SAM Xiao and Yoyo Ma have been officially married for two years, but the couple from Shanghai is still struggling with whether or not to hold a wedding.
“We live with my parents. No new house, no wedding ceremony. It’s a typical ‘naked marriage’,” says Xiao, the husband, a 34-year-old accountant working in an import-export company.
He admits that he’s under great pressure, as the wife’s family has kept complaining.
“In China, tradition holds that a girl deserves a big wedding when she gets married, announcing her change of life — stepping out of her own family and opening a new page,” says Ma. “If not, the family seems to be ashamed.”
Xiao cites several reasons for hesitating on a big wedding, primarily the high cost and the time and energy spent on preparation.
“Marriage, to be honest, is only between us two persons. It’s not a show. I really do not like the traditional wedding — treating dozens of relatives and friends, familiar or unfamiliar, toasting and getting drunk, and repeating meaningless thanks for the whole day. For what? Just for the face of our parents? It’s ridiculous,” Xiao says with a touch of bitterness.
A massive survey suggests that Beijing may be the center of some pretty fierce arguments. The poll conducted by jiayuan.com, China’s biggest dating website and the Psychology Institute in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, shows that men in Beijing are the least eager to hold a wedding, while women in the capital city are on the opposite side — they insist most that they want a romantic wedding party.
The report also shows that men in Shandong Province are least likely to engage in sex before marriage.
The study polled 350,000 people, who over a recent one-month period filled out an online questionnaire about their living habits, feelings about marriage and values.
Sense of marriage value
At the beginning of a relationship, the couple usually doesn’t tend to share their thinking about marriage, let alone express their thoughts about whether or not to hold a wedding.
“Men and women think differently about marriage,” says Zhang Jiarui, a marriage expert from jiayuan.com.
“Most men think love is personal, belonging only to the couple. They don’t have to show it to others by holding a time- and money-consuming wedding. But most women have held a princess dream since they were young, and a romantic wedding is the way to realize this dream, if only for one day.”
The survey shows that men in Shandong like luxury weddings the most, followed by men in Sichuan and Guangdong provinces. Women in northeast China’s Liaoning Province emphasize their feelings in a relationship more than material things or weddings.
“Conflicts about the wedding, even the details about the wedding party, can result in a fight or breakup,” says Zhang. “Negotiation, understanding and compromise is very necessary during this process, as well as in the marriage life in the future.”
As people get more mature, their requirements for love and standards of an ideal partner seem to change.
Xiao says that when he started to date his girlfriend at 20, a well-prepared breakfast, picking her up from work on a rainy day or a small handmade gift would easily win the girl.
“Dating seemed to be only about feelings and emotion,” he says. “But as we get older, more and more material pressures come — income, saving, house, car, even your parents’ condition — are standards by which a girl decides to date or marry you.”
“The elements to influence a relationship are complex, but conclusively they are material and spiritual,” says Chen Zhiyan, a professor at the Psychology Institute in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In a word, people are looking for a “reliable” one as a life partner. “Reliable” means healthy, a good career and not too much previous dating experience, says Chen.
Although most men in the survey tagged “ambitious in career” as a strong asset in dating, the requirements for material and personal characteristics vary significantly by region, according to the survey.
Men in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces see their career as important to a relationship. Women in Beijing think the key to an ideal man is that he has a “charming personality,” rather than his material condition.
Overall, according to the survey, a good man generally is tagged as loving sports, including participating and going to the gym, and “not against vegetarians.”
For men seeking an ideal girlfriend or wife, the top three qualities are non-smoking, enjoying singing and dating quietly.
Other findings: Men in Shanghai partake in nightlife the least yet care the most about their appearance. Men in Shandong are best at cooking, while women in Shanghai are worst at it. Beijing women are well known as culture and art lovers.
People from different areas have different attitudes and reactions to conflicts in marriages. Men in Shanghai are considered to lead the nation in being “tolerant.”
Shanghai women, meanwhile, are the most independent in their relationships, meaning they are freer to see friends, spend money on their own and make other decisions.
The survey also contained some surprising findings about sexual attitudes. Women surveyed in cosmopolitan, Western-influenced Shanghai said they most strongly oppose sex before marriage, along with those in Shandong and Guangdong provinces.
“The openness of sexual attitude has no direct relationship with the development of a city,” says Zhang. “Shandong men deeply influenced by Confucianism are against sexual behavior before marriage in the survey. Women in a metropolitan city like Shanghai are also conservative.
Men in Guangdong have the highest frequency of sex, while men in Jiangsu Province and women in heavily Muslim Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are the least likely to have ever had sex before marriage, according to the survey.
Finding Mr and Mrs Right is a very difficult thing for many people. “Falling in love at first does not mean two people are compatible and can spend their lives together. Understanding a potential mate and wasting less time with the wrong person is the main reason to do a survey like this,” according to Peng Zhonghua, director of jiayuan.com.
“We hope single people can be clear on what kind of person they want rather than wasting time on real ‘blind dating’,” he says.
Other findings on marriage
Bottom line on salaries
Women nationwide set the lowest acceptable income of their boyfriend/husband at 5,000 yuan (US$816) per month averagely. This also varies by region. In Shenzhen and Beijing, the cost standard is above 8,000 yuan, and Shanghai stands on top, at 9,964 yuan.
Thirty years old is commonly a late marriage line for both men and women in China. Most women regard single men between 35 and 40 as “leftover men,” and “leftover women” start from 30 to 35 years old. However, in men’s eyes, if women are over 28 and still single, they have been left over already.
The attitude of having a second child is directly related to the couple’s education level and family background. Among parents born into one-child families, less than half (47 percent) are even considering having a second child, and 30 percent are hesitating.
More than 58 percent of post-graduates said a second child is on their agenda, but the percentage dropped to 30.9 percent among participants without a bachelor’s degree.
The third person in a marriage
Close friends can be very threatening to marriages, often leading to their breakdown. Slightly over half of women in the survey think it’s easy for men to approach their close girlfriend, and nearly half of men agree. In fact, 11.4 percent of women and 21.3 percent of men say they fell in love with the close friend of their lover.