Ask the Yangxifu: Sister of China Biz Partner Wants Marriage, He Doesn’t

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Andy asks:

I go to China frequently for business and I have this friend there (she is the younger sister of our business partner). I knew her for many years. She is a pretty and hardworking. We develop a more personal relationship over a trip together to Beijing. She expressed to me several times that she wants to marry me and move to the states with me.

Here is the dilemma, I don’t really want to marry her because I don’t have any chemistry with her? She is very nice and sweet but I didn’t see any spark when I was with her. I hear that in China and in Korea (where I’m from), marriage is more of an arrangement for the betterment of the FAMILY. I am a totally westernized Asian so I just don’t buy into this argument that you need to get married for the sake of marriage itself. I need that special someone who I can actually love right away, not eventually love while married?

If I do marry her, I can see that my business can expand because she is already closely involved with the business. But if I say to her that I am not interested, I’m afraid she will tell her sister so my business can be adversely affected?

I am in my 30s and she is also in her 30s. So in China we’re already too old to not have gotten married. She is also a divorcee with a child (she don’t have custody of him which is a whole another sad story in itself). I don’t have a problem with her being a divorcee.

How should I proceed with this? Eventually I will have to see her again when I’m in China. We have been communicating via emails, I did say that I wasn’t ready for marriage with all my business issues going on right now. She found that weird that I’m in my 30s and not wanting to get married.


This is a dilemma indeed.

You’re right about attitudes towards marriage in China — something captured in the title of this article: In China, Looking for Mr. Right (Enough).

And you’re right to worry about the business relationship — because in China, business is more than just about business. It’s about the people involved and their guanxi. While nothing’s ever certain, there’s always the chance that refusing a business partner’s younger sister on the grounds that you’re not interested could potentially affect your business.

I would approach this with a two-part strategy.

Part one is to use an approach I’ve suggested in the past — act as a matchmaker for this woman. It’s a great way to demonstrate that you’re not interested without actually saying it. And at the same time, you’re solving her “personal problem,” which is really all the woman wants in the end. The fact that you’re helping her will make your business partners in China very happy too.

As to who you should match her up with, consider finding bachelors in the US. After all, since she seemed so interested in moving with you to the States, perhaps what she really wants is to start a new life abroad. You might take a cue from Fred, who tried to hook up his cousin in Hong Kong with some American women, if you’re wondering how to approach this. As for getting her to meet them, if she cannot come to the US you can always arrange for Skype meetings.

Part two is to make yourself less available to her. You’ve been spending a lot of time with her in China (such as that trip to Beijing) and e-mailing with her — and in doing so, you may have unintentionally sent her signals that you’re interested in her (see my indirect dating entry for some insight into this). I’m not saying you should ignore her or completely avoid her. But you might want to reduce contact with her. Avoid taking trips with her, avoid phone calls unless there’s a business issue you need to discuss, and e-mail her less often (with shorter e-mails). Eventually, she might get the message. But if you couple this with introductions to eligible bachelors who would love to marry her, then she won’t really care that you’re not as available as before.

Hope this helps!


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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12 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Sister of China Biz Partner Wants Marriage, He Doesn’t”

  1. I have to say it – I could be wrong but it really jumped out at me, so here goes (and I’ll deal with the ugly comments, or more likely ignore them, when they come).

    When he said he “developed a more personal relationship” with her, I don’t think he meant “friends and pen pals”. I think they’re sleeping together, and sees her as, basically, a very casual dating partner or just a f*** buddy. I doubt he sees anything wrong with this. It struck me that he feels they have no chemistry – so why’d he form this “more personal relationship” to begin with?

    But she, if she’s talking marriage, probably thinks of him as her “serious boyfriend” (especially if they’ve been sleeping together). I don’t think she’d petition for marriage to someone she’d just chatted with nicely a few times – although who knows. Maybe she would. I just doubt it. Especially as, in Asia, it’s fairly common to view that sort of intimacy as a sign that you are pretty serious with the other person. Casual or FB relationships do exist – in Taiwan they’re actually fairly common – but it’s just as likely if not more so she’s more traditional and that she doesn’t view it this way. Common problem in Taiwan: Western guy wants to date and have fun, thinks girl wants same thing, they go out, they have fun, but she thinks they’re deepening their relationship, which never occurred to him, and then there’s a blow-up. I kind of see that here.

    In that way, fixing her up with other guys could be a hurtful blow. I’m not sure I’d do that.

    Honestly if I am right – and I acknowledge I could be wrong – my advice would be “you shoulda thought about this BEFORE you slept with your business partner’s younger sister, bro. Since you didn’t…you’re just going to have to swallow hard, tell her the truth, and hope the damage won’t be too bad.”

    Also keep in mind as a divorcee, while you don’t care about that, in China a lot of men do. Sexist and unfortunate but true. Her options are likely limited (in which case fixing her up may actually work).

  2. I can’t agree with Jocelyn’s advices. It is a very Chinese response.

    I agree with most of Jody’s points. Best way is to man up and tell her where you really stand.

  3. And you are wrong about Chinese won’t separate business relationships and focus on money to be made.

  4. I don’t know anything about China, but it sounds like Ms. Eikenburg knows what she’s talking about.

    I just wanted to mention that I’ve seen my Korean boyfriend’s three friends get married and they all married out of their own personal wish and not their family’s, nor any sort of arrangements.

  5. Andy, what is her income and her personal information? I can help you out if u present info to help me understand the situation better.

    Source:lived in China for 16 years.

  6. I agree with Jenna Cody, just have that talk, tell her what’s the situation and do it honestly and in a nice way.
    Is she going to be mad at you? Probably, but maybe you should both have approached this topic before.
    Just discuss about it, like two adults.

    And I suggest you don’t share her income and more personal details here..honestly.

  7. I agree with *most* of Jocelyn’s points but I’m a firm believer that the truth is a powerful thing; and the truth of the matter is that he doesn’t feel that way about her and she probably deserves someone that does.

    I’ve said that to many a woman, and many a woman has said that to me. It’s a hard think to take initially but after a while, one gets over it. I’m FB friends with almost all the women with whom I’ve said this and had said it to me.

    Yes, her options are limited as a divorcee in China but a two-time divorcee is twice as bad. That seems to be where this might be heading if he’s not honest with her and himself.

  8. Jocelyn’s advices take considerations in cultural differences. Given that, it is not an adult way to handle the situation to put it bluntly. It works better in high school, even in China. All you need is to find a private setting and have a respectful and open conversation. My experience tells me Chinese women like that too. You might need to phrase your languages to suit her cultural norms. If she does not accept it, keep some distances and let it cool down.
    I’ve seen good shares of examples as Jody described. The guy led the girl on and got laid at the same time.

  9. On the other hand, her comment reminds me of the sign that says,
    “Nice to see, nice to hold, once broken considered sold.”

  10. I actually liked Jocelyn’s suggestions. Intentional or not, the more the girl is being lead on, the later she finds out he doesn’t like her, the worse the outcome will be. He should stop being with her sexually, or should tell her that he doesn’t feel that way about her.

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