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.