Monday, February 9, 2009

When are high demands too high?

Bars can be filthy places...but not whore houses!

Some months ago I got an email from a Chinese female friend who recently relocated to Sweden for work. She was telling me about settling into her new country, that she loved most parts of her new life, and that she'd met a 'great guy' that she was dating.

However, there was one big dark cloud on her blue sky, and that was that the 'great guy' had a lot of Swedish female friends.

"Sometimes he hangs out with them for a whole day! I cannot stand it. I feel so jealous. Why are he seeing other women when he's got me?!"

They had only been dating for 2 months and already she was thinking about telling him to choose between his female friends and her.

"Do you think this is OK to say?" She asked me. "In China I wouldn't accept that my boyfriend had any other female friends if he was dating me."

I threw myself on the computer and wrote back to her saying "no no no NOOOOOOOO! It's not OK! He's probably known some of his female friends for years meanwhile he met you only 2 months ago! Of course he's going to choose his female friends! Why don't you try to get to know them yourself instead of just being jealous about it? Maybe they are really nice?! Besides, if they are his long-term friends he doesn't have any interest in them, otherwise they would have hooked up long time ago!"

But my friend refused to adapt to a culture where 'female friends' are considered OK, and broke it off with the guy. I haven't heard from her since then but I hope she's managed to move on and find a guy with no female friends.

Even though I can understand her reaction (where she is coming from, I totally believe that her boyfriend would get rid of his female friends if she asked him to) I still think she has some nerves, telling a guy she's been dating for a very short time that he should get rid of his friends. I mean, they weren't even living together! It's not a small thing to ask for I think.

Then, one of my male (laowai) friends told me about a mix couple he knows in Shanghai. An American guy married to a lovely, Shanghainese woman. They sound like the happiest, most joyful couple ever, and why?

"She wears the pants. Controls all their money. Gives him an allowance every month. And forbids him to go out and drink beers with his male friends. She doesn't want temptation to be put in front of him. In her eyes, going to bars is the same as going to a whore house."

Ah, OK, interesting. So I asked how the guy feels about all his restrictions.

"Ah he loves it. Saves a lot of money. And says he's sick of drinking anyways!"

Well, then, that's a prefect match!! Great that they can get along on something as sticky as that, I thought, until I heard about the guy going on a "trip to Hong Kong to renew his visa but ended up 'secretly bringing a good male friend' and partying for 4 days straight."

"So, what's that all about?" I asked.

"Well, it would be such a big deal if she would find out, so he didn't tell her."

Understandable. Totally understandable.

However, I keep asking myself:

Is that sort of relationship really a sustainable one? Where one comes up with the rules, and the other one follows them, but only 'most of the time' because quite frankly, they are too harsh? (I mean, every guy would like to have a beer with his mates every now and then, no?!).

I guess what I am trying to say with this post is that culture gaps when dating someone from a foreign country are always going to be large. But when is large too large? And what is OK to ask for? Would you guys give up beers with mates/ long time female friends if your girlfriend asked you to? Just because of culture differences?

My bf (like always) went against me on the questions, saying that the girl had all the rights to ask for these things.

"Oh really," I said. "So why don't you stop going out with your friends then for beers because I 'feel so bad' about that!"

"Eh.... well... no, I know you don't!"

"Well what if I did? Would you then give it up?"

"Not the same thing!"

Not the same thing? Really? I mean, if this girl is scared of letting her husband mingle amongst temptation, then why shouldn't I be?

I would really like to hear your guys opinion on this one, because I think the demands are too high, especially since the guy is already secretly going out with his friends (they have only been together for 2 years). What do you guys think? Can high demands be excuse with 'culture differences?' And is a relationship like that sustainable or not?


Anonymous said...

Demands are too high when you do not allow your partner do to things you are doing yourself.

I like to drink beer, so I would never refuse my partner to do the same. If my partner can not trust me not hooking up with some random slut at a bar then the relationship would never work anyway.

