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Hey you couples, talk your way to bliss  

2011-02-25 03:01:40|  分类: English |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Hey you couples, talk your way to bliss - 南桥 - 南桥的博客
 Before Valentine’s Day, a number of media outlets in the United States reported that 40-year-old chemist Li Tianle was suspected of using thallium to poison her husband Wang Xiaoye. Li and Wang graduated from two of China’s top universities, Beijing University and Tsinghua University, a fact that set the Internet abuzz. This is a perfect “critical incident” for discussions about China’s failures in education. For decades, the educational system in China focused on producing smart elites without placing equal emphasis on developing well-rounded persons with healthy personal character and effective life skills.

Two persons in a tragedy aren’t enough samples for such a generalization, yet they are enough to get people talking about marriages in the invisible community of Chinese living abroad. The case of Li and Wang brought marital issues of overseas Chinese out of family closets. Chinese families living overseas, mine included, often impress people as being, let’s put it this way, “interesting. To their extended Chinese families, they are successful people living abroad with houses, cars and two or even three kids who often win prizes thanks to the battle hymns of “tiger moms”. To their American neighbors, they are anywhere between eccentric and insane, folks who are more obsessed with vegetables in their backyards than with weeds in their lawns. Few people know what is going on in these people’s lives. Much, I would say, just like everybody else.

Being constantly exposed to fellow middle-aged couples, I know that many Chinese couples are riddled with marital problems of one sort or another. I don’t need to list them. Tolstoy has summarized it all: all unhappy families are different.

So this is something universal, you may think. But there are still some peculiarities about Chinese couples living abroad. Compared with couples living in China, overseas Chinese couples do not have an easily accessible support system to fall back upon when the goings get tough. In China, for instance, when a couple gets into a fight, a wife can hui niang jia (go back to her mother’s home) to be away from her “evil” husband for a while. Then the mother-in-law or father-in-law steps in to give the trouble-making husband an earful. The husband often apologizes, as the tradition goes, softens up to the wife and requests that she come back.

The wife, already regretful of running away from her husband and child, then gladly returns. Things go back to normal. End of story, at least till the next crisis. It’s a messy little tradition, but it works.

The tradition has some variations. Sometimes a husband follows in Rip van Winkle’s footsteps: leaves home for a while then returns, hoping that the dame would have mellowed down by then. Sometimes the wife goes to a girlfriend’s home for a while. In any case, there is a safety valve to let out the extra steam. Things get worse before they get better. And after a number of such iterations, we are too old, too tired, or too philosophical for major conflicts.

For Chinese couples living in the US, however, a minor detail derails the fine tradition. There is a “big pond”, also known as the Pacific Ocean, between her house and her mom’s home. It is too expensive, too logistically complex and far too risky for a wife to run away to her mother’s home! What if the man (or woman) decides not to cooperate to obtain the visa for the wife (or husband) to come back home after playing “truant”?

American couples have their own support mechanisms when things do not work out well. A marriage counselor is one. But I have found that Chinese couples rarely seek such counselors’ help to solve their marital problems. “Thou shalt not share family scandals,” according to some ancient wisdom, seems to be their motto.

Without mediators such as parents, classmates or counselors, couples in conflict confront each other like two characters in a Harold Pinter play: a room, two people, silence and an unspeakable menace. Things can get ugly from here. What starts as calling names can end up with calling cops.

To make matters worse, Chinese couples are often inarticulate about their feelings. We are as bad as the old Jewish lady Golde in Fiddler on the Roof who has some difficulty answering the question: Do you love me?

It may not be a big deal not to have such affectionate expressions. Let’s say actions speak louder. But it certainly is a big deal to have an evasive attitude toward marital problems. American couples, for example, are comfortable with launching a monologue, prefaced by a caution: “Honey, I think we need to talk.”

Even after marriage, many Chinese couples resort to guesses about marital issues. Not being outspoken, of course, can prevent some bad things from being said, but it also has the potential of deepening misunderstandings or causing mistrust. It takes so many things for a marriage to succeed — duties to each other’s extended families, affection and appreciation, financial obligation, housework and children’s education. Open communication is key for many of these pieces to hold a couple together in their joint struggle in a different land.

Living in a foreign country sometimes presents daunting challenges, such as language barriers and maintaining legal resident status, things that local residents do not have to worry about. Issues like these can bond, but I have seen many cases where they divide by adding too much stress that breaks a marriage.

For Chinese going to church in the US, things are different, because in such contexts, people see marriage as something holy. The marital operating system has changed. Ministers, rather than police, can come to the rescue when problems occur.

