Young Chinese feeling trapped by pressure to marry

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-13 17:53:01

Photo: CFP

Returning to the city of Beijing, 27-year-old Rick (pseudonym)breathes a sigh of relief. The week-or-so-long Spring Festival holiday may be a cheerful time for many Chinese, but for him, it was torture - relatives were constantly asking him when he was going to get married or were enthusiastically trying to introduce him to a girl.  

"I want to be in a relationship, but not just to get married," Rick complained to the Global Times.

"However, sometimes I find it difficult to find a pure romance that has nothing to do with material concerns like whether you have a car, house or career."

Parental pressure

An age still regarded as young in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, 27 is old enough to be the father of several kids back to Rick's home village in Henan Province.

Rick told the Global Times that he has little experience with relationships because his parents demand he spend most of his time in middle and high school focused on studying. Even after entering college, he had little time for love since he was spending most of his time getting ready to enter the job market. 

"Now that I have a job, all people talk about when it comes to relationships is whether you have a house in Beijing or what your family is like," Rick said.

Currently pursuing her post-graduate degree in the US, Rose (pseudonym) has a similar headache when it comes to love.

"My parents were happy for me when I told them some boy had a crush on me in high school but they told me that if I got involved in a relationship at the time they would break my legs," Rose told the Global Times.

Born in 1988 in Beijing, Rose said her parents are now urging her to get a boyfriend, sometimes to the point they become unreasonable. 

"I have totally no idea what they are thinking. It seems the only reason they introduce me to people is because they want me to get into a relationship," Rose added, explaining that while many Chinese parents traditionally look at whether a person is from a good family and has a decent job, her parents don't seem to care about things like that.

The idea of getting married and having kids at an early age has deep roots in Chinese tradition. In the past, young girls would marry in their teens while boys often married in their early 20s. Giving parents grandkids has always been a major focus. Even the great philosopher Mencius (372BC - 289BC) once stated: "There are three forms of unfilial conduct, of which the worst is to have no descendants."

With pressures like this, the focus of many couples is not whether they have a good relationship, more important is that they get married and have kids. 

Traditional ideas

Finding someone to spend the rest of your life with isn't that easy in today's society since fierce competition in the job market means young people have to dedicate themselves fully to making themselves more competitive through education. As a result, many students feel they don't have time for relationships.

However, once they leave college live behind, they are suddenly overwhelmed by pressure from parents to marry. This pressure is ubiquitous throughout the Chinese mainland. According to the country's family planning policy, women who marry at the age of 23 and men at the age of 25 are regarded as entering a "late marriage."

Of course a rushed marriage comes with its own problems.

Rob (pseudonym), a 29-year-old man from Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, is going through a divorce. He has been married for less than two years and has a 2-month-old daughter.

Rob met his wife through a blind date arranged by their parents at the end of 2013. The two were married within a year, but since they were living in separate cities they didn't really have the time to get to know each other. It was only after they finally had a child that they began living together, and that's when their problems began. 

Although there is no consensus as to how long people should get to know each other before they tie the knot, it's generally accepted that the more time you spend with someone the better you will get to know them, and the more people you date the better you will know who is right for you. Yet this type of thinking goes against traditional thoughts about relationships in China. 

Many Chinese, especially older generations, strongly believe that unless you date someone with the goal of getting married, you're just fooling around and not someone to be trusted. Additionally, if you're someone, especially a woman, who has been in several relationships this means you're not a reliable person. 

Li Yinhe, a well-known sexologist, feels that these views are a result of the virgin complex that existed in traditional culture. She pointed out that even today a NPC (the National People's Congress) member from Shanghai once stated that the best gift a woman can give her husband's family is her virginity.

Li added that the government only began promoting getting married out of love in the 1950s, as such many couples still focus on practical matters when getting married instead of building an emotional foundation. "Many of today's young people found their marriages on cars and houses," Li explained.  

These social pressures and ways of thinking lead young Chinese with little time to find their Mr. or Ms. Right. In the end, many find themselves in a marriage and wondering how they got there.

Newspaper headline: Foundation for love?

Posted in: Culture & Leisure

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