea, pick up the book Foreign Babes in Beijing, where the author, Rachel DeWoskin, actually plays the seductress of a married Chinese man on TV).
But don’t mistake a lover in China for real love — the kind that entails commitment, and exclusivity. Consider Zhang’s findings:
According to the qualitative findings, men can be comfortable in enjoying both the wife and the lover at the same time, whereas women are usually devoted to one partner, either husband or lover.
That’s right — Chinese men who cheat usually don’t mind straddling two different relationships at the same time. They may not want to choose, instead enjoying the stability of a family, and the stimulation of a good f**k. If that’s your man, good luck getting him to divorce. He’d probably rather avoid the family stigma and trouble that divorce brings, and simply continue things as they are.
Even if he did push for divorce, he’d have a hard time bringing you into the family. Many families already have misgivings about foreign women marrying Chinese — just think how they’d feel about a foreign woman who broke up their family. Most Chinese men wouldn’t risk this sort of social suicide.
If I were you, I’d figure out how to unentangle myself from this dangerous liaison. The danger is not in what happens to this Chinese man, but what’s happening to your heart. You’re giving it to a man who could never fully commit to you, who simply teases you with a fantasy of divorce and happily ever after. There’s no happy here, any way you look at it. And the sooner you get out, the sooner you can get over him, and move on to the real happiness of real commitment. Think about it.
What’s your take on this? What advice would you offer DL?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.