Pressure from Dating or Marriage
Most Chinese in America are in their late 20s and early 30s. Usually, this is the traditional age range when most first marriages occur. However, Chinese students expressed the anxiety and frustration in finding a Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife among the limited number of candidates. Female students who would have preferentially involved themselves with Chinese men were not able to do so because the Chinese men failed to take the initiative. A female PhD candidate in her late 30s said:
Chinese men were socially isolated, spent most of their time studying, and had few other interests or recreations. They had few friends and dated very little. They are very shy and reticent. I would like to date a Chinese man, but I am unable to do so because they fail to take the initiative. I certainly can date a Caucasian man but I do not want to do so, because coming from different culture, we have nothing in common. I feel even more stressed as I become older. Believe it or not, age is really problem in the marriage market. (Participant 8)
Different from female students, most Chinese male students were frustrated that they could not find a dream girl in the United States. In most male students’ minds, a good girlfriend or wife would be pretty or at least above the ordinary. Additionally, she must be caring and submissive. From the perspective of Chinese male students, most female students in the United States were academically oriented and too manly. A 32-year old male student said:
I feel very frustrated and anxious about the fact that I cannot find my Ms. Right and settle down at this age. As you know, under the pressure of parents and public in China, most Chinese males got married before 30. My parents pushed me to get married as soon as possible, but I cannot find my dream girl here. I feel female students in America are too manly. They bury themselves in the lab or papers, do not know how to cook, rarely dressed up, and always think they should be dominant. Sometimes they are even emotionally stronger and mentally smarter than men are. I would rather bear the loneliness than get married to a female student here. Dating and marriage makes me so frustrated and depressed here. At every night, I asked myself, “Will I be alone till the end of life in America?” (Participant 17)
Differing from those who were still struggling to find their other half, five of the respondents were stressed because of the breakups of their long-distance relationships. A physics student talked about his divorce painfully:
Nothing is secure in America. Life is not secure, work is not secure, [and] family is not secure. My wife broke up [with me] 6 years ago when I first got here. I did not want to quit my doctoral program here which fits my research interest very much, while my wife did not want to give up her decent job in China and stable life to fly over the Pacific Ocean to reunite with me. We both tried hard to persuade each other to give in, but neither side wanted to compromise. I tried my best to keep our marriage, but there was nothing left for us. It was very frustrating for me to feel so hopeless with our marriage. Marriage struggles bring me lots of emotional stress including the lack of concentration, emotional instability, continuous anxiety, and lack of patience. At last, I felt divorce seemed best for us, because I was physically exhausted and emotionally distraught with so much happening. (Participant 13)
In many cases, the life of a student studying abroad is like a survival test for long-distance relationship or marriage. If both sides have designed a similar blueprint for their future, or either side would like to compromise, love or marriage will likely continue; however, if neither side can comprise, the relationship or marriage will likely fall apart.
An MBA student shared her story:
I had a boyfriend in China, and we have been together more than 4 years. We had even been engaged before I came to the United States. One day, he suddenly gave me a call and said that he is unable to bear the long-distance relationship anymore and he wanted to end it. I do not know how to describe my feelings at the moment I heard his words. I felt the sky in my world had collapsed. For many days, I did not eat, drink, or talk to anyone, but lay in the bed staring at the ceiling crying all day and all night. I was so depressed and frustrated that I almost lost 20 pounds within 1 month. I could not fully describe how I spent those blue days. (Participant 1)
For most Chinese students, the love or marriage in America is difficult to achieve and easily falls apart. Long-time separation, long distance, limited candidates, and over academic-oriented and less socially involved characters are all contributing factors.