The emotional yin-yang: Of one calm Chinese husband, and a sensitive American wife

“你的情绪波动太可怕了!” Your emotional ups and downs are too frightening.
I found the text message in my mobile phone a day after a wrenching encounter with Frank. Frank had been my Chinese boyfriend for nearly a month. But now, after nearly a week of uncertainty, it was clear — our relationship was over.
Weeks later, when I met Frank for dinner, just as friends, it was worse than I expected. Not only was our relationship over, but Frank was over love, forever. He told me “it is more important to focus on a career and family, than to deal with emotions, or love.”
As I tried to autopsy our past month together and understand what sent our relationship to the grave, I began to shudder. Could a Chinese guy ever love an American girl who is emotional, and isn’t afraid to cry?
The worry followed me later that summer, as I began dating John, who would eventually become my Chinese husband. When John didn’t take me home to meet his parents in late August, just before starting graduate school, I wondered if I was too melancholy about our separation. When he left me alone on an entire Saturday — our usual date night — just to be with his friends, I had flashbacks of Frank, who, by the end of our relationship, used outings with the boys to avoid seeing me on the weekends.
It’s true. In our first six months together, I did a lot more crying, and showed a lot more excitement than John ever did. And that wasn’t just because I had some major life events, including severely spraining my foot (and missing a trip to Hong Kong) and losing my job. I’m a sensitive girl, and I’ve always been that way. But not John. Good or bad, John usually responded with a smile or laugh, and never yelled, or raised his voice, or showed anger, or really even cried. He was always so calm and steady. Just like Frank.
But over time, I realized that “calm and steady” Chinese boyfriend plus “emotional” American girlfriend doesn’t equal breakup. At least, not for John and I. He became the lighthouse of reason in my emotional storms, someone who could show me the way to a more peaceful state of mind. And as a psychology student, he helped me work with my emotions — what he called his “emotional management program” — so I could learn to save that good cry for when it mattered.
And, while it still surprises me, I taught John about emotional awareness. Before, he didn’t even realize his emotions were a vague mixture he couldn’t understand — many times, he confessed “I don’t really know what emotions I’m feeling.” My hypersensitivity actually inspired him to get in touch with his emotions, to be more aware of what he is feeling, and to let it out. Of course, letting it out is relative. I’ve only seen him cry about five times, but every time has been an honor, and an opportunity to help him through hardships.
When it comes to emotional expression, we’ve built a yin-yang balance together over the years. Of course, we still have our ups and downs. We had a lot when we moved to the US, and struggled to get John into graduate school. But one thing is for certain — it’s never been frightening.

Your emotional fluctuations are too frightening.

I found the text message in my mobile phone a day after a wrenching encounter with Frank. Frank had been my Chinese boyfriend for nearly a month. But now, after nearly a week of uncertainty, it was clear — our relationship was over.

Weeks later, when I met Frank for dinner, just as friends, it was worse than I expected. Not only was our relationship over, but Frank was over love, forever. He told me “it is more important to focus on a career and family, than to deal with emotions, or love.”

As I tried to autopsy our past month together and understand what sent our relationship to the grave, I began to shudder. Could a Chinese guy ever love an American girl who is emotional, and isn’t afraid to cry?

The worry followed me later that summer, as I began dating John, who would eventually become my Chinese husband. When John didn’t take me home to meet his parents in late August, just before starting graduate school, I wondered if I was too melancholy about our separation. When he left me alone on an entire Saturday — our usual date night — just to be with his friends, I had flashbacks of Frank, who, by the end of our relationship, used outings with the boys to avoid seeing me on the weekends.

It’s true. In our first six months together, I did a lot more crying, and showed a lot more excitement than John ever did. And that wasn’t just because I had some major life events, including severely spraining my foot (and missing a trip to Hong Kong) and losing my job. I’m a sensitive girl, and I’ve always been that way. But not John. Good or bad, John usually responded with a smile or laugh, and never yelled, or raised his voice, or showed anger, or really even cried. He was always so calm and steady. Just like Frank.

But over time, I realized that “calm and steady” Chinese boyfriend plus “emotional” American girlfriend doesn’t equal breakup. At least, not for John and I. He became the lighthouse of reason in my emotional storms, someone who could show me the way to a more peaceful state of mind. And as a psychology student, he helped me work with my emotions — what he called his “emotional management program” — so I could learn to save that good cry for when it mattered.

And, while it still surprises me, I taught John about emotional awareness. Before, he didn’t even realize his emotions were a vague mixture he couldn’t understand — many times, he confessed “I don’t really know what emotions I’m feeling.” My hypersensitivity actually inspired him to get in touch with his emotions, to be more aware of what he is feeling, and to let it out. Of course, letting it out is relative. I’ve only seen him cry about five times, but every time has been an honor, and an opportunity to help him through hardships.

