Guest Post: I Got Divorced in China, and What Happened in My Marriage Is More Common Than You Realize

When you blog about love, family and relationships in China for as long as I do, you get to know lots of couples. But while there are love stories, there are also breakups and divorce in China.

Alex is someone I’ve known for years. She shared her love story here back in 2013. But her marriage with a Chinese man unraveled, ending in divorce. Her tale of divorce in China has become an everyday story she tells to the taxi drivers of Qingdao. It’s an act of courage to share stories like this and I’m grateful Alex wrote this piece.

Do you have a story, whether divorce in China or love or otherwise, that you’d like to share here on the blog? Have a look at the submit a post page and contact me today with your ideas.
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The taxi driver says, “I’m here! Where are you?”

I reply, “I’m nearly there! Wait one moment, what color is your car?” Moments later, I say to him, “Hi! This is the car I ordered, correct?”

Since 2010 I’ve realized that getting from point A to point B in China has always been a fairly simple task. When the cost of a car sets you back a couple dollars, and they are in high supply, the only time I ever worry about getting around would be during those peak traffic times. And in that case I will rarely leave the house.

Chinese taxi drivers certainly have a reputation for being curious – if anything they should be merited for their ability to test all foreigners in China on their Chinese-speaking abilities. If you can pass the first few questions of the journey, well that merits you have a certain level of experience in China.

When it comes to getting a taxi, it is all about creating a conversation. To communicate is to be human, and to tell a story is to be someone willing to share a piece of your life with an overworked, and often bored, taxi driver. This always seems to be the best opportunity for these conversations., I will never see you again, and you probably won’t see me again, so time for that beautiful exchange.

Qingdao is a city I have called home since my early twenties — a city of 8 million, with sea, mountains and locals that are beyond welcoming. To reiterate a story that I often share with those stranger taxi drivers reveals another side of those international love stories. Because not all love stories, not all magical moments are real life. And not everything we see is as it is.

I met my now ex-husband in 2010, and funnily enough a Chinese fortune-teller actually reminded me about this over a business lunch just yesterday! He was spot on that I had indeed met a love. The story of how I met my ex-husband has nearly been erased from my mind, but I cherish and hold on to the beginning where it seemed to be about love — true love, love that crosses thousands of miles — and that is what brought on my destiny.

Today I have to be brutally honest when I tell those taxi drivers that within the beautiful city of Qingdao, out of all those friendly, smiling, helpful Shandong faces there are in fact a few bad eggs.

Adultery, divorce, rumors, gossip, cheating, lying and manipulation. This side of marriage in China is more prevalent than ever – but would you ever know the truth? Of course not. It is buried so deep in “keeping face” and maintaining a reputation that what goes on after the wedding ceremony is rarely discussed. My own experience as a 22-year-old university graduate, madly in love and naïve as hell, is a simple representation.

What I have seen in only the past three months goes to show that this exists in many, many relationships. The Chinese version of “undiscussed” open relationships, staying together for the money, the kids, the face.

I wouldn’t and couldn’t endure it.

It began by discovering images on iCloud – you sneaky bastard! From that point on I became a professional private investigator. Once that “小三” (xiaosan) mistress was discovered I was basically looking to find out everything. Looking back now it was really pointless. This mistress culture is a part of many marriages in China. Perhaps this is the reason why two people can stay together for so long. Perhaps long-term monogamy is unrealistic.

What I really want to say is not a sad sob story of how I had to escape a manipulative, power-hungry businessman or how I left the company we built, that cute poodle puppy, apartment and the mini cooper car lifestyle. The life we had together from the outside looked ideal. We were set to have some great looking kids, and be able to exchange country residencies. We were on our way to building a successful company, and overall I loved this man. It was stupid love but it was true. After this entire experience I feel that marriage is about so much more than love or lust. It should be viewed as a partnership, a collaboration, and built from a foundation of reason and logic.

How I went from a married, power-couple team of wedding planners and designer to a single, nomadic dating coach in London – well, that process and series of events still surprises me. So much of what has happened, I look back on it and think, Wow, where did the time go? How did all of this happen?

So, what do these kindhearted, slightly coarse, smile-wrinkle taxi drivers have to do with it? They hear my story of divorce in China every day, because how else can I say the reason why my Chinese is spoken with some local dialect tones? How can I answer what kept me in Qingdao for over five years? I like to be open and share my story as I think so much of the reality is behind closed doors.

You would not believe the number of businessmen who find it completely normal to not inform me until the second date that they have a family and wife, but would still like to pursue me. Even today I attend dinner meetings and drinking spells with men like this, offering up this kind of proposal. After what I went through with my ex-husband, it’s odd to be on the other side of things, so to speak.

And yet, I continue to date Chinese men. I would still marry a Chinese man, but with so much more caution, and with more high-level requests as to what he will provide. I would ask for what I deserve upfront and first. I would want a house in my name, a nice car, and a wedding paid for by him, just like many Chinese women. That is the lesson I learned.

Will I find love once again in China? I couldn’t tell you because I’m not a fortune-teller. But I remain cautiously optimistic about the future. And every day, as I hail another taxi, it gets a little easier to tell the story of my divorce in China and embrace the possibilities for my future.

You can follow Alex on Instagram.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Double Happiness: How Alex married Fei, and became a wedding planner in Qingdao, China

Canadian Alex calls it destiny. She went to China in June 2010 as an exchange student, never realizing she would leave her heart in Qingdao — and end up becoming a wedding planner together with her husband, Fei.

