A few years back, I shared a classic post titled Weathering Cross-Cultural Love in China that traced some of the most turbulent times John and I experienced early in our relationship together. During the time when I first wrote the post, stress, personal issues and cultural differences collided to create a sort of “perfect storm” in our relationship. Yet John and I weathered those arguments and we always returned to the love we shared for one another.
I’m reminded of those experiences by this guest post from R, an Austrian illustrator and Chinese studies graduate who blogs about the little moments in China that make her day (often as dialogues) at China Elevator Stories. After the “honeymoon” was over, R and her Chinese husband “fought all the time”. But they too found harmony once again and the whole experience brought them closer together as a couple.
I like to think that destiny brought me and my husband together. He doesn’t believe in destiny, but he was still surprised at how well we fit and did propose to me after being together for less than a month (which is quite crazy, considering the fact that he never wanted to marry just for the sake of getting married).
But does that mean that we live in a 100 percent harmonious relationship and never fight? Not so much. We didn’t fight at all during the first three months, the honeymoon phase. But that’s normal. We call it to “wear pink glasses” in German. After that, we fought all the time. Oh boy, did we fight. You could blame it on cultural differences. Or maybe it was us being afraid that we saw something in our partner that he or she simply wasn’t — that we were wrong in assuming that he or she was our soul mate. That’s the thing – when you are in a cross-cultural relationship, you sometimes don’t know if you really see your partner for who he or she is. But although we were fighting a lot and there were lots of tears on my part, I was still happy and content that Y was the one I wanted to marry. Weird, isn’t it?
After fighting badly for three months, the fighting suddenly stopped. What made us stop fighting? We went to Europe and got married. It wasn’t only the fact that we got married, but also that Y could experience Austria and figure out which parts of me are shaped by my upbringing in this culture, and which parts are shaped by my individual character. And I could experience how he was brought up by getting to know his parents and staying at their place in the summer of 2013. It also took me some time to figure out if what I saw was really who he was. Maybe Y realised that living in a culture different from your own is not always easy — that I already adapted to Chinese culture in many ways. Although to him, this is not always what it looks like when we’re in China and I don’t act Chinese. He never wanted to marry me for my Chinese-ness. And he always saw more in me than most other people here do. Starting from the very first time he saw me, he treated me as an equal. He never treated me as the foreigner who doesn’t understand China at all. He was sometimes drawn back when I didn’t understand something in the context of Chinese culture because he thought that I already understood much more of Chinese culture than I probably did. But mostly, he was very patient with me and did explain things I didn’t understand. In retrospect, I would say that we were fighting out of fear. Out of fear that the person we woke up lying next to every single morning wasn’t the person we thought him or her to be. Out of fear of getting disappointed. Out of fear that we couldn’t trust our own instinct. Out of fear that we got married only to get divorced.
Being in a relationship with the person you’re destined to be with doesn’t mean that you won’t fight with each other. Destiny’s a bitch and you’ll fight with each other just as much as any other couple does. What it does mean though is that every time you fight, it brings you closer together. You might not completely understand your partner and you might be perplexed that you don’t. But you still have the ever pervasive feeling that you’re destined to be together. Although there are parts of him you don’t understand, there are also parts that only you understand.
R is an Austrian illustrator and graduate of Chinese studies who writes about conversations with locals in China at China Elevator Stories.
We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.