Detective Note

Vol.066- Marriage or Single Life


Interviewer: Jing Liu

Mende: So, what is today’s topic of discussion?

Liu: Marriage or single life?

Mende: How come you chose this topic today?!

Liu: This is a hot topic of discussion in China right now.   Personally, my parents have been asking about marriage as of late, so it is a subject on my mind. 

Mende: Are you an only child?

Liu: I have an older brother.

Mende: As the younger brother, born while the one-child policy was in place, did you have any trouble?

Liu: I heard my parents had to pay a fine.   Also, both of my parents worked at a government-run company, so they each had to take a 20% cut in salary.  Personally, I think it is fine not to get married, but for the sake of my parents who raised me, I think that is a good enough reason to get married.

Mende: So, are you prepared to make a decision, marriage or single life, based on today’s talk?

Liu: If I find someone and fall in love, I think I will get married, but if that proves difficult I am fine with the single life.  However, in China, it is very difficult for men to get married.  One reason is the number of eligible men for marriage is more than 30 million compared to women of the same age. 

Mende: There are fewer women than men?

Liu: Yes. Unquestionably, there are fewer women.  So, when there is an engagement, the bride’s family holds a stronger position at the bargaining table, requesting marriage conditions from the groom’s family, like buying a new car or house and marriage payoffs are also essential.  Depending on where you live the conditions are different.  My cousin’s fiance requested a payoff of 5 million-plus a new house and car. 

Mende: Even if one wants to get married if you don’t have any money you can`t get married?!  The groom’s parents won’t pay?

Liu: Yes, that happens.  For my family, it will be tough.

Mende: But the parents aren`t the ones to be married.  Say, a man doesn’t make very much, but he is a really great guy.  Are there no women who are willing to get married despite their parents’ disapproval?

Liu: Only a few.  In China, the mother of the bride is in the most powerful position and taking a stand against her is very difficult.  Socially, there is a strong tendency that men should pay.  Sometimes the bride’s family will pay, but the groom will not have much say in anything after that.  I get the impression that in cases like this, marriage life doesn’t go very smoothly. 

Mende: Troubling.  So, your parents are telling you to get married, but in reality, it is not very easy to get married?

Liu: Yes.  How about you?  Do you think people should get married or stay single?

Mende: I don’t think either is good or bad.  However, I think marriage is the only social system in place right now.  My friend from Denmark is not married but has a family with his partner and the children are told that Mom and Dad are partners.  The idea of building a happy family life without being married exists in Northern Europe.   In old Japan, love-based marriages were rare.  The family usually decided on one`s partner, so ties between families were very important.  I’m sure there were a lot of oppressive marriages. 

Liu: Even in China today, ties between families are very important.  I think love-based marriages are very few.  

Mende: So if no love is kindled within marriages, are there a lot of divorces?

Liu: For the younger generation divorce rates are going up.

Mende: My friend living in Paris says, more than half of married couples in Paris get a divorce.  A divorce rate of over 50%.   Well, the divorce rate seems to be rising in Japan, too.  In addition, people unmarried for life and those who choose not to have a partner at all, are also on the rise. 

However, whether it is a real marriage or common-law arrangement, the merger requires one to live with another person, someone besides themselves.  This means taking into consideration another person’s needs. If you do something nice for your partner, it also makes you feel good.  This is what living together means, doesn`t it?  If this isn’t the case, I don’t see the purpose. 

Liu: Yes, a form of sharing.  Sharing the same space and fun times together.

Mende: Yes, to share the good times, along with the bad.  Although sharing can be troublesome at times, but these moments have an important meaning.   Whether you get married or not, living with a partner helps you develop as a person. 

Liu: Yes.  For example, cooking together might be fun.

Mende: Yes, that is right.  Like taking the time to help with, say removing the roots from bean sprouts.  There is meaning in this.  I think it is kind of sad that some people think things like this are a nuisance, so they don’t want to get married or don`t need a partner.  Your partner`s joy is also your own joy.   Love is not something to receive but is something to unconditionally give away. 

Liu:Yes, I think I am starting to get a more positive feeling about marriage.  I think I will look more actively for that someone.  Thank you for your time today.