Infidelity in China? Doesn’t matter to my marriage

(photo by hjrosasq via

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a reader with a Chinese partner inquiring about infidelity in China. While I cannot reveal the actual e-mail since I promised confidentiality, from reading between the lines I could sense this reader seemed worried about the potential for the partner to engage in extramarital affairs in China. Isn’t it funny that a stranger would ask me to shed light on this for reassurance about their relationship?

That e-mail echoed the concerns of a white woman I knew. She had a Chinese husband and considered moving back to China with him, where he hoped to realize his dreams of entrepreneurship. But in the end, she couldn’t do it. Among the reasons why, she fretted over some hypothetical “private secretary” who would surely steal her husband away from her.

As my husband and I plan to return to China, I’m far more worried about how to ship our things over or make that connection in New York’s JFK airport than I am about phantom mistresses and potential affairs. So what if China has “private secretaries” and KTV “hostesses” and entire communities of ernai? China sure didn’t invent the concept of cheating on spouses, as people do it all around the world (including in my home country, the US). More importantly, I know my husband and I know the strength of our marriage. Anyone who believes that a move to China will lead John astray knows nothing about him or us.

I’m not sure what the future holds. But I am sure about the love and trust I hold in my heart for my husband — and that’s enough for me to believe that our future will be a blissful one, together.

Have you ever heard people discuss China’s infidelity — and worry about their relationship or marriage? What do you think?

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28 Replies to “Infidelity in China? Doesn’t matter to my marriage”

  1. Based the scientific research and data, East Asians (Han chinese certainly) have lowerest number of sexual partners, which translated into mostly monogamous relationship in life.

    Sensational social media and journalism often distorted the reality.

  2. I have thought about this a lot and I’d be curious to know what research shows. I can’t help but wonder if Chinese men (and women) cheat any more or less than Americans (also my home country)? Another poster mentioned that Asians have less sexual partners, but that doesn’t really mean much as many Chinese people I know married their first or second partner. In America people tend to have far more partners before marrying but that proves nothing about their fidelity while in relationships.

    Sometimes I think it’s different attitudes. It seems like Chinese men are less secretive. I’ve met married Chinese men openly out and about with girlfriends and I feel like in America most men would keep an affair private. Perhaps part of it is perpetuated by stories of such affairs in the media and on Chinese TV shows. It’s hard to know what is reality.

    I do agree that only you know your partner. If you trust them in your home country than you should trust them in China.

  3. I don’t know anything about the culture in China when it comes to affairs but I think if you make it obvious you would not put up with cheating in a relationship, your partner should listen. If you really don’t trust them not to cheat on you after making your feelings clear, no matter what country you are in, you have to wonder just how strong your relationship is.

  4. I was surprised to hear that your reader was worried about her partner cheating if they lived in China. While one can never generalize about an entire group, I’ve always thought that Chinese men had a good reputation for being faithful husbands and good fathers. When we lived in the Philippines, I heard more than one person say that Filipino men may be romantic, but Chinese men made the best husbands. Again a generalization, but it always made me smile and nod since I had a Chinese husband.

  5. I agree. I think Chinese men, for the most part, are extremely loyal because they are so utterly dedicated to family.

    I don’t think going to a certain country turns you into a cheater. I think if someone has the intention to cheat then it can be done anywhere, whether it is in the USA or in China. I think it boils down to the strength of the relationship, mutual trust and respect.

    In my opinion, I think Chinese men make great partners because they tend to be faithful and family oriented—but in exchange, I think Chinese men may not be as romantic as some western women would hope (i.e. in China it’s not normal to make a wedding proposal a big event).

    Now Japan is a different story. When I lived there for 2 years I was blown away how common infidelity is. It can almost be said that going to a hostess bar is one requirement for work after a man enters the office. To this day I don’t know one Japanese man that hasn’t cheated on his significant other (although they are good people, I mean, it happens).