When it comes to emotional expression, we’ve built a yin-yang balance together over the years. Of course, we still have our ups and downs. We had a lot when we moved to the US, and struggled to get John into graduate school. But one thing is for certain — it’s never been frightening.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

You might also like:

17 thoughts on “The emotional yin-yang: Of one calm Chinese husband, and a sensitive American wife

  • Pingback:Chapter 5: Love is Impractical | Speaking of China

  • Pingback:Chapter 10: Did I Ask John to Move In? | Speaking of China

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm
    Permalink

    This is very interesting. My guy told me he will call me the day after, and he didnt so I called him. He asked me if I’m angry which I wasn’t, but he has asked me this question before? And it seems that he things every bad emotion is anger. What about disappointment? Why should I be angry if he looses interest in me? It’s more of a disheartened or like I already said, disappointed feeling. I can’t wait for us to be together so I can talk to him about these things, there is just so much more to emotions. And it also makes me think, SHOULD I have been angry? hmm…

    Reply
  • January 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm
    Permalink

    Jin,

    Does your guy get mad for a long time or just for a few minutes? I only get angry for a few min. for example.

    Reply
  • January 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve never seen him angry to be honest. There was one opportunity where he could hve got mad and he didn’t. It was our first date, the cab driver took us to quite a few places and made plenty of money from (well i would have said us, but i didnt have to pay for anything) my guy, yet the cab driver over charged him by a whole fair, saying that we didnt pay him on one of the stop offs. Instead of getting angry, my fella told him he is sure that he was paid, but since he doesnt remember, he should go home, and if he remembers that we did pay him, then he should contact us and we would take the money back. If this happened to a london guy, he would have been f’in and blinding no matter a first date or not.

    oh and there was the time when he tried to take me out, and the evil receptionist threatened that she was going to take tell the headmaster that he is taking a student out, so we couldn’t go out. That was the closest to angry I had seen him, but it came out more as a frustration. Actually, Thanks Bruce. Remembering this has made me feel a little more special that the closest to angry I have seen him is over me and not money. yey 😀

    Reply
  • January 18, 2011 at 10:23 am
    Permalink

    I don’t care if he’s a Chinese or White guy. You go no where when you get angry for such a long time frame. I have a short fuse ,too but I only get angry for a very short time like 15 mins. After that , I’m back to normal again. Your guy must learn how to control his temper. If his temper is harmless like mine that’s fine ;however, it’s harmful to you physically and mentally that is a really problem.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2011 at 10:26 am
    Permalink

    Jin,

    Don’t wait for his phone call. Go and talk to him face to face. This is my advice. Once, you know his personality, there is no problem on earth that you can’t solve.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2011 at 11:44 am
    Permalink

    Bruce, easier said than done. It’s difficult to talk to him face to face because he is on a different continenent. But he is coming to europe, maybe I will see maybe not, who knows what fate has in store. He invited me, but that was before the big confession of my feelings, when our communication INCREASED, but I’m still not sure where I stand because we had a massive communication breakdown where he has misunderstood some things and I just dont understand him. He thinks I got angry with him about something and tried to finish it with him, which would mean that he thinks we are already together, or he still doesnt quite get the fact that I have romantic feelings for him and I needed to know where I stand. When we were on the phone, I told him several times I like him, and he did not react in the slightest. haha so maybe he knows more than me, maybe I am the one lagging behind, either way, he doesnt write to me anymore and I think his explanation was that it caused too much trouble last time! Anyway, I called him last, he told me he will call me “when he has time” sounds like a brush off to me, so I’m not holding my breath to find resolve to any of these issues, at least until we are together face to face. anyway totally off topic, I invite you to google chat, msn whatever..

    Reply
  • Pingback:Ask the Yangxifu: British Woman w/ Chinese Husband Lonely in Marriage

  • June 5, 2011 at 11:48 am
    Permalink

    I have just published a collection of poems on kindle about the emotional fluctuations of the world’s husbands and their wives! It deals with the age-old attitudes of different husbands in different countries, notably in Britain but also in Europe, to their wives and is called The World’s Husbands – the story of love and sex.

    There are all sorts of famous but also unknown husbands in the poems, according to their different attitudes from ancient times to the present day, but I could not find any Chinese or Asian husbands to include in my book! There are poems about women married to Mr Lazy Bastard etc, etc!
    There must be some Chinese husbands who have made memorable pronouncements about their wives? What to expect of them, how to get on with them, etc?

    Reply
  • Pingback:NextCreativity.com » Wo Ai Ni!

  • January 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm
    Permalink

    I cried wonce on a date with my chinese boyfriend I wanted to hide that I was upset so I turned my face from him. He grabbed my shoulders turning my face towards himself. Then he stared I felt that he would push me away yet he held me close telling me to cry on him. He wiped my tears away saying good girl I want to see all of you. I got even shocked that he sat me on his lap saying ni hao ma I told him…. I waited for him to respond he rubbed my back. And said I don’t like rude people trying to make my honey cry. I went home happy then he texted me: your cute & you belong to me forever wan an.

    Reply
  • January 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm
    Permalink

    at Sid, omg what the hell that is the most romantic thing i heard in a long time! I want a boyfriend like that!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • January 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm
    Permalink

    Jin Feng,

    You are very funny ! soon my dear soon! Your time is coming.

    Reply
  • Pingback:Somatized | Speaking of China

  • December 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm
    Permalink

    Randomly found this old post. I was wondering if the strong asian emphasis on family values or its influences ever became a source of tension or argument between you two. As an asian guy, I feel like we are very quick to be inter-dependent and very trustworthy of a partner, and I feel like american girls tend to desire independence and keep a distance from committing too early.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.