Edo said...

It sounds like trust and jealousy are the prevalent issues here, and these transcend more than cultural barriers, they're a universal language. I would say that they stem from personal insecurities, and the person with these "needs to control" needs to check themselves ;-)

Yann Le Berre said...

Hi There,

I have discovered your blog 1 week ago. Interesting posts!
I'm french, I live in Shenzhen for 8 years.

In my opinion you can't ask someone to change because you're dating him/her. And this for 2 reasons.
The first one would be that if you fall in love with someone it's because of him/her as a whole, meaning, with his/her bad habits, with his/her friends (female or male) etc. Asking drastic changes to someone after you're dating him/her is just not right.
Then restraining your new g.f / b.f from seeing his/her old friends (female or male) is the worst idea ever, it's only going to create new streams of conflicts and will, most importantly, create frustrations. And frustrations on the long term is the worst that can happen to a couple. As your friend who partied 4 days straight in Hong Kong because he was away from this wife claws! Don't you think he's mot more likely to do stupid stuffs because he's been prevented from drinking with his friends.

If something really bother you with your b.f / g.f. the solution would be to try to change him/her slowly, trying to make understand that going out too much with his/her friends make you uncomfortable. Never come up with drastic severe do's and don'ts !

Chad said...

This one isn't tricky, or anything...

It's a relationship. It's not "we are on a deserted island alone until we die" situation.

There should be alone time. There should be time with friends as a couple. And, yes, there should be time with friends with out 'you'.

"You complete me" not "You are me". But, that's just me.

Unknown said...

I think that secret keeping is worse than arguing. Asking for cultural changes because you are jealous is a little selfish. Giving a partner the gift of an acquiescence is a noble and love-enhancing thing, but to ask that partner for the sacrifice is probably just stifling.

Cultural borders can be fun if you can appreciate each other's, but you shouldn't assume you have the dominant one.

Anonymous said...

Yes basically the girl doesn't trust her guy and that's a major issue just to start. As I guy, if a girl made me choose between her and my friends, I think she'd be out the door in less than a second. But I do know guys who LOVE being controlled and dominated. I think that's pretty sad!

My longest relationship lasted 4 years. Why? Simple. She was completely cool with me seeing my female friends any time, she'd even make sure to tell me to have a good time. In 4 years I was never unfaithful once. Not even close.

On the other hand I have dumped girls who became possessive and I know friends who did the same. Those girls are now alone and miserable. But they'll NEVER learn. Instead, they'll try to find a guy who is willing to give in to them.

Niel said...

It is always very hard for both sides, esp when they came from different backgrounds to feel with each other.. However, true love never fails to triumph =)

Anonymous said...

If its not meant to be then why force it to be? There are plenty of fish in the ocean that would adore your friend.

child said...

Ahh, that is so true, haha. I come from chinese ancestry, and my mom was never like that, but my dad's old girlfriends were. Different cultures have different ways, I guess.

misssable said...

I think it's less of a cultural issue and more of a personal issue. People just like using culture as a reason to justify jealous tendencies. Sure, there is the chance for temptation in going out, but at the same time, you're in a relationship, not a prison. It's a question about how much free people give each other in relationships. I would be fine with my partner going out. It's not my place to tell them what to do as it is not their place to tell me what to do. Overall, there needs to be open communication and respect I think, no matter what the culture.

浥尘丝雨 said...


Unknown said...

People just need to be themselves and accept their partners for who they are (or move on).

If there is a need to restrict with rules or try to change a person then it would seem to me they have not found their match.

Colleen said...

Every relationship needs a huge amount of communication. My husband has a night set aside every week for hanging out with his friends. He's the kind of person who has a lot of friends and needs to have that. He's always been like that and being married isn't going to change that.

This hasn't caused a problem between us at all. I think it actually helps because it makes me happy to know he's having a good time. We have a good time together too, but it's just different.

If one person is not totally happy in a relationship, they need to talk about it, not try to make themselves happy behind their spouse's back.

