Common sense perspectives and finding a way to retire

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My Chinese wife

Posted by Paul on December 19, 2006

My wife will be returning to the US next week after having spent a month in China helping her mother recover from a stroke. She is a gem of a woman and a perfect wife and I am counting the days until her return.

Some people ask me why I married a Chinese woman. There are tremendous barriers just between the sexes, much less between two very different cultures without a common language. My wife speaks good basic English, but we have much difficulty communicating complex ideas. And sometimes the cultural viewpoints are so divergent that we cannot make sense of each others view points at all.

There are 1.3 billion Chinese living in the same geographic area as the US and the way they have learned to deal with that abundance of people is sometimes unique and strange to us. In China, you focus on yourself and family first. For example, getting on a bus means pushing your way past the elderly or pregnant or children, otherwise you never will get on. I think the Chinese (I’m generalizing here and don’t mean to offend the many kindhearted strangers that have helped me) find the degree to which we our are “brothers keeper” a strange concept (My wife doesn’t understand American generosity towards strangers.). On the other hand, the Chinese are fierce defenders of their immediate family. Their loyalty to family is something that is quite rare in the US.

My wife grew up during the Cultural Revolution. The stories she tells of her childhood are of extreme poverty that I can imagine as much worse than those in the US experienced even during the Depression era. She is also deeply affected by many events where outspoken critics of Mao were executed. Her parents lived their entire lives in a home with no indoor plumbing and no heat (at the same latitude as Buffalo, NY), until she purchased them a home 2 years ago.

After graduating from college she moved 1000 miles from home to the Northwest Tibetan plateau where she married, only to have her husband abandon her after her daughter was born. She sacrificed her own food to feed her baby, studied to earn an accounting certificate and eventually was able to find a job in the southern most Chinese province. For several years she was separated from her daughter who was raised by her mother in the northeast.

Like most Chinese, she is an ardent saver. She lived meagerly and saved her money. When her bank went bankrupt due to legal shenanigans, she found a job in the middle eastern part of the country at a large bank where she moved up the corporate ladder. At that time China started allowing people to buy “houses” (really what we call a condo), so she took her savings and a small mortgage (which she paid off in 5 years) to buy a nice home. Her parents came to live with her there for several years to help with childcare.

So what are the qualities that I have found so compelling in the woman?

  • respect – she respects men and me in a way that I had not experienced from an American woman. Our culture so devalues men now that the weak, disrespected male is the norm on TV. “Women-talk” is often nothing more than male-bashing.
  • strength – her upbringing and life experience have made her one strong woman. Many people assume Chinese women are timid – this could not be further from the truth. Certainly those that are my wife’s age have experienced too much to be intimidated by anyone or anything
  • love – when she is with me I am pampered in a way that is unimaginable to most Americans. I don’t think this is uncommon in Chinese-American marriages. The more she does this, the more I am motivated to find ways to love her back – its been an un-ending upward spiral

Now I could go on, but suffice it to say I am one lucky man. My wife never had to read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands because she lives it.

If you would like more information on this topic visit CandleforLove.com


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