Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Parents Against Divorced Western Man

Divided house
What happens when you're from a divided family -- and your Chinese girlfriend's parents don't approve of you? A divorced man from the UK loves his Chinese girlfriend, but isn't getting any love from her parents.

DivorcedintheUK asks:

I am divorced from my uk wife and have 3 Children in the uk. A year ago i met a beautifully sincere Chinese woman, we became very close friends and now we are inseparable. Her parents are totally against our relationship and insisted we split,well my girlfriend told them that she loves me and that we are going to be together no matter what they insist,(she lives with them still ) I was accused of many untrue things and i was out to con her  and beat her.

I have a well paid job and financially we are sound,

They say that as i have 3 children i am not suitable or good enough for their daughter, and she is embarrassing the family.

I have tried to be patient and understanding, but i need help.

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Being divorced is a big strike against you in Chinese culture, just as this excerpt from A cultural challenge: Multiple family groups for post-separation and post-divorce families in Hong Kong reminds us:

The marital relationship is greatly valued in the Chinese culture. A family without a marital relationship is viewed as abnormal.

So, the parents probably think there’s something wrong with you, since your first marriage failed.

Additionally, you have children, which is another worry. They might wonder if these children would pull you away from responsibilities to their family — or pull you back to your ex-wife. And what if you no longer want to have children? Her parents would have a hard time seeing your kids as part of the family (different culture, less attachment), expecting your girlfriend to produce a child that carries on the blood line.

What can you do to overcome this?

If you’re still able and interested in having children, let her parents know. That might reassure them that they’ll have a grandson or granddaughter they can call their own.

Be filial — sons (and sons-in-law) are expected in Chinese culture to care for parents and show them respect. That includes everything from asking about their health and buying them healthy foods and supplements to simply “keeping the peace” and being respectful about their opinions. Let them know you care and — most importantly — would never put them in a nursing or retirement home (considered highly unfilial and irresponsible in China).

Most of all, be patient and persistent. You need to show them you’re good, in ways they understand, and that takes time. But if you can see things through, you may be able to win over her parents.

However, don’t necessarily expect them to return the warmth to your children and ex-wife. They’re not blood relations, and sometimes families won’t acknowledge the parents/families of an ex-wife or ex-husband — or will do so in an unequal way, giving more attention/preference to their blood-related grandson/granddaughter(s).

Good luck!

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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.

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5 thoughts on “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Parents Against Divorced Western Man

  • June 26, 2010 at 12:21 am
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    I know a Western guy in China who found himself in exactly this situation. It was very stressful for him and for his Chinese girlfriend and in the end this was one of the reasons they ended their relationship.

    I think it’s hard enough for Chinese parents to accept the idea of having a foreigner in the family but if the foreigner is divorced and has kids from the previous marriage it’s that much trickier. I wonder if it would help to talk about the reasons the first marriage ended, if everyone is comfortable with that? Quite often people can understand a divorce and support the couple’s decision if they know what some of the contributing factors were. But I’m not sure if everyone would be comfortable with that level of sharing…

    Reply
    • July 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm
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      Melanie, thanks so much for sharing, and offering a different perspective. Maybe a talk might help heal things.

      路医, thanks for the comment.

      Jessica, thanks for your perspective. I agree that she’s probably going to have to move forwards without their blessings.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Friend — the parents can indeed make a relationship very difficult if they aren’t on board.

      Let’s hope things will change.

      Reply
  • June 27, 2010 at 1:23 am
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    Hey Joanna! Hit me up if you come to the Canadian pavilion, you won’t have to wait in line.

    Reply
  • June 27, 2010 at 9:58 am
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    I wouldn’t really count on the parents coming around unless they absolutely have to, no matter what the guy does to win them over. To some extent I think the girl should be prepared to call her parents bluff and be with the guy she loves. Chinese parents can be very, for lack of a better term, manipulative when it comes to their childrens’ love lives but it is my experience that they very rarely follow up on their threats to disown their children once it becomes clear they can’t prevent the relationship (usually what makes that clear is marriage and the births of grandchildren! haha).

    That doesn’t mean the guy can’t make overtures and try to make peace with them, but both should be prepared that it might not work. I know parents that have effectively prevented relationships for much less serious reasons (my nephew’s girlfriend’s parents forbid her from marrying him because they don’t think his background is good enough for their daughter … and we’re not talking about a country boy trying to marry a Beijing university graduate, both of these kids are from small towns in Yunnan and my nephew is a high school teacher!), and especially if the parents think they can get what they want in the end, they’ll hold as long as they possibly can. In their minds this is a Serious Problem. The guy could be an absolute saint but this problem would still exist. It probably doesn’t help that I’m sure friends and family are bombarding them with horror stories about a friend of a friends daughter who has evil stepchildren, or horrible ex wives in the picture, or evil divorced wife beaters or whatever. They probably feel quite embarrased by the gossip the relationship is causing and feel like they need to draw a line and make it clear they’re not encouraging this.

    I think that the guy should be prepared for the parents not to accept the relationship until they’re married. It may be possible to win the parents over, but if not, is the girl willing to call the bluff and marry him anyhow? Because that might just be what it takes.

    Reply
  • June 30, 2010 at 10:27 am
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    Although the final decision is always between the actual couple, it is very hard in the long run if the parents are not on board in some way, if they are close. Sorry to sound like a buzz kill. I also think having a grandchild will help a lot, one type of blood link.

    Reply

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