Dear Ms Wai,
I recently met a guy through Tinder in my own country and he’s from China. He is living here temporarily because of his company. He is originally from Chongqing but lives in Shanghai and has even taken his own family to live there. Within a short few days we have talked immensely and he has asked me to be his girlfriend. He doesn’t want to meet in person until the pandemic subsides so he wants us to wait until May.
Things are progressing rather quickly and that scares me. He has already talked of marriage and of being with me forever. He has also said I am his love and has told me he loves me, which feels very weird to me since we haven’t met in person and I don’t believe he could possibly love me yet.
Today he said that when he was in love (with his ex) he wanted to be single, then when he was single for a long time he wanted to be in love. And now that he is more mature he just wants to be married. This made several alarms ring in my head because it felt like he just wants to get married, regardless of with whom he ends up. Naturally, that doesn’t make me feel good at all because I want to be in love or at the very least truly love and care about my future husband (and feel that he also loves me).
He has said we should keep talking, then see each other and eventually live together. If we fall in love and it’s right, we know whether we want to be married or not. He said this today after, yesterday, I made it clear that we need more time and to know each other much better. I don’t want to marry without knowing if there’s love, understanding and compatibility. He has also told me we can stay in my country if I want that, even though he would like to return to China.
I am so so confused because even though I have dated (and been in love with) someone of a different race, I have never dated someone so culturally different from me. I have been feeling so happy these days because he is really nice, we talk all day and this kind of openness to commitment is basically non-existent in my country. I want to cook for him, be affectionate and hope we feel this chemistry when we meet in person. But am I insane? I like him but I also feel apprehensive about the idea that maybe it could have been any other woman and he would be having the same conversation. I’m quite insecure when it comes to men because of disappointments in my past, so I really can’t see this clearly.
Please help me gain some insight so I know whether there’s something weird happening in this short yet intense relationship! I feel that maybe it’s just our different cultures that are making us fail in communicating adequately. But I can’t be certain.
Seriously confused xx
Dear Seriously Confused,
First, I’m gonna give you a round of applause. You’re not only dating a guy from another culture, but during a pandemic and doing it all online when you haven’t even met! And even though you have some questions about it, you seem to have opened up to him and are willing to give it a real shot. That takes a lot of courage, so kudos to you!
Now, onto your questions. First off, in China it’s quite common to start talking about a future and marriage at the beginning of the relationship. It definitely seems weird from a Western perspective, but people don’t date around as much in Chinese culture and marriage is put on the table pretty quickly because they don’t want to “waste anyone’s time.” So that isn’t that uncommon.
But I totally get the “alarm bells” you feel because it’s not only the beginning, but you haven’t actually met yet! But building up an online relationship to the point of love is also not totally uncommon in China. Many couples are separated because of jobs or they are introduced by parents in one place while someone else is in another so they build a relationship totally through chatting and video calls. So again, from a Chinese perspective that’s not totally unusual. But just because it happens doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it.
Being in a multicultural relationship means that both partners need to understand that some aspects of the others life, and their assumptions, are going to make the other uncomfortable. If you are feeling that things are moving too fast, or you’d like to wait and meet in person to talk about these things, then that’s totally fine. He needs to understand that going so quickly without meeting face-to-face worries you, even if he thinks it’s normal. So while he keeps trying to pump the gas it is perfectly okay for you to hit the brakes until you meet and see how you feel after that.
And as for your worry about him just choosing you because he ran into you, and not real love, well I wouldn’t think about the too much. When you want to get married you don’t just choose the first girl you see, in fact, quite the opposite. You begin to look past just the initial passion and excitement and think long term right from the start. He obviously has a different idea about “girlfriend” and “wife” and while many girls might meet his “girlfriend” standards, less would meet what he is looking for with a wife. And he found the qualities in you so far.
Truth be told my (American) brother did the exact same thing. He decided he wanted to get married and raise a family, but he couldn’t imagine his girlfriend at the time (who he loved a lot) being a good mother. They had different ideas about the future, so they broke up and sure enough the next girl he dated was the one he married (and has 2 kids with, teenagers now!) It’s not that my brother and his wife didn’t have real love and passion for each other, they do, but it’s that my brother wanted more than just love and passion. He wanted a woman he could see himself building a family with and staying with for decades. He wanted someone fun but also compatible for life. That’s a lot harder, and deeper, than just a girlfriend.
I think your guy might be looking for that too, which shows there is more than just giddy feelings and passion, but thinking about the future, and commitment. That sounds like a good thing, no? Could he have ended up with another woman? Sure. But you could have found another guy too. For whatever reason you two met, clicked and, so far, things are going well. Don’t dwell on what could have been. Focus on what is.
May is coming quick, and hopefully a lot of your uncertainty is a result of not meeting in person. Hopefully you’ll have more clarity when you’ve spent some time together. That first meeting is going to be nerve-wracking because there is a lot of expectations and pressures riding on it! But it could also be fun and you’ll connect right away and talk for hours over coffee. I hope that’s how your first date goes!
But of course if things do go well, and you want to move forward, then you’ll have to have some tough conversations about the future (is he really on board with living away from his family for the rest of his life? What expectations does he have of kids and where they will live/be citizens of etc.) but until then, just have fun, enjoy his company and your relationship and get ready for a post-covid dating life!