    Also, maybe it’s just me, but I would be WAY more worried about cheating if I had a western husband moving to Asia. That’s a definite.

    1. Interesting note about Japan there. There are a lot of sexless marriages in Japan. The reason for this is that in Japanese culture love and sex are not connected. Sex is usually seen as a purely physical act for pleasure, whereas love is more about duty, honor and family. To many Japanese men, a wife is more like a mother than a partner. She is supposed to bring up your children, cook, clean, run the household and look after her husband. But you don’t necessarily have to have sex with her. Sex is seen as something which men ‘need to have’ and therefore Japanese wives tolerate extramarital sex because it doesn’t really have anything to do with their idea of love. That’s not to say all marriages are like that – obviously sexual chemistry and romantic love are undeniably connected even to a Japanese man. But their culture is extremely different. This is also why their birthrate is so low – after a woman gives birth she is no longer seen as a sexual partner but instead a mother. In America even if the romantic aspect is perfect but where is not good sex, most people see that as reason enough to leave.

      I feel in China love and sex are really quite entwined culturally – but again there are couples who have a similar outlook to the Japanese dynamic I explained above. Loyalty and love lie with the wife, but passion and pleasure lie with the mistresses. Every relationship is different.

      1. Wow Leah, you have a great understanding of Japan! Did you live there for a while or possibly even date a Japanese person before?

        You really hit it right on the mark. I even had some Japanese friends of mine (men) say that they feel wrong having sex with their wife, almost in a way that they’re having sex with their mother or something equally repulsive.

        This can be attributed as to why in Japan, ALL couples sleep separately. It’s creepy. Every Japanese house I’ve been in, the master bedroom has two separate beds (or futons). They don’t even sleep together! (You can see this in Japanese dramas as well).

        I think when they first start dating they have sexual chemistry (of course), but once they get older or, in particular, once they start a family I think the appeal starts to wear off and their ‘wife’ slowly turns into ‘mother.’ (It’s almost similar to the dramatic change from ‘student’ to ‘salaryman’; Japan has these weird life stages).

        I agree that in China love and sex are more intertwined. When I dated a Chinese guy, I was so stunned about how open and forward he was when it came to sex (as opposed to my experiences I had in Japan).

        Great insights!

    2. I feel everyone is different. As soon as mu Chinese wife rec’d her Green Card she started staying out lateer with men and we ended up divorced after my waiting for 4-yrs for her to become faithful. However even though she kept her money she continued o/side relationships. I feel this has to do with her upbringing and social living conditions.

  6. I agree with Jocelyn that infidelity happens in every culture. That said, two people warned me about marrying my former husband (one didn’t even know him). These two people were both Chinese men. They said I needed to be very understanding and that my marriage wasn’t going to be an American one. They turned out to be correct.

  7. Interesting. I have been warned too. “Watch out! Your husband is Chinese, he will surely cheat on you!”. Funnily enough, a Korean woman said to me: “Chinese men make much better husbands than Korean men do!”, what the…?

    I’ve been with my husband for almost 10 years, we have 2 kids. Then again, it’s not the location nor the passport one holds what matters. It’s so much more.

    If you think your spouse might cheat if you go to this or that place, have a look at your marriage’s foundation.

  8. I think it’s not people’s gender or nationality, it’s how layal and honest they can be. I said to my husband once that if something happens between us let’s just end it, then start new life, not cheat on each other. I’m not affraid he will cheat on me – he’s not attracted to Asian girls, he’s ‘not manly enough’ for American girls plus I saw him flirting – believe me, I think no one beside me could fall for this, haha. But I believe Chinese men are more ‘keeper’ than others – I don’t know is it because there are 12 mln more man than women in China and they just don’t want to screw it up or because they are quite conservative? I really don’t know, but I believe if you marry a guy you should be sure of him 🙂

