Ask the Yangxifu: Cheating with a Married Chinese Man

Affair with a Married Chinese Man
Advice for a reader tangled up in love with a married Chinese man

DangerousLiaisons asks:

I’m a 24 year old American woman with a problem — I’m having an affair with a married Chinese man. I didn’t want to get involved with someone who is married, but he and I just have this amazing connection, and chemistry. The thing is, I know he has a child, but he tells me he loves me and enjoys being together with me.

I’m worried about what other people might think of us, as I think some of my coworkers know. I also wonder if there’s any chance we might actually be able to be together (he once talked about leaving his wife), and if we’d ever be accepted as a real couple. What do you think?


When it comes to extramarital affairs in China, you’re not alone. According to the 2010 study by Zhang, approximately 15 percent of Chinese men and 5 percent of Chinese women have affairs.

Historically, Chinese men used to have the right to multiple partners, even purchasing concubines that would live together with their wife. That’s an illegal practice now, but that doesn’t stop men from looking for an ernai (mistress) to support on the side. For many Chinese men, mistresses are still a status symbol, just like their Mercedes or BMW.

Should your coworkers know, they probably won’t be surprised. Many Chinese believe Western women are all just a bunch of oversexed foreign floozies who will sleep with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I doubt they’d rat you out to your friend’s wife — especially if at least one of them has a skeleton in the closet (or, more specifically, a lover in their bed). But they’re probably jealous of your man — he doesn’t just have a lover, he has a foreign lover, and how many Chinese men can claim that? (For those of you itching to indulge this idea, pick up the book Foreign Babes in Beijing, where the author, Rachel DeWoskin, actually plays the seductress of a married Chinese man on TV).

But don’t mistake a lover in China for real love — the kind that entails commitment, and exclusivity. Consider Zhang’s findings:

According to the qualitative findings, men can be comfortable in enjoying both the wife and the lover at the same time, whereas women are usually devoted to one partner, either husband or lover.

That’s right — Chinese men who cheat usually don’t mind straddling two different relationships at the same time. They may not want to choose, instead enjoying the stability of a family, and the stimulation of a good f**k. If that’s your man, good luck getting him to divorce. He’d probably rather avoid the family stigma and trouble that divorce brings, and simply continue things as they are.

Even if he did push for divorce, he’d have a hard time bringing you into the family. Many families already have misgivings about foreign women marrying Chinese — just think how they’d feel about a foreign woman who broke up their family. Most Chinese men wouldn’t risk this sort of social suicide.

If I were you, I’d figure out how to unentangle myself from this dangerous liaison. The danger is not in what happens to this Chinese man, but what’s happening to your heart. You’re giving it to a man who could never fully commit to you, who simply teases you with a fantasy of divorce and happily ever after. There’s no happy here, any way you look at it. And the sooner you get out, the sooner you can get over him, and move on to the real happiness of real commitment. Think about it.

What’s your take on this? What advice would you offer DL?


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.

35 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Cheating with a Married Chinese Man”

  1. I agree 110% with your advice. The culture supports men having mistresses — long term, somewhat openly. This guy’s got everything he wants, and how convenient, it’s at the office. No need to change anything, least of all taking on the headache of dissolving his nuclear family to remarry a foreign woman. I think the odds are very much against such an upset happening.

  2. As a Chinese man, i just wanna give a piece of suggestion, in our old words says, 宁教人打仔,莫教人分妻!it means it is better to teach a lesson to your naughty boy rather than teach your friend how to break up with your wife. So the family concept is very important in China, if you decide to do that, i think you will commit a great mistake. You should pursue your real happiness in the life!

  3. I actually have a somewhat similar situation. I met this Chinese boy in the States. He had a girlfriend back home that he hadn’t seen for a few years. There was that “magical” chemistry between us. About a month in and he finally confessed his love for me–but I refused to kiss him until he broke up with his girl. I thought I was being so smart…

    So he dumped her. And then a few months, he dumped me. And then dumped her. And he dumped me again. It’s been 1.5 years since we started dating. It’s really just a never ending cycle.

    I’ve tried to terminate the relationship many times, but he always makes me feel so guilty. So, for your sanity, break it off asap. “Sometimes love just isn’t enough.”

  4. I live in China now.. and the advice is right… most chinese men are happy with having a wife and a lover… or second wife.. as they sometimes call it… He cant leave his wife or he would be losing face. The wife and the child.. are a symbol for him.. and you are just the fun… IN china men do not get to play after unversity.. they are pressured to marry and then have a child… this being said.. having a second wife.. is how they get the entertainment. I see it often here… Men have second wives and third wives.. not legally of course.. and sometimes the wife knows… but doesnt do anything .. for fear of losing stablility and security… drop him and move on… save yourself the heartache…

  5. I agree with melanie gao – the numbers 15% and 5% are low, and look at how the data in that research was collected – through reading media reports 🙂
    And one of the reasons for high percentage of Extra Marital Sex in China is exactly the lower incidence of divorces: everywhere there are unhappy marriages – but in some countries unhappy people divorce, and in China – they seek for “second wives”.

