Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man

Wedding rings and money
When I asked my Chinese husband about why he took out a loan to treat me on our first "official date," the answer -- which said a lot about how he viewed love and money -- surprised me.

On our first official date, John gave me a copy of a Dream of Red Mansions, treated me to a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese feast, and then romanced me beside the West Lake in Hangzhou. An unforgettable night with the man who would become my Chinese husband? Priceless.

Except for John, who not only paid for it, but actually took out a loan to make it happen — from his friend, a guy we call “Lao Da.”

But when I asked John why he went to such great lengths to pay for me, he gave me an answer I never expected: “Our relationship wasn’t settled yet.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked him, rocking back and forth in his arms playfully as we traded smiles.

“Well, if our relationship is settled, then the money is equal.”

“So you mean, if we’re a committed boyfriend and girlfriend, a couple, then it doesn’t matter who pays because we share the money, like a married couple?”

“Yes,” he said, rocking me back and forth as he flashed me an embarrassed grin.

“So, as long as we weren’t a couple, it wouldn’t be right for me to pay for that evening, because I’m the woman?”

“It’s the duty of a man, a cultural thing I guess,” he confessed, shrugging.

Then I had a thought, remembering how, weeks after that date, when we first kissed, I bought John an Italian button-down shirt, jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt. “So that’s why you let me buy you all of those clothes after our ‘relationship was settled.’ You didn’t mind because you saw it as our money, and not me taking care of you.”

He smiled again, that smile that says you’ve got me.

It’s no wonder, then, that my husband never protested about me taking care of things, financially, after we started dating. Or worried much about how I made more than him for a period of time. He already saw us as something like a married couple, long before we even got married. And, to him, that meant we shared the money.

So I say, knowing your husband was committed to you from that very first kiss? Now, that’s priceless.

Has money and love ever surprised you in a cross-cultural relationship?

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21 Replies to “Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man”

  1. I have to say that in this matter my boyfriend thinks the same way.

    But all in all I’m little bit tired of talking about money. Chinese people seem to be always asking how much is my rent, how much money I make and how I should study something that will lead to a well paid job. Sure you need certain amount of money to have a comfortable life, but after that I think there are more interesting topics than money and how to earn it.

  2. This DEFINITELY sheds some light on why my boyfriend is ALWAYS on me about money…me saving it, getting a better job, and not being so frivolous with the little bit I make at my current job…We have been together 4 1/2 years, and he too USED to foot the bill all the time when we first started dating…now it is usually always dutch, unless it is a birthday or a special occasion…This is so funny to me that it didn’t register earlier that it was a cultural thing…and I am usually the first to notice that! I ADORE my boyfriend!!!

  3. I have been struggling with allowing my boyfriend to buy me things when he offers to do so. While I was visiting China I insisted to take out some of my own cash, instead he just shoved a thousand yuan into my wallet!! Paid for flights, all food, shopping etc.. As a Canadian woman I have always been independent, and self reliant, so adjusting to this is OUT of my comfort zone. But I do admit, I love the change and being treated like a princess. This blog post clears up a few questions and now I suspect that as our relationship develops so will the equality of sharing the expenses. So yes, money and love has surprised me in this relationship, never before have I felt so loved and supported by my man. Also never before have I seen so much spent on me… I feel truly blessed 🙂

  4. It’s also a typically cultural thing that it can go either way. What I mean is that, ultimately depending on the person, it can change to being a more equal financial relationship aiming for balance (though going dutch still sounds rather un-Chinese to me), or the woman taking over and only giving her hubby his allowance (as he’s only just going to play with it anyways), or the husband being very concerned about keeping his independence and preferably the main income in the family and keeping her dependent.
    It all fits perfectly well, culturally, just depends on how people have learnt it, want it, want to interpret it,…

    I do second that there is a more distinct change occurring when Chinese feel they really are in a settled relationship. Even that, though, can go many ways: there are enough girls who would tell their guy that he has to give her whatever she wants if he really loves her and wants to show he’s good for her; and others who’ll not let him pay for anything until theirs is really a relationship that seems to work out and is meant to last, so as not to put themselves into a position where they owe him. Again, the one fits just as well as the other…

  5. Aorijia, Yes, Chinese men have pride ,too.
    In Chinese culture, for example ,we don’t go dutch when we eat at the restaurant. Normally, one person pay for the whole family or group. I do that all the time. It’s a cultural thing even I ‘ve been in the America for 35 yrs. For other tables , you’ll see people go dutch like with 10 receipts for each customer on one table.

  6. Dora,

    That’s why white women don’t know or understand about ASian men. Once you understand the culture and Asian men you will LOVE us like bees on honey, baby! 🙂 hehehehe. Usually Asian people in general are very practical and very good with money. I’m glad that you love your bf. I love my wife tooo muah muah muah *kisses* all over her lips and cheeks hahahah.

  7. Bruce,

    Funny my Vietnamese friend said the same thing when I told her I had met a Chinese guy who was interested in me. “Finally, an Asian guy! Oh, honey, he will take care of you like you have never known! That’s our Asian guy for you!” (I had always been so attracted to Asian guys but never met any single ones and never knew about this part of the culture.)

