Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend Doesn’t Express His Feeings

Put your feelings on hold
(Photo by Andrew Enright)

Aili asks:

I am currently dating a student from China and while its almost been 6 months of dating, I’m curious about one thing and was hoping to get some advice from a married women. I’m pretty well versed in the chinese concept of hanxu (subtlety) and while my boyfriend tells me he loves me, he really doesn’t say much else in the way of expressing his feelings, I mean knowing he loves me is great but it really doesn’t go beyond that generic phrase. Have you or are you encountering that in your relationship now? And if so how do you deal with it, is it something that can be worked on?

Aili, I’ve been there.

My husband has never really said much about how he really felt — beyond, like you said, a simple “I love you.” And in the past, it worried me sometimes — to the point that I interpreted this all as a sign that “something must be wrong.”

It wasn’t.

Over the years, I’ve spent enough time in his household to realize that he grew up in a family where people don’t really show their feelings a lot. And if they wanted to express love towards someone, they sure didn’t do it through words or even physical displays of affection.

But that that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the love from him. He may be the guy who never gives me a Valentine’s Day card. But then again, he’s also the guy who loves me curves and all, who won’t let me take out the garbage or wash the dishes, who makes me breakfast on the weekends, and who always holds my bags when we go shopping together. Maybe we’re on different channels when it comes to showing love, but you might say I’ve just figured out how to “tune into his channel” so to speak.

But if that’s not your style, well, then maybe you could try to show him what you’re looking for. Tell him how you feel, send him those cards, praise him — whatever it is you hope to hear from him. It might surprise him, or even make him blush. But if it eventually gets him curious, that might lead to conversation about feelings — and how you express yours. He may or may not change, but at least he’ll start to understand where you’re coming from.

Still, I happen to think that talk about feelings is overrated. In the past, so many guys waxed poetically over how they loved this and that about me — and they all dropped me in the end. Meanwhile, I’m with the guy who still can’t put his feelings into some perfect Hallmark card.

And he’s just perfect for me.

Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Send me yours today.

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22 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend Doesn’t Express His Feeings”

  1. It’s the opposite with my relationship. I am the one who is subtile and my husband had the same concerns as you (he’s Taiwanese). I had a discussion with one of my Taiwanese friends and he said that his parents never even said, “I love you,” to him and such. I said, “They probably showed you that they loved you through their actions rather than words.” He nodded and said, “Exactly.” I am the same way. I never said “I love you” to my family. I don’t hug, either. =/ I tried to hug my dad once and it was so awkward. Fail. The thing is, we had extended family dinners all the time (not just Thanksgiving). My family stayed near each other and was always there when a family member was sick. My aunt quit her amazing job, moved back to a middle of nowhere, just for her mom.

    I am the same way with my relationships. For the longest time, my husband kept asking me, “How are you feeling?! What are you thinking?!” Now I attempt to talk about how I feel….but no promises.

    Side note: My husband was shocked when he found out my family take off the shoes before entering the home.

    “Still, I happen to think that talk about feelings is overrated. In the past, so many guys waxed poetically over how they loved this and that about me — and they all dropped me in the end. Meanwhile, I’m with the guy who still can’t put his feelings into some perfect Hallmark card. And he’s just perfect for me.”

    I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

  2. If you grow up not able to put feelings into words, you lose that ability. People can learn to do more. It makes healthier relationship. I do not think many Chinese say thank you either through words. But they can use some more of those practices. Any intelligent women eventually will figure out who is saying stuff just to get into their pants.
    Women need those words more than men.

  3. We always say why he sounds so sweet but he is so lazy and such a sissy at the end. Some women love it when you’re so sweet and they don’t even care if it is true or it will come true or not. I guess that’s how you pick up women and then dump them at the end. NOW, my personality is both action and outspoken ( if I want to). I’m just too honest and I talk too much. Tell me if I need to shut up.

  4. The Korean man I’ve dated never expressed his feelings to me. No PDA, no gallant words, but I’m positive that he must have felt something for me back then because he was with me for two years, always wanted to know where I wanted to go and was very sweet respectful towards me. One time I wrote an interracial story of a Korean male/white female relationship and kind of included the possible emotions the guy wanted to express but never could to the girl and when he read it, he could really identify with it.

  5. @Bruce, I cannot believe that Chinese men do not express love more openely! I did not know this fact. Now I know that they use subtle ways to express love. Now I am beginning to understand why no Chinese men paid any attention to my 2 pretty sisters even though they were dressed provacatively while walking down the streets in Hong Kong. My sisters and I had thought for sure they (my sisters) would receive some attention from the men but got none. Now things make sense to me!!!!! In order to woo a Chinese goddess, I must express my interest in them more subtly and more indirectly and be less aggressive. This weekend my sister Pam will come home from college and she said she will bring a female friend for a brief visit. I asked Pam about the female friend and Pam said that she is a “Chinese goddess” but American born and rasied from the Los Angeles area (Monterey Park to be exact). Bruce, I think that I am ready to test out eveything I have learned from you, the others and this site when I meet this Chinese goddess. So, wish me luck. Have you any advice for me?