  6. That’s an interesting correlation Crystal draws between the rate of EMS and divorce. The divorce rate is rising in China though – I wonder if EMS is going down at the same time? I think it’s impossible to track the true EMS rate so it would be hard to know.

    1. Thanks so much for the comments, all — wow, I feel so blessed to have readers who will step in and set the record straight (when I’ve obviously missed something important).

      Melanie, Crystal, Nicki, thanks for pointing out the low numbers on EMS. As Melanie said, I think it’s just really hard to get an “exact” figure on this (after all, how many are actually likely to admit they’ve engaged in EMS)? I tried to cite a study in an effort to be more “scientific,” but science, as in this case, can have its limitations.

      Thandelike, Xiaoheng, Truthfully, Elise, Jo Gan: thanks for adding your 2 cents of advice to this girl (especially Elise, as you’ve really, truly been there).

      1. Hmm, a person with choices who chooses to cheat with a married person… I think it’s ok to judge that as “disgraceful”, actually.

  7. If the dude was unmarried and financially mediocre, I could see this as the real deal. Otherwise, this is just a game to him. A couple of my wife’s more gullible friends have been in similar relationships and the dude occasionally busts out the “could possibly leave my wife for you” line just to keep the cupcake pining for him, but of course nothing materializes.

  8. He won’t leave his wife. Talking about how unhappy the marriage is and hinting at divorce is a tactic every married man who cheats uses on his mistress.

    Family is extremely important in Chinese society, so important that many people, men and women, will forfeit individual happiness (or try to persue it on the side) in order to do what is expected for the family. While divorce is becoming more common in China, it is much more common for husband and wife to stick together for the sake of the family and if they do divorce, they may choose to wait until their children are grown at which point they can go their separate ways more easily.

    So I’d agree with Jocelyn’s advice 100%. Make the break now before you get hurt. I knew a foreign girl who got her heart totally broken by a married Chinese guy several years back and the situation sounded similar — guy was married, had a kid, but had an “incredible connection” with the foreign girl. Sad thing was that this girl certainly thought she was his only girlfriend, but the guy was a total player and had loads of girls on the side. The thing is that despite all the casual sex, the guy was never going to leave his wife, and they even ended up having a second child while the guy was still seeing this foreign girl. So there’s really no happy ending to stories like this, get out before more damage is done.

  9. Disregard culture, race, studies, and numbers.

    男人不坏女人不爱: “Guy no bad, woman no like”

    Sadly, it is too true. When a guy is married, he’s often capable of himself around more proudly because he’s “got cards in his pocket” and a “swing to his step”. Also, he would be more mature and would have more experience dealing with relationships and intimacy than single guys, thereby able to appear more confident. It’s like that everywhere, people desire what is forbidden, some more so than others.

    I know of many guys(Asian and non-Asian alike) who are slick and easy with girls, and many girls like them because they are “bad.”

    I come from a honest, hardworking immigrant family, and I was raised to try hard everyday to be honest, do my best at work, study hard at school, to be strong and reliable, and to take family seriously. That’s how I was raised and I do my best to never compromise these values, which is VERY hard to do sometimes. Sure that sounds “nice” and “great” but definitely NOT sexy.

    There are people out there who try their best to live life morally, by principle, and/or on God’s terms. They could be your boring average joe, the janitor down the hall, anyone really.

    Personally, I believe that people cannot control the desires of their hearts with their brains – only God knows you best and can set your heart in the direction, if you come to Him.

    Religion aside, I’m a firm believer in: “If you don’t tell the world who you are, the world WILL tell you, so know who you are and what you want.”

  10. Wait a minute — Let’s not mistake DangerousLiasisons for some ingénue who might “get hurt” by a cheating cad. She’s obviously a working woman who went into this relationship fully aware that her lover is married, someone who should have known better. What does that say about her own personal ethics?
    [I know, as agony aunt to these people, you can’t exactly tell her in a straight-out manner to stop being an immoral home-wrecker.]