    Wow, I’ve always been the Sugar Mama, so if this relationship develops, I’m looking forward to the fun part before we have to settle for sharing finances. 😉

    Meanwhile, I was worried about the double-edged sword that some other posters mentioned. The last year was financially very difficult for me, and I had to make some tough choices, which I dreaded telling him about (he seems to be VERY successful in that department). Finally, he sent a letter in which he confessed he was having a really hard time with his job and was feeling depressed. I took it as the opportunity to commiserate with him and told him everything. You can imagine my relief when it didn’t seem to phase him in the least. I almost wonder if he didn’t see it as a chance to be “the man” in the relationship, in the traditional sense of the word.

    Well… only time will tell!

  8. Hummingbird,

    The majority of the Asian guys that I’ve known would make sacrifices with their wives. They will work 7 days a week just like me to make ends meet or struggle through hard time! I know one Asian guy whose is extremely successful in the financial and insurance industry and he’s still single. Why? He wants a woman that will still love him if he loses all his money. He doesn’t want women that only like him because he’s successful. Successful asian men want down to earth women not money driven women.

  9. “He wants a woman that will still love him if he loses all his money. He doesn’t want women that only like him because he’s successful. Successful asian men want down to earth women not money driven women.” – Bruce

    That’s actually why I shy away from guys who make more money than me. I fear that I will love him and in the back of his mind or just in his mind period, he will be thinking, “She is only here because I have money.”

    I think things are much easier when a man is my financial equal or junior. You know?

  10. When my fiancée insists on paying for things or gets embarrassed at the thought of me paying for things ( he was in a car crash a while back and was even reluctant to let me help pay his hospital bills even though he didn’t have the money ). I always say to him “你的钱,我的钱不一样吗? 还是咱们的“ or what’s yours is mine what’s mine is yours, it’s what he says to me all the time whenever I try to pay even for coffee, eventually back-fired, haha.

  11. When it comes to dating Asian men, particularly Chinese, I find the view on finances the absolute largest hurdle to overcome.

    This blog gave me a moment of enlightenment and helped me realizes the whole “settlement” concept for Chinese that I have been blind to until now… it made things so much more clear!

    I know that Chinese men shower women with presents and usually foot the bill, but with my boyfriend I noticed that as time passed on he was ok, no, almost expecting me to pay for things. He said he would treat me to a trip to Japan, so when it came time for him to visit the USA and see my relatives and I asked him how he would pay for the plane ticket, he said: “You’re not buying it for me?”

    For a country where a woman expects a million dollar property as a condition of marriage, I was blown away by this request.

    Slowly, every purchase or present started to feel like a game of hot potato. Because he paid for Japan, I pay for America. He bought me some dresses, so when I buy him a shirt he feels like it’s due. In the grand scheme of things, it seems fair, but at the same time I don’t want to feel like I have to ‘settle’ something that was a present to begin with.

    The ‘it’s our money’ type of thinking also drives me crazy. When I asked when my boyfriend would pay me back for some money he borrowed, we got into a crazy heated argument. “Why is it your money and my money, it’s our money!”

    Maybe I’m just too American, but for a couple that’s not even married yet this thought does not work for me. My Korean boyfriend in the past also became extremely upset when I refused to take a 5,000 USD amount from him to go to school in Japan. I’m not giving you money, he said, my money is yours to begin with. You’re family to me, wouldn’t you do the same for your brother/sister/mother?”

    Anyway, I’m glad it worked out for all of you above. I still struggle with it, and don’t know if this will ever work out. I don’t like the thought that personal/love relationships have to be ‘settled’ and that all the money I make automatically becomes someone else’s.

    1. Am I the only one that since three years with my chinese boyfriend he asks me for money very often or to give money to his parents, work, study, clean, pay? When he ask for money it also always has to be kept secret from others from fear to lose face. He also likes to use part of the money I give him to buy me a small gift ex a cake then acts as like he got it himself. I read so many cases about chinese boyfriend providing that I thought I’m the only in this situation. Thank you for your insight =) I don’t feel like an exeception.

  12. Mary,

    That’s why Chinese /Asian are the opposite of other types of men!!!!!!!!! We have high expectations and lots of responsibilities unlike Western men . Not all your money will go to other people, you have the control on how and where to spend the money. We’re very different . Seem like Chinese men have to take care of the whole colony of people sometimes but we have a choice not to do it also. Most Chinese men will think that Western women can’t handle the responsibilities or can’t understand why we have to do such act ( supporting the whole freaking village). Now you know why AMWF pairings are not common and it’s one of the reasons.

  13. Hi Jocelyn,

    I’m so happy some weeks ago i found your website. I lived in Shanghai (where I met my boyfriend) 6 months and now I am back home ready to go there for other 6.

    Readying your blog makes me feels so normal, sometimes I feel so disappointed and is hard for me to face the cultural difference that makes me and my boyfriend fight quite often…

    I’m really looking for to keep up with your blog cause it makes me feel like I have a big sister somewhere who can understand me.

  14. My Chinese girlfriends warned me (an American girl) “just wait until he starts asking you for money”. Four months in and it’s started. I was proud to say he never asked…, but finally it’s started. He must feel settled. “Send me 500 in a red envelope.” Soon I’ll be having him run a business for me, so I’m sure I’ll earn it back in spades, but for now he gets the side eye (and a red envelope). After all, he’s told his mother “everything” about me: I’m 5 years older and I have a child (because this was all that was important). Of course I’m sure this was a hard sell despite the fact that I have a master’s degree, I own property, and considerably exceed his annual income. On another note, 500 元 is a small price to pay for the gentle, considerate, kind, even-keeled love I receive from this man. I can concur with the Asian gentleman who responded that it is the sweetest love I’ve ever had the privilege to receive.

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