  9. Like you said Jocelyn, not one country can brag to have invented infidelity!
    But infidelity, General Tao flavor, fascinating topic. My former husband had a restaurant and we would see everything happen there! Men would bring their girlfriends as if nothing is wrong with it, actually, everybody thought it was a ‘face booster’! Then once in a while, same people would come eat there with wife and child, nobody did any case out of it!
    Of course, not everybody buys into the concept that having a girlfriend is good for face, but still, from my experience, it seemed fairly accepted among men over there and women felt quite helpless. It’s like smoking the most expensive cigarettes, ordering the expensive wine bottle, all good for face (never mind lungs and liver, who needs that?) When I commented to the customers I knew more, they were always saying it’s part of the culture and it won’t change…. Geez!!!! I was sometimes wondering on what planet I was!
    Hopefully it’s not as common as I could perceive from the people I knew back there.

  10. I’m a Chinese man myself 🙂 lol. Chinese men do make good husbands? Why ? We always think about our kids future ( education and health) from A – Z. We will pass on all our wealth to our kids ( actually we’re working for our kids) We care for our wives, our in laws and mother +father in laws etc etc. We value families that ‘s why we must pick the best women to be our wives. Why we are not romantic ( some Chinese men only)? Maybe it’s a cultural thing because we have lots of things going on daily. Only people who have time are romantic. I don’t even remember anything after one week. Just too much responsibilities.

    1. “Only people who have time are romantic”.

      Oh, come on!

      Well, I don’t know if Chinese men make good husbands, I do know that the particular Chinese man I married does make a good husband, but there are plenty of Chinese men and I’m sure some will make good husbands and some won’t, like anywhere else.

      Generalizations are so easy to make.

      FYI, any normal loving parent will think about the kids’ future, any spouse will care about the partner…

  11. @Lina

    You make very interesting point here. My girlfriend always worries when I visits China. She always thought Chinese women would steal me away from her. But she did not realize that my taste of women has been white-washed in Western dominated media. I admit this is learned taste. I can easily go `native’ again.

    On the other hand, some western women in US do find me `sexy’. My girlfriend should really worry about here. But lucky her, I do treat our relationship seriously. But she is equally jealous here. She displays more public affection (kissing) to make claim. Women of Nowegian heritage are most jealous type in the world.

  12. I have a mixed point of view on this. I actually used to think that cheating was rampant in China. It seemed quite open compared to my own home country. I didn’t know if it was because there are so many people, that the chances of been caught is less. I didn’t know been a foreigner that people felt more open to tell me things or to let down their guard in front of me? I became suspicious of those who had two phones. I became suspicious of the married student who would “befriend” the younger female students. I became the ear to listen to a male friend whose girlfriend was “funded” by an older guy. Do more Chinese people cheat or are more loyal than any other nations? I don’t think so. I just think they aren’t so good at hiding it.
    I think who I would trust least is the Western guy going to China on his own…sorry probably a tad controversial but I saw firsthand Western guys living double lives. Sad but true…and yes, I know not ALL guys are like this.

  13. I agree with you completely.

    I’m in a long distance relationship with Korean man who is in Korea right now, and people often ask me am I not worried he will cheat on me when I don’t have any control over him.

    If the only reason he wouldn’t be cheating on me is because I’m breathing down his neck that would be a sad relationship.

  14. This is a complicated issue.

    At an individual level, fidelity resides in a grey zone very hard to navigate. Are all friendships with opposite sex innocent? Is feeling tempted immoral? You can only know you have crossed the line when you actually have sometimes.

    At the level of society, the norms might be different in different countries. In some countries, infidelity is openly looked down upon. In others, like China, people have developed a certain degree of tolerance towards it. That doesn’t mean people in the former countries don’t cheat, it just means they have more of a reason to hide it.

    Finally, there are some factors that predispose/ make it easier for such temptation/ grey zone to be there. If your partner is viewed as desirable in any way (looks, money, prestige); then it is likely that there will be some people who will think nothing of wanting to get them irrespective of their relationship status.