Today, they run H-Flower together in Qingdao, and their story is as beautiful as the designs they create for weddings and more. Even better, Alex shares her how-we-met-and-married tale in two languages — and has graciously provided a video starring the two of them (with subtitles in English and Chinese). In addition to their company website, you can also follow Alex and Fei’s company on Weibo.

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Our hometowns share an ocean, but are on different continents. We both celebrate a new year, but at a different time. We both have parents, but only one of us has siblings.

I can tell the story of how Fei and I met in two languages. This type of meeting is called 缘分 (yuanfen) which depicts that by fate or destiny two people come together.

Like most foreigners here I began my journey as an exchange student in June 2010. At the same time Fei agreed to help his friend by teaching a class on Business in China. Fei studied and lived in Dublin, Ireland for nine years. When we met it was not in Canada, it was not in Ireland, nor was it in Fei’s hometown Qingdao (青岛). We met in a small suburb outside the city, in an old classroom on the 6th floor.

In class we exchanged cards and arranged to meet later on. We went with several friends for a dinner of roast duck, which led to night market shopping, and further an intimate pot of blue mountain coffee shared between the two of us. After coffee I followed like a puppy to watch a football match in a pub even though I had never been a fan.

Fei

The next day I left to Xi’an. It was painful leaving but the Terracotta warriors, Yangzte River, and Wuhan Dam all distracted me for a little while. As I traveled throughout China we kept in contact every day via text message. Through these short but meaningful first messages we subtly developed our relationship.

We met in a classroom, bonded over coffee, and spent only one week together in Qingdao, China before I had to fly home to Canada. Over the distance our relationship grew closer and commitment solidified.

Today we work side-by-side creating weddings and events here in Qingdao. Everyday we share a cup of coffee together, we make jokes and laugh in both languages, and when I am not at home working we are often crazily texting each other about some little wedding detail or color combination.

Alex, doing a floral arrangement for a wedding.

It feels surreal to think that my small exchange student opportunity has opened up this entire new world. I am fluent in Chinese, married to a wonderful husband, and we are both building our careers and future together everyday.

It’s quite complicated how we came to be in the wedding industry. After we were engaged we of course began to think about how to arrange and coordinate an international wedding party. We also went to check out a few of the local wedding planners (婚庆公司). At first I saw their weddings and just didn’t really understand how there was such a huge T-shaped stage, many different colored lights, and aisle decorations that were nearly touching the ceiling? I thought to myself this isn’t the wedding that I imagined and just doesn’t feel right.

So after some trials and tribulations and meeting the right people, in May 2011 we had our first wedding client (a friend of a friend of course). Our first wedding was an amazing (and frustrating) learning experience about the different between Western and Chinese style weddings. I learned very quickly that creating hand-made seating arrangements for 300+ people just do not work!

One year later I had the chance to design and create our own wedding. I wanted to give my Chinese family and friends the experience of what a western style wedding is like. We were married by the sea, in the yard of a 100 year old building, we ate delicious steak and drank wine, we danced, we ate cake, and we drank some more. It was the best day of my life and Fei agrees it was his too.

Our company is growing, we are learning so much everyday and being challenged in every way possible. I feel honored that I can help other brides and grooms create the same wonderful memories that we had after our wedding day.

我来自加拿大的西海岸, 我未婚夫来自中国的东海岸。 我经常会被问到我们相遇的故事,通常我都会用中文和英文一起来描绘这一段。

2010年春天,我当时的大学组织到到青岛的一所合作大学交流学习。我从没有想到过会来到中国,但是还是欣然接收了这为期6周的越洋学习的机会。我未婚夫的朋友当时请他帮忙来这所大学教一节“在中国做生意”的课,用英文。第一次我看见他,第一次听见他的声音,我知道我喜欢他整个人 。

(photo by TANG VISION from Shanghai www.tangvision.com)

他在跟我们讲经济的时候我当时在凝视他的眼睛… … 之后有一次机会,我们和我的朋友,我们一起去吃饭,然后逛街,一直到只剩我们两个人的一壶醉人的蓝山咖啡。那天晚上,我就高兴的跟着他去看足球比赛(世界杯),在那之前我从来不看足球比赛,但是突然间我发觉紧张的被这项运动吸引了。

那天晚上,Fei送我回到我朋友的楼下,第二天我就要去西安旅行了,一去就是十天。刚刚遇到他就要离开让我很舍不得。 当我游览中国的名胜古迹(也是最热的城市)的时候我们每天都不断的互发短信。 当时我还不确定他对我的感觉,直到当我收到一条消息,说,“我想你”。那个时候我就想马上回到青岛!

我们在教室里遇到,一壶咖啡让我们靠近,在我回加拿大之前我们在一起短短的一周时间。当时的我不知道我们之间会发生什么但是我有强烈的愿望要回来。我们各自恢复了正常的生活,我回到了学校,Fei开始了一家公司(每天我们都用Skype和QQ在网上见面。随着时间过去我们的感情也成长了,秋天的时候,我们彼此知道心里只有对方。现在的我坐在这里看着我手指上美丽的订婚戒指,其他的都仿佛是历史了。

Alex lives with her husband Fei in Qingdao, China, where she is the executive designer, florist and stylist for H-Flower.

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We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.