In an article called “Eastern approach may keep couples from divorce Courts” Adele Horin discusses different cultural approaches to relationships.
The article published on 3 January 2012 in the Sydney Morning Herald states that Australian couples place importance on showing affection, speaking their mind and put high value on love and sex as essential ingredients of a happy marriage. But with one in three ending in divorce, researches are examining whether eastern cultures can offer some clues to more harmonious relationships.
The article goes on to quote Kim Halford, professor of psychology at the University of Queensland who is also a lead author of a study which says that Chinese couples have a very low divorce rate.
Halford states that “Marriage in the western world has become very fixated on romance, passion and expression of feelings between the spouses.” However in comparison he says that “Many of the traditional Chinese marriage values are likely to make marriages happier and at lower risk of divorce.”
There has also been research on Chinese and mixed marriage couples in Australia which has uncovered different cultural ideas about what makes a marriage successful.
The article states that research shows that Chinese couples emphasise working together, stressing the concept of “togetherness”.
In addition, Horin quotes research that couples see themselves as part of an extended family whereas more Western couples see themselves as being somewhat separate.
Co-researcher with Kim Halford, Danika Hiew states that “In the west there is an emphasis on ‘personal fulfilment’. That if you’re not being ’emotionally and physically fulfilled’ you look elsewhere. However in Chinese relationships the couple are more willing to ‘ride out’ the rough times, working together for a common goal. It is less about having a good time now; it’s more about compatibility and support.”
Horan questions if the Chinese prescription for “harmony” is simply a return to the pre 1970s era when she says there were low divorce rates often built on women’s inequality and unhappiness. However Ms Hiew says that “Chinese views are not incompatible with an egalitarian marriage.”
There are also differences in communication which can affect divorce rates. Mrs Hiew states “Westerners tend to say exactly how they feel, when they feel it. Chinese tend to edit their expressions to preserve harmony and not hurt the relationship. Taken to extremes, both views can be unhelpful.”
The research also showed that in intercultural relationships for example when Australians and Chinese marry each other, there can be some misunderstandings. For example an Australian born partner might be upset if their Chinese partner did not wish to hold their hand in public. However as a Chinese man told researches “Affection is when we work together. Let’s say we need to prepare food for Chinese New Year, this is where affection comes in.”
The article then discusses an intercultural relationship between Michael Campbell aged 74 and his wife Wang Yan Ming (Annie) aged 56. The article states that while each had different attitudes to romance and sex they could appreciate aspects of the other’s approach to marriage.
Mr Campbell says he appreciated the Chinese respect for marital fidelity. Ms Ming said she appreciated Mr Campbell’s emphasis on enjoyment of life today. “For Chinese, marriage is about having children and saving money for the children’s success. He didn’t want more children, he wanted to enjoy life and I prefer that too.”
Currently the researchers are aiming to develop relationship education that includes Chinese skills and values. “We want to include the strengths of both eastern and western cultures.”
In my view it is difficult to say conclusively if “Eastern values” or “Western values” are more likely to protect a relationship from divorce.
Although I am only speaking from anecdotal evidence, I would have to say that a common thread in why marriages break down is when parties have different values. That being said, this article points to differences in cultural values is potentially enriching a relationship.
If you have any questions in relation to divorce or separation please contact us at Armstrong Legal on 9261 4555.