  11. I’m in a similar situation, but it’s not *quite* the same. Unfortunately, it’s even worse (on the moral scale) because he’s a teacher and I’m a student. This’s illegal, though it won’t be in 6 months. This is a horrific combination, as far as I’m concerned. I hate myself for falling for someone who: is 10 years older than me, is my teacher, and is *married*. But he doesn’t have children, nor are any coming, as of yet – if that were the case, this would NOT have happened. Anyway, I also experienced that “amazing connection” and have been regretting it ever since. I have no childish fantasy that he’ll leave his wife. When he goes back to China at the end of the school year, he’ll be working hard like he always does and they’ll have a child a year later. . . . *siiiigh*

    However, I’m very glad I read this because now I have a better understanding of what I mean to him. He’s pretty much lead me on, but he also knew that I knew he was married, so I certainly don’t blame him for anything. But, even though I never thought he’d leave his wife, somewhere in the back of my mind I was just hoping that I meant as much to him as he still does to me. Reading this article and all it’s comments snapped that small, unuseful hope/desire out of my mind. I’ll admit it hurts. I feel like my head’s living on the moon & my heart’s living on Jupiter – no pressurized suits allowed. But I guess it’s no fun when you’re the only one who knows you’re being treated as or thought of like a “floozy” just because you’re American.

    Now I just have to try to tell him how I’ve come to feel about this without hurting him. I don’t want to hurt either his pride or his feelings. I know that men have this aversion to the word “friends,” but if he wouldn’t even be my friend . . . I . . . I might not be able to break myself out of it, if it means loosing him completely. But maybe he doesn’t even care about it at all and I was the only one who thought anything of this, so he won’t care that I’ve decided this . . . but I guess that would be easier, in the end, because what I feel now would be increased tenfold if he were to seem pained by my decision.
    . . . . . . *siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh* I *knew* there was a reason I didn’t wanna get into any relationships.

    1. I’m in the same sad story. He’s my boss, I’ve known and been friends with all his wife’s family. I love his children as if they are mine and sometimes speak of them as he they are too.

      I know and understand a lot of their culture. And speak a good amount of mandarin with intentions of learning much more, he’ll, i even know some of their local language. He even brought me home to China and I met ALL of his and his wife’s family. Suspicion arose amongst her family but he never outright denied anything. Just avoided the conversations.

      I try to break it off all the time when we fight because I feel so much stronger in those moments, but he knows how it kills me, especially when he says if it’s what I really want, then I have the power. Because both he and I know I want no one else but him for the rest of my life.

      He always tells me how much he loves me. How he just wants to build up another store so he can divorce and have something for us and his current wife and kids he doesn’t want them to struggle at all. He says if it was so easy to leave how could I trust he’s a good man.

      He doesn’t want me to leave the job or him because he’s so afraid of losing me. Since his English is so bad and he has no time to give me outside of work. He’s afraid I’ll find someone “better”.

      Things were rough at home, but his wife has changed for the better thanks to my advice and I just know he can fall back in love with her again. But he insists that he can’t love her because of how she treated him, or rather ignored his existence. He insists that we stick this out till the end of the year, repeating that the only reason he’s staying with her is because he needs to create stability for all his kids and for he and myself.

      I think I can make it till fall, but if push comes to shove I hope I can come back here for support.

      Though I did send him this page.

  12. In the second paragraph I meant:
    But I guess it’s no fun when you’re the only one who DOESN’T KNOW you’re being treated as or thought of like a “floozy” just because you’re American.

    1. Hi Ditto, I guess,

      Don’t worry about hurting him — he’s never cared about your feelings, and certainly won’t when he’s back in China and working on starting a family with his wife. It’s easy to feel that this man is your “friend” but he’s never been your friend, because a friend would have your best interests in mind. He doesn’t. Don’t even try to be his friend.

      So, if I were you, don’t feel some need to be polite to him, such as telling him you want to break things off in person. Actually, that would be a very bad idea, because he’ll probably make you feel confused when he tries to be apologetic or warm towards you. Just break free of him. And if you must tell him, do it in the most impersonal way possible, such as e-mail or a text message (or, to take a nod from Sex and the City, a post-it note). He doesn’t deserve anything beyond that.

    2. Oh, BTW, Jo Gan also sent me this comment for you:

      I am soo sorry you have to go thru this… but Hey… there are many, many chinese men in china.. that are Honest and caring and want to be with you for the right reasons. You may feel like he is the only one in the world for you right now.. but … You are the only one in the world to someone else .. that you havent met yet.

      I advise cutting it off clean… no friendship, no anything… just clean break. Give your heart the freedom to love someone else. That will respect you and careful you and treat you like the queen in his life. He is out there… and China is 1 billion people strong… so you will find him… dry your eyes, … chin up .. and chest out…. and work it girl….

      I agree with Jo — give your heart to someone else. Your heart deserves so much better than this man. Take good care of yourself, and courageously move forward.

