One of my good Chinese friends recently broke up with his girlfriend.
His girlfriend’s mother wanted him to buy an apartment in central Beijing, but he could only afford a place in the suburbs. Even though her family was wealthier than his, as a man, he was expected to bear the full responsibility for the housing costs. His girlfriend’s mother said in the next year he needed to make a down payment on an apartment in that area, or they would never marry.
His girlfriend was 27, and she wanted to get married as quickly as possible. He had many fights with his girlfriend over this particular issue, but she would always side with her mother. Hurtful things were said, and they ended the relationship.
Ironically, marriage seems to be a major reason relationships end in China. Are money and materialism the number one source of unbridgeable differences in Chinese romantic relationships?
The story of my friend made me reflect on why my own relationships back in Europe had failed. My first boyfriend left me because he didn’t have "enough feelings," and I broke up with my second boyfriend because I felt too young to commit to a serious relationship. In both cases, feelings, or the lack of it, have been the decider.
Why are the reasons people end relationships in Europe so different to those I hear from my friends in China? I believe it comes down to the family.
European countries have a more individualistic culture, and the families are seldom the primary reason for a breakup. In China, social ties have a much greater influence.
While romance in the West is about the love the two partners feel for each other, romance in China is only a pathway to marriage, and marriage is a business transaction between two families.
Ultimately, Chinese parents want their child to be happy in their future marriage. Love is something hard to measure, but money is not. An apartment in the right location, an expensive car and a well-paid job mean that the life will be stable and secure
As a young woman from Switzerland with a Chinese boyfriend, I can understand both the Western and Chinese motivation to end a relationship. However, I think Chinese are breaking up for all the wrong reasons.
In every relationship, there will be moments where you don’t have that tingly feeling you had in the beginning, and you will have to cope with difficulties that seem almost insurmountable.
Chinese couples of all ages see love as an action. They go shopping together, cook dinner for each other and pick each other up at the bus stop, which are seldom seen in the West. These small gestures of love add up to a profound feeling of closeness, trust and dependence.
I’d like to say to my Chinese friend that if you cared for each other, materialism should not be the single priority. It wasn’t the prospect of a house in the center of Beijing that made her fall in love with you. Her parents may have good intentions for their daughter, but don’t let them interfere in your personal definition of happiness as a couple.