Plus, doesn't he ever watch movies? The wife/girlfriend always finds out, then it's a bigger mess than it needs to be because the husband lied to her, etc.

Jonna Wibelius said...

I am soooooo glad to hear all of your comments. When I was discussing this with the friend of the couple and my bf I felt as if I was going insane because none of them found it as disturbing as me.

vivacemusica said...

I actually think that a man having good female friends is a sign that he knows how to treat women with respect. However, I find it problematic if the girlfriend is not made to feel that she's just as important (or more important if the relationship is a serious one). One solution would be to include the girlfriend in get-togethers. A man who compartmentalizes the people in his life so that his girlfriend and his other female friends belong in separate worlds cannot fully be trusted, in my opinion. Other than that, I have never had problems with my former boyfriends having female friends.

Anonymous said...

I think that wanting to have monopoly over partner is wrong and shows a lack of trust. Either that or the girl has 0 self-confidence.
Of course intercultural relationships are harder, because they make two different ways of life clash, however, you have to be willing to accept the differences. In Canada, a girl trying to prevent her bf to see his friend would be labeled as super jealous and probably considered kinda crazy; there are no reason one should accept those kind of conditions just because it is a different culture.
The girl who prevents her bf to see his friends and go drinking may say that her bf is happy with the situation, but the fact that he secretely went drinking with his friend proves otherwise.
I'm married with a Japanese man, and when we started dating, I made it clear that I was willing to yield on certain things but that I would never become a submissive Japanese wife.
I guess that the guys or girl who accept such high request must benefit from them in a way, or else, they wouldn't do it. I do still think that such requests are going to far.

SunJune said...

your blog is very long. I have not enough time to read all the post. Despite I love your blog very much.
"I wouldn't accept that my boyfriend had any other female friends if he was dating me." I agree it.
May be different country has different date. It's so interesting.

Artificial Wisdom said...

I've always considered my mother to have the pants in my parents relationship.

I wonder if it's a weird cultural sign of the new China that traditional gender roles seem reversed.

Unknown said...

"A man who compartmentalizes the people in his life so that his girlfriend and his other female friends belong in separate worlds cannot fully be trusted, in my opinion. "

Good view imho. Does not mean though that the man should not have ever possibility to meet a female long time friend for coffee for example without the girlfriend.

Nice post. I like this blog. Makes me wish though that I were in China with some local lass in long term relationship, but I want to wear my pants atleast 50% of the time ;)...:D

Brad Farless said...

Hi Jonna! I ran across your blog yesterday and I think it's great!

I'm an American with a Filipina wife, living in Singapore at the moment. We have a great relationship. We can't seem to find anything to argue about. We're both practical, easy-going and we respect each others decisions.

I think it helps that we have a lot of common interests and enjoy doing much of the same things, but we do set aside time for our personal interests.

As for this girl you were talking about, I think she was asking for too much.

There's a saying that when you marry a Filipina you marry her whole family. This situation seems much the same. When you get involved with a person, you're getting involved with their whole life, not just with them. You have to take a person the way they are. When you start trying to force change, you just create conflict. If you can't accept someone the way they are, then you should move on.

Given a choice between a girl I had just met and a long-time, proven friend of many years, I would've chosen the friend. Good friends are hard to come by, and shouldn't be given up for someone elses convenience.

A good state of mind to have is to trust until given a reason not to.

LIU Jeremy said...

With the doctrine of the mean in Confucian ethics, Chinese people have developed the character of avoiding extremes or one-sidedness which may be shaped by agriculturalism, artistic view of life, and perhaps other cultural inclinations. The concept of moderation and harmony, in chinease means chung-ho(中-和), is rooted deeply into the Chinese mind. Accordingly, Chinese people are always not good at praising someone or accepting someone's praise. So a chinese people says highly with your work, maybe you definitely do a great job or maybe not. Just like some theory in the mathematics, 0 presents absolutely wrong while 1 denotes unquestionably right. This kind of situation is not frequently precised like this espcially in conversation with Chinese people, not so good(还行),not so bad(不赖). You may wonder 'not so good' is good or not. Nobody knows the actually meaning except the speaker. It may be a fraction between 0(bad) and 1(good), 0.3 or 0.7? It will depend!

