Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Woman's Choice and Temporary Families

M, who recently went back to Taiwan to teach again, after living in
America for five years because she married a guy who lived here, sent
a note asking us to try to look in on her husband and step-son from
time to time. She worries that he will sink into a deeper funk due to
unemployment. He had a great job but quit to start his own business,
which didn't work out too well, so the family of three was without a
steady income (nor health insurance) for most of last year. Push came
to shove, M finally decided to go back and earn some money, even
though this meant she would be half a world away from her husband for
at least three years, tho she did plan twice-yearly trips back to
America. When I told my sister this story, adding my own analysis, she
said matter of factly that obviously her marriage meant less than her
own career. Being apart is a mistake, she said, this marriage will not
weather the trials of long distance. I disagreed, was M just supposed
to sit at home and have everyone starve along with her? Sis said,
there are ways to make ends meet together. If you struggled together,
at least you're still a family, apart, you're just gonna fall apart as
a couple. We always have a choice in these things, when we tell
ourselves we have to do something, just call it for what it really is:
we WANT to do it, often because it benefits ourselves more. Time will
tell if her dark prediction will be true.

Lots of Chinese couples do long-distance, and they don't necessarily
divorce, granted, I don't know if they're exactly close. Often the man
or the woman will have some sort of local partner when the separation
gets longer than six months. Lots of couples I know in my
neighborhood, who present themselves as a married couple, are often
not. Some even have whole families back home. The immigrant life is
easier with someone to help you out, cook dinner with, and just plain
talk to, so people create makeshift families to bide the time.