    But it boils down to the trust and faith both parties place in each other.

    Not going to China for fear that your partner might cheat with some hostess is belittling both your relationship and your partner. But to give these women a benefit of doubt, its possible Jocelyn that they feel a general sense of foreboding because the balance in their relationship might change. Being foreign women they might feel that they will immediately fall into the “lesser desirable” category due to either financial dependance on their husbands, inability to thrive in an environment that is completely foreign and/or because maybe the male population in that region might not flock them as eagerly as the female population might flock the husbands for whatever reasons. And in an unequal situation, they are bound to feel more helpless.

    Its different when its a situation where both people have clear goals and are likely to be equals in that particular context. I can imagine that having lived in China before and being fluent in Chinese you would not face similar adjustment issues. Similarly, since you and your husband have a vision and a clear goal, you guys might not even have time to dwell on useless things like ernai and stupid young women who sell themselves for expensive bags/ perks. OR women who think nothing of hitting on someone’s partner.

    Having said that though, these things are not specific to China. They are specific to relationships and the context in which they exist. I have a chinese bf and I find a few chinese girls hitting on him/ trying to befriend him both overtly and covertly just because he is “tall and cute” and “a girlfriend isn’t the same as a wife” (I am sure these types of girls will have some other dumb rationale if I were his wife). BUT I have heard of similar cases where the people in question were not chinese. So it is universal, and China then just serves as a convenient excuse to avoid looking into the relationship or worse, having an honest conversation with your partner and admitting your own weaknesses and insecurities.

  15. Men cheat in every country is a cheeky response…. The fact of the matter is cheating by men in China is pretty wild spread and even acceptable. It seem more acceptable as men climb the social ladder here, to see oneself with mistress is a sign that he truly made it in this society! I seen this many times before with my Chinese business partners.

  16. If people are prone to cheating, unfortunately they will cheat, no matter their race or nationality. In the past it was more acceptable to have polygamy, for a man to have multiple wives, but now monogamy is the standard, and polygamy is frowned upon.

  17. 80% of all divorces filed in Malaysia among Chinese over the past 2 years have stated their reasons as infidelity of husband with Chinese national women in Malaysia. It happens and it happens on a large scale, so much so that it has been discussed in Malaysian government levels. We know MANY Chinese men here who take another woman and still remain “loyal” to wife and famly. So please acknowledge that it happens rather than saying some womens fears are unfounded amongst Chinese men. However, I do also believe, from experience that there are many other Chinese men wgo do not fall into this category and they are the most loyal, loving husbands and fathers a woman could ever hope to have!

  18. @Mariam, where did you cull the figure and the reasons for the divorces? Were the divorces mentioned ones that mostly involved retired old Chinese men lured by the guile and charms of the young and nubile China dolls here looking for opportunities? Because empirically, I find that most married Chinese men here don’t keep mistresses or have liaisons. We can’t afford to. We are all mostly thinking of our careers and families. The richer ones, perhaps. Anyway, I am not saying every one is a saint. On the contrary, it seems that it is mostly the Malay men who may be having more fun than the Chinese men here do. Please, I am not going on the racial line. It’s just my personal observation. And I have Malay friends too.

  19. I think that you should judge your partner on an individual basis and not on a general one. I’ve heard that many Chinese men cheat on their wives, but does that mean that I think my husband will cheat on me? No, because you cannot generalise every individual case. Many doesn’t mean all. If you think you can’t trust your partner, is it really because of him or are you just listening to all those stereotypes way too much? Does he give you reasons not to trust him?

  20. I would like to add that if a Chinese man marries a foreign woman (western), he probably is an exception to the general Chinese male population. He was exposed to Western culture early on so he would know that western culture practice less sexism and that western women won’t tolerate infidelity like Chinese women would. So most likely he won’t cheat on his foreign wife because she will probably divorce him without a second though!