Hope you will have a wonderful life in China. If you have a chance to Beijing, I want to invite you to Tsinghua University!

Best wishes!

Shubha said...

I am a total newbie here.and yours is the first blog I read. Very interesting because I am from India and "culture" is a big thing here.
Personally I feel that the woman is stupid. How can a relationship work with one person setting the rules. Shouldn't it be give and take? Has she forgotten the word share.
It's definitely insecurity and not cultural differences.

Rowena said...

I know you asked for guys' opinions, so I won't take up too much comment space except to say that you've written another provocative post that actually had me laughing at the differences between asian and western cultures. Damn, you need your own talk show!

Stace said...

This is a cool blog - I'll follow it!

I found the same issues when I lived in Japan. I come from New Zealand, where it's perfectly acceptable to have male friends, but this concept was not accepted in Japan. It's a shame, I think.

Mark's Blog said...

I agree with misssable, this is more an individual issue than a cultural issue. Some people just donot like to see their partners hanging with the opposite sex.

Anonymous said...

If the girl is going to try to lay down the law and control everything, she'd better be offering something even better, like an awesome, down to earth personality, 10/10 looks, skin, body, and be able to cook, clean, be able to perform the kama sutra and be a guru of tantric sex.


ps: I suppose some intelligence wouldnt go astray either.

marigirl said...

I guess demands are high whenever it becomes something you don't want to give...makes a huge difference what the nationalities are, usually, right?

Unknown said...

The husband of the Shanghainese Queen would be me. So my friend just sold me out. Apparently my personal life that i discuss with my good friend is now open to the public. But my situation is this.
I love my wife. And whatever it takes to make her happy, that's what I'm willing to do. If its not going out with some friends to drink, which ultimately means getting drunk, then i thank my wife for making wise decisions for me. Anyway, my advice to all that experience some culture differences in regards to relationships is like anything new just go with it. See what happens. Trust me i fight my battles and i cherish the ones i win. Thanks baby.
Good Luck and sorry but I found the best girl out there. Enjoy second best.

Michelle said...

I think that demands are going to far when the partner is forbidden to do thinks that are just normal for him/her. Relationships has to be based on trust, trust is everything. When you dont trust him of doing nothing at all with - for example - his female friends who he know for ages, where is your relation going then?

Kena Siu said...

I don't think this is a cultural issue since it happens within the same culture too, in my case Mexico, I have heard cases.
A relationship needs to be even and friendship is really important if you have a couple or not. It is nice to have somebody else to hear you and chat with, there are sometimes stuff that you don't speak with your couple, that is women or men stuff!
Having a couple means to be still free.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely more of the Chinese culture thing. Trust me. I am Chinese and so is my wife. She made me choose between her and my friends (I am talking guy friends) when we first got married. What could I do? I gradually faded out my old friends. Over the years, we have had a lot of disagreements and even fights over what friends to keep. She is naturally controlling and insecure. She knows she is insecure but doesn't admit being controlling. This is quite cultural for a Chinese woman. For those of you who disagree, you know I am right. Of course I am not saying 100% of Chinese women are controlling. How about 70%? It would be hard to find three out of ten Chinese women who are not controlling in a serious relationship. It is cultural. To a Chinese lady, if she is not controlling, she would feel she is not contributing to a relationship or doesn't care much about the relationship. Correct? Any Chinese women want to disagree here? Chinese men are much better. Most Chinese guys do want to have guy friends to drink and play cards or do sports with.

surekha tangri said...

