Dear Ms. Wai- Valentine’s Day Overshadowed

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Dear Ms. Wai,

I know this is a stupid problem, but it’s bothering me and I was wondering if you had any suggestions. I like a big Valentines day. I know, some see it as a “Hallmark Holiday” and just an excuse for companies to sell flowers and chocolates, but I love it. Honestly, my (Chinese) boyfriend and I are really busy people. We don’t have a lot of time for romantic gestures and I see Valentine’s Day as the day for just the two of us to celebrate our relationship. Other holidays, like birthdays and Christmas are usually spent with a group of friends, but Valentine’s Day is just a day for us.

Last year we had a quiet dinner and we ended up talking about us. We talked about where our relationship was at, how we could improve it, our fears, where we hoped our future was headed. It was the most open and amazing conversation I ever had in my life and we got really close after that. Unfortunately, our jobs and lives came roaring back soon after and we haven’t had a chance to take a break and focus on us again. I feel like we have been growing apart over the last several months and I have been looking forward to Valentine’s Day to bring everything up. I even booked the same restaurant as last year!

I told him to make no plans for that nights and he agreed but then suddenly he told me he had bought a ticket and was going home for Spring festival Valentine’s Day morning! I was pissed and yelled at him but then he got all angry at ME because I wasn’t going back with him. He invited me to his hometown, but I heard how serious meeting the parents are and I don’t want that kind of pressure yet. We are both in our early 20’s and while we’ve talked about marriage, we both agreed it’s best to wait a few years. When he invited me a few weeks ago I told him why I didn’t want to go and he agreed with me. But now he’s acting all annoyed like I’m being the bitchy one.

We have opposite schedules but with the holiday I was looking forward to spending a few days together with nothing to do before he took off for home. But he ruined all that with his sudden departure. Am I right in being mad at him or am I missing something?

-Jilted Valentine

First off Valentine’s and Spring Festival is like someones birthday at Christmas. If the two holidays overlap, Spring Festival wins every time. Last year Spring Festival was early leaving plenty of time for the two holidays, but this year Spring Festival Eve is the day after Valentine’s Day. So this year Valentine’s Day is a major travel day and will be severely overshadowed (such as many restaurants and shops will be closed for the holiday.)

But I think Valentine’s Day isn’t your biggest problem. You are right about needing that talk because something isn’t adding up with what you say.

That dinner you had, last Valentine’s Day, when the two of you talked, how much did you boyfriend talk? I don’t mean this to be rude, but was it you doing most of the talking and him just agreeing? Did he bring up his own concerns or did you bring up problems, offer solutions and he just agreed?

I ask because many Chinese guys avoid conflict. Not just with romantic relationships but with friends and co-workers some Chinese guys won’t openly disagree to avoid angering the other person or making a scene. Instead they agree to something but then go and do their own thing. It kinda sounds like your guy did that with your Valentine’s Day plans, agreeing with you to your face, but then going out and doing what he wanted regardless.

Maybe he hasn’t been entirely open and honest about his feelings. I would suggest that right now you let this all go. Forget about Valentine’s and Spring Festival and the broken plans and him not telling you and instead do something when he comes back. It doesn’t have to be some big fancy dinner and it doesn’t have to be some night when you are both free. It just needs to be an uninterrupted hour or so where you can talk. More specifically where he talks and you listen.

It sounds like your boyfriend has some different feelings than you, and it sounds like he hasn’t been able to express them. You think you are on the same page because he agrees with you, yet his actions (and unexpected anger) tell a different story.

So don’t start the talk by telling your own feeling and ask him how he feels. He will probably just agree with you again. Instead, start by asking him questions and then just listen to his answers without judgement. He might not be used to answering so openly (he might prefer to just agree with what you say) but keep at it with the questions and don’t offer your own opinion until you get his. Also, don’t get angry or defensive when listening to him. And don’t let him answer your questions with more questions.

In China, like the world, men aren’t expected to be emotional and openly talk about their feelings. But as a westerner you are more used to people saying what is on their minds and taking things at face value. So you need to help him open up more. You can start with asking him why he got mad at you. Perhaps there are other reasons to him wanting you to go to his hometown besides meeting his parents. You just need to give him the chance to tell you and above all you need to listen.

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Ms Wai

One comment

  1. I am agreeing with Ms. Wai. when it comes to Valentine’s Day and Spring Festival overlapping, Spring Festival is first. Back in 2010 I remember Feb 14th, Valentine’s Day was the same day as Chinese New Year. This guy I liked back then, I was messaging him and asking if he plans do to anything for V-Day. He said no because it is CNY.

    I’m sorry this happened, chickadee. If you have been dating for over a year then maybe this should’ve been your opportunity to go home with him. I wish you took it!

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