I could use your suggestions on a matter.
We recently met with a couple soon to be married. First, there are a few things one needs to understand about how Chinese view the “getting married” process. Chinese faced extreme pressure to get married by the age of 30. There’s even a word for unmarried women 30 or older––剩女, which means a “left over woman.” Men face similar pestering though it’s a bit less intense. For Chinese believers, the pressure is compounded by the fact that China proportionately doesn’t have a lot of Christians. Even if there were a thousand single Christians in your city, it’s not like people walked around with “耶稣是我的男好友” (Jesus is my homeboy) T-shirts.
Something akin to arranged marriages is pretty common here. I wouldn’t call them “arranged marriages” in the sense that their mate was somehow predetermined by the families irrespective of their own choice. Perhaps you might think of a dating service among friends and family. You have a matchmaker whom you trust and knows two parties well. Then, the couple basically interviews each other and meets their families. If all goes well, you get married. It’s intentional and efficient. There is no illusion of romance. There is no Titanic music in the background.
The couple we met last night we both in their 30s. I found this out when I asked why they liked (oops, even said love) about one another. Their answers were encouraging but sober. Atypically, their first answers were that the other was a strong believer with character. (Even for Christians, this is not the normal thing that determines who one marries.) On the other hand, they said they knew their ages and this was a practical step. The man recently lost his job (within the past 6 months) and does not have the money to buy a home (买房子), which is typically the first thing one any parent’s list of qualifications for a potential spouse for the child. I cannot overstate how important this is for Chinese: first buy a home, and only then can you get married. Well, her parents were willing to wave that condition just so shed at least get married. After all, this guy had a pulse.
So, here we are giving premarital counseling. So much pre-marital advice from the West concerns dating the right kind of people, that is, if you haven’t already kissed dating goodbye. Sadly, so much centered on the romance of getting married and not the realities of being married. Naturally, there are numerous things we have to talk about that affect every marriage––how to solve conflict, relationship to in-laws, parenting philosophy, sexual relationship, etc.
However, I would be curious what issues may be unique to these sorts of marriages. Maybe there aren’t a lot of extra considerations. In some sense, they come in with less baggage than others. Nevertheless, I don’t want to presume. Perhaps you have some ideas of questions to ask or issues to explore that relate to their situation in particular.