In India also,you will find males/females having this concept of not being able to digest any kind of friendship ,parties etc.I mean a husband or wife (specially) would not feel very comfortable finding their spouses talking to any other person or getting more intimate and if you are in a joint family where husband's parents are also residing with you then the restrictions are even more tough.

BlueMonday said...

There's a saying that goes something along the lines of, 'If you love someone let them go, if they come back to you then their love is yours; if not then it never was'. Could be appropriate here. PS Thanks for chosing English as your blog language out of the others you could have used!

Kate said...

There should be no demands that are not mutually agreed upon and respected by both people in the relationship, else there is no relationship. Demands are inherently selfish. Relationships are built on love, not selfishness. 2 months of dating is not enough of a basis to make any demands of any kind. Having said that, in a contractual marriage, I would expect both parties to avoid 'hanging out' with any friends of the opposite gender without including their spouse in the party. This is not something the spouse should have to demand... it is something freely given out of love and respect to show that even the appearance of potential infidelity is abhorrent to two people who love and keep faith with each other. That is what marriage is about in any culture. And, yes, I have been happily married to the same person for 16 years and counting! :)

Anonymous said...

To Sam:

Why doesn't she try to make you happy? Sounds like a one-sided relationship to me.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I saw found your blog on "blogs of note" several days ago. I am loving reading your stories and such, they are fantastic!

LK said...

Also found you on Blogs of Note - great reading.

There is a major trust issue in both of those relationships but perhaps it isn't entirely the female's fault, their social upbringing has definitely had some bearing here. The problem is that they are using that as an excuse for their behaviour and demands instead of a starting point to a compromise of cultures and beliefs.

Your first lady was very unreasonable regarding her boyfriend's friends but the second couple are more of a worry as the guy is kidding himself that he likes the rules. When you sneak around doing the opposite of what your wife wants then you have a problem with her rules, whether you admit it or not. And he needs to admit it or it could be the start of a long downhill slide for them.

Anonymous said...

Though I'm a Chinese guy,I don't like such girlfriend.But in reality there are still many such girlfriends or boyfriends in China.I love drinking.May you have a happy time in China.

Brad Farless said...

I agree that he's not admitting to himself that he has a problem with her rules. If he loved her rules, why would he sneak off behind her back? That just means he's not happy with the situation.

My wife and I are from two different countries, as I mentioned earlier, but that doesn't mean we use our background as an excuse. Our relationship (and subsequent marriage) was a starting point for us to develop a relationship with each other based on who we are, not on who we were told we should be growing up.

We don't kid ourselves or each other. We just talk about what we want to do, and we find compromises. I don't always get what I want, but neither does she, and we're both mature enough to realize that that's how it should be.

manish said...

I have a story on that. I am from India and I am 36. I got divorced some years back and after having transferred to out of my home town, I went on to spoil myself with girls. Unlucky me I could not. However about 1 ½ year back I met a girl on Orkut and instantly had told her of my secret mission and what was I intended to do. I also told her that I had spoken (only spoken) to few of them over phone and that I had not gone on a date or otherwise with them. So we got together. She stays some 2500 Kms away from me and no dating was involved. Even though she had been on orkut for long and of course had spoken to her friends (including men) on orkut (why not she would?). Perhaps insecurity was also with her when she told me that she would be closing her account expecting me to follow her. so i closed mine too. After having closed my account I kept myself busy with my office work and stayed out of chatting or any such kinda stuff. However after six months she told me that she is already on orkut and told me that she suspected of having a “secret” account (with lots of girls perhaps). It made me quite and no answers said. One thing lead to another marred with suspicion etc and she dumped me. I also had doubts and it is bound to happen in long distance relations. but I think I deserved it perhaps. Now if the scenario is filmed upside down. if U would have frds like him/her and would like to hang out – what would be the reaction.

To mention of meeting opposite sex, here in india, its all different. Here going out with opposite sex has more to it than what it is perhaps in Europe. General apprehensions here are - Am I sure that there is no attraction b/w them. If not then what is the need of having a frd of opposite sex? I know it sounds sick to some.

