Yin-Yang: On Love, Fighting and Finding Harmony in a Chinese-Western Marriage

Y and R (photo courtesy of R, who blogs at chinaelevatorstories.com)

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.

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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?

Y and R (photo courtesy of R, who blogs at chinaelevatorstories.com)
Y and R (photo courtesy of R, who blogs at chinaelevatorstories.com)

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.

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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.

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17 thoughts on “Yin-Yang: On Love, Fighting and Finding Harmony in a Chinese-Western Marriage

  • October 11, 2013 at 8:10 am
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    This is a very good post. I wish I had learned this earlier.

    Reply
  • October 11, 2013 at 9:04 am
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    Very true, a lot of fights between two people in a relationship come out of this fear that we may be wrong and that the person you are with may not be the person you thought she/he was. Cultural differences just extenuate the problem. But at the end of the day, we need to have trust in our selves or there never is going to be an end to doubts and fears and anger – the devils that will destroy any relationship, whether you are in an inter cultural relationship or not. Just stay in there if you thought your relationship is worth anything in the first place. And god bless.

    Reply
  • October 11, 2013 at 10:25 am
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    The couple above look great!!!

    Reply
  • October 11, 2013 at 11:19 am
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    @ R. Beautiful story. Congratulations.

    Fred

    Reply
  • October 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm
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    I think every couple is different. I also am curious what you define as fighting?

    Fighting never brings my husband and I closer together; sometimes I feel like every fight chips away at what is good and if we don’t stop fighting eventually there will be nothing positive left. Because of this, we have been working really hard to control our tempers and not get into fights. It’s hard because there are certain patterns in our relationship–they aren’t always so easy to change.

    Perhaps one difference is that our fights rarely have anything to do with cultural differences. Some of our disagreements do, but those we usually manage to talk about fairly calmly.

    Reply
    • October 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm
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      For me, fighting means having arguments. It definitely depends on the reason a couple fights, my husband and I didn’t fight because we disagreed, but rather because there was a misunderstanding in the first place. Fighting made us aware of the fact that we were actually on the same side, just probably misunderstood something the other said or did.

      Fights that are based on disagreements are more difficult to handle, because you’ll have to find a compromise that works for both parties involved if you want to find a solution for the underlying problem.

      Reply
  • October 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm
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    R writes very nice short stories, I like her blog, specially the 3 parts story about drinking with respect (do not remember the name..). I am still looking forward to read the 3rd part, the resolution.
    For us our trip to Spain helped a lot. He saw me in my own environment, where I feel confident, and comfortable and I have a family I can rely on 24/7. He understood that for a family that meets up every Sunday (all cousins, aunts, uncles, grandpas, babies..) having a member abroad was a bit tough. And that is why I always insisted in doing something with his sister on Sundays…
    During our own Chinese wedding it was a shock to me to see how he was on the phone all the time. I mean it, all the time. We were getting ready and they were calling him to ask this and that or to say congratulations..that was like that from 3 days before the wedding till the day after. When we were getting ready, in the car arriving to the home to start the ceremony,…That started an argument cause what was normal for him (helping others to find the place or answering questions) was not for me (on the phone).
    In my home if you have questions you will call the parents or any other friend or relative but not the bride or the groom in the big day so that difference didn’t help me out to understand the whole situation.
    We do not fight screaming, ever, we get angry, talking but we do not scream.

    Reply
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