  6. Manny,

    Just try to know her and try to be her friend first. She was born here that doesn’t mean she’s wild etc etc!!! Remember she is raised in a traditional chinese family setting. Just expect her not to be wild. I know Monterey Park, Arcadia, temple city, pasendena, san marino, san gabriel, Rosemead and Alhambra areas etc. Now you have to call me a true ” sitfu” . hahahhahahhahahahha :). Be nice to her. Invite her over for family dinner and go to a movie. Tell your family to watch what they say in front of her. Some girls are very sensitive. I know you like Chinese women in a good way but just treat her like any types of women. Don’t look at her as a chinese goddess (woman). All I know is after you know a person for a while, you will only see her as a person you like/love. It has nothing to do with ethnicity ( race). Take things slow like you’re looking to find your future wife. A real relationship begins with friendship. Manny, if you’re looking for a one nightstand, my advice stops here :(. that’s why we have clubs and spring breaks ( cancun or daytona ,FL). CHinese/Asian women are very melod most of the time. They are very easy to talk to. Most don’t have a chip on their shoulders.

  7. @Bruce, thanks for the advice. Excitement is already raging through my body and in my veins as I look forward to meeting this Chinese goddess. I will let you know of the results after this weekend, bro. Wish me luck. No, I am not looking for a one-night stand but a long term relationship.

  8. My boyfriend and I met on strange terms, and I actually never thought we would make it this far(6 years people!). I think in the first year of our relationship after he said I Love You the first time he didn’t say it again until almost a year and a half later! Now, even in the middle of a huge fight, he will remind me of how much he cares be it directly(ie: you know how much I love you) or indirectly(ie: I try to give you advice to make your life is easier). Sometimes it’s hard, and it is definitely different from my past relationships with non-Chinese men, but over time you learn all the ins and outs of how some Chinese men aren’t as forward with their affections, but how deeply their love runs. Aili, it’s only been 6 months, give it time and you will pick up on very subtle things that prove he loves you deeper than you know! 🙂

  9. ..Yes Say I Love You
    Very simple
    But True I love you
    ………Very difficult
    You meet a good Chinese man

    It’s easy to say I love you

    may be a playboy

  10. More than words, the strongest indication of love from any man, especially Chinese men, is going to be how much time they spend with you. Time = love. It really is that simple, albeit dissappointingly so! It is more efficient to just hear the words and be done with it! 🙂 Think back to how much time your lover devots to you and therein lies your answer. I agree jocelyn, with some examples and communication things can be a bit more open, but it isn’t necessary all the time. Maybe just when us females are feeling a bit fragile/PMS maybe? 🙂

  11. @Blossom – I would qualify that as “how much available free time your lover devotes to”. We all have to make a living 🙂 Free time is choice time, that says a lot.
    @Manny – If you like her, you have to indicate so right off bat. “You are so cute!” etc. Be friend can be easily “Friend zoomed”. It is hard to change a friend into date, my expierence anyway. Love is chemistry not friendship. The dating process either enforces or diminishes the chemistry. My two cents.

  12. We do need to use words. Mature women appreciate actions more than words. Walk the talk. But communicating thoughts and feelings make a person more alive. Being smarter in a relationship requires communication. Ask questions and tend to feelings, sometimes through meaningful words. I don’t think women always expect you to do something. Be a good listener and respond. That is an art itself. Physical affection should also be quite natural when you are attracted to someone.

    @ Manny
    I have no advice. The fact you try to put a stamp on all Chinese women disgusts me.

  13. In my opinion and experience, friend zone turned into relationships. Of course, if you’re looking for dates and not relationship , who cares about being friends. To me, I have to be able to talk to a woman as a friend first. I have a good friend just got married. He was her friend first and now they’re married. When you just soooooooo eager to get a gf , just talk , hug good bye, and kiss. easy as 1,2,3

    Btw, next morning call her back and say ” I had a fun evening out with you last night”. Don’t smother her with too much attention and maybe she’ll bite the bait. heheheheheh j/k lol
    Bruce 🙂

  14. I think 110% here that I spend the most time with my wife. Seriously, you guys can’t beat me on this category. I express my feelings , ideas , opinions and complaints too much 24/7 . I can talk about any subjects. BRING IT ON!!

  15. @Blossom,

    You love it huh? *winks*. You know I have a stressful job also so, I/we try to balance work, entertainment ,health and lifestyle all in one.

    Bruce 🙂

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