Rules change from place to place and having a friend of opposite sex is not accepted in some regions thereby abiding the other person to accept restrictions. Again if One is not aware of whom he/she is talking to or going out for a drink with opposite sex , can one just tag it as – “he / she is keeping her/him secret from me”. But one thing is sure “love” in all territories come with no strings attached. However there is small astrix on it i.e. there are same amount of conditions involved if not more. That U go out and hang out only with ur same sex frds? That U don’t indulge in flirting? That U ll not have any secret links? etc. Once these conditions are fulfilled its OK. If not then conditions has to be changed or withdrawn. Honestly I have never seen two people equally mad in love with other (only heard of them). So the “love” of past has been amended and I believe it to be one sided. Judging it from where I come from, I personally think she did the right thing because it was not gonna work out with neither of them changing.

Anonymous said...

I won't go into my own opinions on this one, but there's a couple of books written about this:

why men love bitches


why men marry bitches

I've not read them myself, but someone close to me obviously has.

Madelaine Smith said...

You made me laugh with this... what made me laugh was mainly the fact that when I lived in China with my laowai boyfriend, many of the Chinese girls didn't seem to think that the rules counted much when THEY wanted to be the female 'friend'. I hate to say it, but they were SHAMELESS in their approaches to chat up my boyfriend knowing full well that he had moved to China with his laowai girlfriend... hmmm, don't get me wrong I loved my time there and still miss it, but is seems that the double standards there run waaaaaay deep!
Happy blogging!

Anonymous said...

Again. My friend is the one who is being selfish. If you understood my life here in shanghai, you would appreciate it as i do. The whole arugement here is why my wife doesn't allow me to go out to bars or clubs here in Shanghai? The truth is i DON'T WANT TO GO. I'm 33 years old. I'm no longer a young man in my 20's. I have matured beyond that scene and again people i am MARRIED AND IN LOVE WITH MY WIFE. And my wife is in LOVE WITH ME. I have never been happier in a relationship. My wife works everyday at our business, EVERYDAY. And i am just the type of man that admires a beautiful geniune woman. And my wife is that. There is a slight control issue here. But i am in Shanghai and she knows how some girls are. She trust me but she doesn't trust everyone else. This is an interesting blog. Happy Valentines Day to all the Happy couples out there. Treat your girl right guys.

Anonymous said...

It's understandable where the woman in the first couple is coming from. Foreign men are so popular in China, they'd get approached on the street, much less at bars. Guess she's just trying her best to limit oppportunies where her husband can stray. It's not a guarantee of his faithfulness anyway, just one little thing she thinks she's controlling.

Anonymous said...

Its a question of being appropriate in your relationships - if you form a partnership (e.g. marry) then you are committing to a shared life with that person - and everything is then shared including friends (they can become friends of you as a couple). If this is not possible, I believe it is better to keep friends only of the same sex to avoid compromising your relationship with your partner (husband, wife) It is necessary to communicate strong boundaries in your relationships with friends to avoid feelings developing inappropriately (even if it seems unlikely right now). People needs to be strong as individuals to do this, it builds trust in your relationship with your partner, makes you strong as a family and strenghtens your relationships between your family and your friends in your life together.

Anonymous said...

My husband goes out with his female friends/coworkers and stays out until late. He is usually the only one male with lots of female coworkers. I found out that other male coworkers usually leave earlier but my husband stays or goes second, third, or 4th round with female friends/coworkers. He came home after 5 am last weekend. Sometimes, just my husband and a female friend.

It does bother me. Why does he hang out with only female friends. When he goes out with his male coworkers, he comes home before midnight.

also he doesn't even want to drink with me at all. When we first dated, he didn't drink a lot saying that he drank too much when he was early twenties. Now he drinks alot. no matter how he feels.

When we go out for a dinner or something, he says that he has work to do or he says that he doesn't really like to drink.

Am I being jealous?