  13. Hey,

    It makes me feel a little sick to be reading all this, because actually I have *surprise surprise, the same scenario happening to me right now… Never ever in one million years would I EVER have imagined myself getting involved with a married man – and thus, I would never have imagined I would justify it at all (which I guess is pretty much the case with every single woman who has been involved in an affair, to some extent…). Anyhow, I befriended a Chinese man (am in China right now) and it turned into something more – and has been for a long time. My heart has been incredibly broken so many times and as I speak is broken right now. I guess I am glad to have read all of the above as I too, have truly felt and believed everything he has told me i.e. How much he loves me etc, but in actual fact, the truth is he is just the same as every other lying, cheating bastard out there, willing to use me and ultimately break my heart into pieces… 🙁 🙁

    So, I guess after reading all that, I am going to be strong and NOT pick up that phone when it calls… It will be hard of course, but I think it’s time I start respecting myself again…

  14. It isnt about wife/family/child. Do you really think a man who leaves his current partner for you AFTER cheating on her wont do the same to everyone he meets, including you? Cheating is a form of lying, cultural differences notwithstanding. As for the “connection”, he may have had the same “connection” with his wife/gf he may be cheating on.

    Its a cycle. I had this happen to my friend, though not with a chinese man. And this is a mature woman of 30 who knew better. So I know that when you are emotionally involved, it is hard to break away and you want to believe in the best outcome. In the end though, in her case the man dropped her from his life with such terrible indignity that you would doubt the initial “connection” she felt. If you simply separate yourself from this man and start thinking about the other woman in question it may dawn upon you that nothing built on someone else’s heartbreak will ever have a good outcome. It is sad that you are in this situation, but hopefully this will help you see that you cannot rationalize the behavior of a cheating man. Neither is it ok if he doesnt have a child or a legal relationship with the woman. I hope you are able to recover and don’t repeat the same mistake. All the Best.

  15. In the first place, married man no matter what race/nationality is a married man who may have one or more kids who would love to see their parents live together (raising them) and get old together.

    There is this thing inside us that is so hard to break; the want.
    Wants are selfish, wants are immature, Love is not. When you are married, you don’t want the marriage to end just because of wants.
    When you are in love with a married man/woman, let go, that’s what love is.

    Amazing connection and chemistry? You can find this everywhere with a single man.

  16. I’ve been in an abbreviated version of this situation. The guy won’t leave his wife for you. They might break up for a different reason, but not so he can run away with his foreign girlfriend. Move on and look for someone who puts you first. You deserve that!

  17. I am in the same situation BUT I don’t expect my Asian lover to leave his wife. I would never impose such expectations on anyone, despite the strong love that we feel for each other. Our aim is to continue as we are for as long as we remain happy.

  18. This is a hard subject but i do think there are times when you need to know exactly who is looking after your loved ones when your not there. I have friends who have suspected their partners of cheating on them and finally found the proof they needed to move on with their lives.

  19. @Maxine: “Amazing connection and chemistry? You can find this everywhere with a single man.” Not true.

    1. I think Maxine’s point was that you can find amazing connection and chemistry with a single man, so why make a bad, damaging decision to have it with a married man (NOT that you can find amazing connection and chemistry with a single man LITERALLY everywhere you go).

      Amazing connection and chemistry may not happen every day (especially if you don’t get out enough, or are stuck in a routine with no change), but you can definitely have amazing connection and chemistry with more than one person in your lifetime. So if you do happen to have connection and chemistry with a married or otherwise attached person, be a decent person (to the attached person’s partner/kids etc., and to yourself as well), and don’t pursue it. Know that you can also find amazing connection and chemistry with other people who are not attached.

  20. I met one Chinese guy in Finland, LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. i said i love him, but he said he has a girlfriend in china, we can be firend, he doesn’t mean to hurt me he just want to tell me the truth.. then i liked him more, now we are so close friend that we miss each other so much and he said he like to be with me together, sometimes he writes i miss you my friend, but the problem is he deosn’t speak English nor Finnish, we use sign language and google translation..hahah and he teachs me chinese, and i teach him english and finnish.. I have learned from him wo xiehuan ni, ni xiehuan wo ma? which means i like you, do you like me ? And the real problem is I M MARRIED..hahah,

  21. Im in the worst situation right now. . I am pregnant, so I manage to go home as I was working on a ship.. but the moment I reached home, he actually say things like it is impossible for him to divorce with his wife and such that his wife will not agree.. divorce need time..

    On board, he say he loves me and when he knows that im pregnant, he did take care of me and he himself says that he wants the child. Back home he has got another kid and asked mi if im willingly to grow up his child n my baby or not..

    I don’t know what to do now..

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