Comment of the Week: Marriage to Foreigners Not Always Perfect

by W.F. Price on August 21, 2012

Commenter yinjia brings up some of the issues that can complicate relationships between Americans and foreigners, Japanese in particular. It isn’t an entirely flattering portrayal of these marriages (and I might disagree on a few points), but she addresses some real issues men ought to think about. Additionally, she discusses the behavior of expats in Asia, and the fact that it can get out of hand. This is true. Unrestrained male sexuality isn’t any better than the female kind, and one runs across it from time to time in particular expat settings.

Yinjia’s comment provides a perspective worth considering for men who have thought about marrying foreigners. As she writes, these marriages tend to work out better than the average American marriage, but they are far from perfect, and involve their own challenges.

Yinjia:

First off, I’m female, but I honestly enjoy this website because it so neatly describes many of the problems I see in my peers, and some of the stereotypes I deal with every day as an active-duty military officer. As somebody who’s lived in this part of the world, though, I don’t think you’ve been quite fair about it in this article.

My first active-duty assignment was to a base outside of Tokyo, Japan. After two years there, I would say that while Asian women may be more appealing for most based on certain feminine traits, there are some additional cultural issues that can eventually become problems. Women from other cultures often have completely different expectations of marriage, and while this article presents this as an overall positive, there are negatives in there as well that do, for some, overwhelm anything else.

I can absolutely attest to the popularity of the Japanese women amongst the men – they were petite, gorgeous, feminine, and deferential. It also helped that many of them just want to date/marry foreigners, due to the beastly nature of their own dating and marital culture, and the way Japanese men treat them. Many of them also had far more relaxed attitudes towards sex than even your average American co-ed. It was, in short, a man’s paradise.

A lot of the men on our base had Japanese wives. These ranged from young airmen, just starting out in their marriages, to old contractors who’d gone to Japan during Vietnam and never left. Usually, these were happy marriages, for all the reasons you list. However, it was around the ten year mark when you could start to see cultural differences creating huge tensions in many of these relationships.

Japanese women view marriage in a completely different light than we do, and they go about handling it in completely different ways. a typical Japanese woman will find herself the best job possible in order to secure the highest-ranking man at that company, purely out of economic/familial interests. ( I was constantly being advised by my Japanese friends that I was pretty enough to have a good secretary’s job at a big American corporation, and they were confused as to why I wasn’t pursuing this “standard” route to a good husband. I sometimes wonder that myself, actually, but it’s not the way we operate here.) These women do what they have to do to secure him, including giving him as much sex as he wants, and gradually assimilates control over the family finances. This continues into the marriage and through the child-bearing years, until she’s decided she’s had the number of kids she wants. (this isn’t something I got from observations, mind, my Japanese friends actually laid this out for me). The years, with growing kids, are where people typically started having problems.

At that point, sex is usually cut off, and she has complete control of the money in the relationship, able to deny her husband anything not in “her” budget. Japanese men at this point typically find themselves a girlfriend – a lot of women encourage/expect it, actually. I had a sergeant who’d reached this point in his marriage with his Japanese wife, and it was causing him a great deal of problems, as in his view, he’d committed to one woman for the rest of his life, and she was actively pushing him into finding a younger girlfriend and denying him sex. I know that some men might enjoy this, but for most of the decent ones who got put in that position, it was an extremely difficult thing to deal with. It’s not culturally compatible with Western expectations.

Then you get in to dealing with the kids. Americans, generally, have a fairly lax and open manner of raising kids. You want them to pursue activities, you want them to do well in school, but you also want to see them grow and develop their own interests, explore, figure things out on their own, and so on. Japanese child-rearing is quite different – Japanese women expect their children to be perfect, and even in marriages to American men, place extremely high demands on performance and schoolwork, to the point where a five year old may be at piano practice until 8-9 PM, every day after school. Women here tend to get what they want. Some people found a balance, but for many, the competing cultural ideas of child-rearing placed a great deal of tension on their marriage. I had a contractor whose oldest son failed to get into his mother’s high school, and she was so ashamed of him that she threw an epic fit, and ended up kicking him out of the house. The American father was placed in the position of having to worry about his son killing himself (the kid didn’t, fortunately), and eventually had to divorce his Japanese wife over the problems it caused in their marriage. This was an extreme case, but I saw similar strains in quite a few of these relationships over the kids.

There were a lot of other problems that manifested, but generally speaking, the men whose Japanese wives stayed “Japanese” (instead of assimilating their new American culture and losing some of those qualities that made them appealing in the first place, which was quite common) had serious issues to overcome. Many of them were quite clearly not the same men they had once been after even a few years of marriage.

I realize there are a lot of benefits to a relationship with women from other cultures, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they bring their cultures with them, and sometimes, that isn’t a good thing. They don’t want the same things out of a relationship, won’t offer the same things in that relationship, and for some men, this ends up leaving them unfulfilled and frustrated. There’s still a high level of manipulation and control being exercised in these types of relationships, perhaps in a way that’s more acceptable to both parties, but it’s silly to think that a foreign woman (at least, a Japanese woman) is going to be any more decent to a man than a Western woman would be. She’s not as likely to divorce you, but trust me, that kind of intimidation/control is going to be levied in other ways.

(Not to mention I experienced some horrible things from men during my time in Japan, to the point where I’ve become scared to date here in America. It’s a highly misogynistic culture – a very real misogyny, not the kind we complain about here in the States – and Western men especially are allowed to behave in a horrific fashion over there. I wholeheartedly approve of masculinity, but some of the ways you see it expressed in Asian expat culture are quite terrible, and demeaning both of the men and the women they interact with. It ain’t perfect anywhere!)

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