  21. What about Chinese women that cheat. I just read this entire article, and all the comments.

    Women cheat just as much as men, women are not any more loyal than men. I don’t agree with cheating, however I think men are capable of sexually cheating but still only loving their wife and family.

    A woman who sexual cheats does it because she lost all respect for her partner. This is because men have a higher sex drive, due to higher testosterone levels (the hormone that governs sex drive).

    But all of you are disappointing. You think women are innocent creatures? You think they are not emotionally manipulative, or socially deceptive? I’ve always found men tend to be more honest and direct in their communication. Women tend to react more with how they feel and not about what is logical and fair.

    You all just sat here and judged men for cheating. Men are the ones who usually get caught cheating, we are not as good at deception. Women rarely get caught cheating.

  22. Hey guys. I am a girl who fell crazy in love with a Chinese man. My boyfriend was so much into me, that he quitted his job and argued with his family in China to move to my home country (which is not very rich or well-known in China) to live with me, we were hitchhiking and traveling with almost no money, still had a lot of fun, we are both young (24). Despite all the good things, I have a problem with jealousy, I am trying not to let him know about it because it could affect our relationship and bring us negative emotions, so most of the time I suffer alone. I’ve lived in China for one year and I’ve heard soooo many stories about cheating in China, I’ve seen streets with dozens of brothels one next to another and it all scares me. My bf even told me one day, that he suspects his father is cheating on his mom, because “he’s been acting different recently…”, obviously he didn’t like the idea, but he didn’t seem shocked by this, he told me that it is quite normal in China that men do this to get “face”, and he said woman would rarely divorce because of this. The situation didn’t stop him from having good relations with his father, he told me that he respects him a lot and think he’s a great man…
    He also has a friend, an American, who cheats on his Chinese gf as soon as she leaves the city for the weekend, this girl was my bf’s good friend, I was very surprised that he didn’t react, he didn’t feel compassion that she was hurt, he told me that he thought it was normal f.ex. in the USA, to have an open relationship. And before I heard this story my bf was repeating that those guys are “true love”. One day during a dinner with his chinese friend and his fiancee, that guy told him that when he comes to my country he should change a girlfriend, then he suggested him to go to a city (Lijiang), that is famous for brothels. And I was sitting next to them! How disrespectful was that? I didn’t want to react nervously, but I felt uncomfortable by that situation.
    My boyfriend is very honest so he doesn’t hide anything from me, tells me literally everything he thinks and hears, sometimes I wish he would hide some things, maybe then I would have a peaceful life and enjoy my relationship. These stories are not us, but other people and my bf is innocent, but it makes me worry about the spoiled environment around him. I know that my boyfriend is a good and decent man, I know that he loves me. He has been waiting until he met me with sex and I know he did. I discussed the adultery issue with him many times, he knows I don’t accept this and he claims he would never do this to me, however he told me that in fact if I cheat on him when we are 60, after so many years probably he wouldn’t care… it was some kind of a joke, but I don’t think that time is that old! Now he repeats often, that he cherishes the fact, that we are the only ones for each other and he wishes to keep this forever. He thinks, that Chinese couples cheat on each other because they do not marry for love, but for money and face.
    However, he is in China now and we are going to see each other again in one month. The problem is not now for me, the problem may be in the future. Will I be able to stand the fact, that at least once or twice a year he goes to china alone, to visit his friends and family? I know that our relationship is strong, but I worry about the environment and the tolerance for infidelity there! I am seriously considering breaking up with him, because I can’t imagine worrying like this for my whole life. I know that infidelity can happen to me with a man from my own country, but I would feel MUCH safer with somebody who was raised in my own culture! That time if he cheated on me he would at least feel guilty!
    I don’t expect you to give me any advices, I know that only I know my bf, I must decide, but please tell me your opinions about this situation. And sorry for my English.
    The fact that you feel so confident means that your husband is a fantastic man, he makes you feel safe and secure and you trust each other. Wish you all the best, all the happiness of the world 🙂

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