I doubt that American couples are better role models. Isn’t their divorce rate very high? Many Chinese couples do not divorce but they do not enjoy each other’s company either. Many problems are like lava, hidden or not noticeable before a volcano erupts. Most of the time, life carries on. And then one day, you hear a depressed husband has jumped from the top of a building. On another day, you read about a wife suspected of using thallium to poison her husband.

So, my dear friends, we all need to talk.

情人节之前,美国一些媒体报道称,现年40岁的旅美华裔女化学家李天乐涉嫌用剧毒金属铊毒死自己的丈夫王晓晔。据悉,李、王二人分别毕业于北大和清华这两所中国顶尖级的院校。这一消息在网上引起了强烈的反响。 这一事件似乎提供了一个关于中国教育问题的极佳范例。多年来,中国教育以培养聪明的精英著称,忽略了在人的全面发展和生活技能方面的相应训练。

但是两个人作为样本,得出如此结论,似乎稍显粗糙。但李天乐和王晓业的悲剧揭示了海外华人的婚姻问题。尽管他们两人的悲剧只是个特例,但足以引起人们对旅居海外的华人群体婚姻状况的关注。旅居海外的华人家庭,包括我自己的家人,经常说人们很“有趣”。对于在中国的其他家人而言,这些旅居海外的都是成功人士,他们在国外安家,有车有房,几个孩子也因为“虎妈”式的严厉管教而经常获得各种奖励。而对于他们的美国邻居来说,这些华裔夫妇却是介于怪人和疯子之间的人,他们对在后院种菜的兴趣远远超过了给草坪除草。很少有人知道他们到底生活得怎么样。其实我想说,他们的生活与一般人无异。

由于经常接触一些中年夫妇,我知道许多中国夫妇都面临着各种各样的婚姻问题。至于这些问题是什么,我就不一一列举了。托尔斯泰将其总结为:不幸的家庭各有各的不幸。

或许你会认为这是很普遍的事。但在旅居海外的中国夫妇当中还是有一些特例。同国内的夫妇相比,当婚姻出现问题时,旅居海外的夫妇不易获得支持和帮助。

例如,在国内,夫妇俩打架,女方就会回娘家待些日子,暂时避开自己“邪恶”的丈夫。然后岳父或者岳母对做男方进行“教育”。按照传统,男方通常都会向妻子道歉,软言软语地求她回家。

而做妻子的也为离开老公孩子感到愧疚,所以高高兴兴地回家去了。于是一切又恢复了正常,故事就此结束,至少在下一次危机出现之前是这样的。这是个听起来有些麻烦的小传统,但它确实管用。

这一传统还有些其它“版本”。有些做丈夫的会像瑞普·凡·温克尔(小说《李伯大梦》的主人公)一样,离开家一阵子再回来,盼着到时候老婆大人能彻底消气儿。有些做妻子的则到闺蜜家去住一阵子。无论哪种情况,夫妇二人的问题总能找到解决之道。黑暗之后是黎明,这样来来回回反反复复,我们老了,累了,也变豁达了,于是不再大吵大闹。

但对旅居美国的中国夫妇来说,一个小的细节破坏了这一传统。由于中美之间隔着辽阔的太平洋,如果夫妻闹矛盾女方要回娘家,这实在太贵、太复杂、太冒险了。如果夫妻中的一方逃回了父母在中国的家,另一方拒绝帮她(或他)获得回来的签证,那该怎么办呢?

美国的夫妇在关系陷入危机时有他们自己的一套获得支持的机制,婚姻顾问便是其中之一。但我发现中国的夫妇很少向婚姻顾问寻求帮助,来解决他们的婚姻问题。中国有句古话,“家丑不可外扬”,这似乎成了中国夫妇们的座右铭。

没有父母、同学或婚姻顾问从中调解,陷于矛盾的夫妇就像英国剧作家哈罗德·品特的作品《房间》中描写的两个人物:一间房,两个人,沉默和无言的威胁。于是事情开始变得糟糕。起初可能只是点名道姓、互相谩骂,到最后甚至会闹到警察那里去。

更糟糕的是,中国的夫妇还倾向于隐瞒自己内心的真实想法。我们和《屋顶上的小提琴手》中上了年纪的犹太女人格特一样,在回答“你爱不爱我”这样的问题上存在困难。 

我们常说“行动胜于言语”,说话没有如此充满爱意也没什么大不了的。但是,对婚姻中的问题采取回避态度却是万万不可的。比如,美国的夫妇就常以“亲爱的,我认为我们需要谈一谈”作为开场,打开天窗说亮话,诉说一番。

即便是在结婚以后,许多中国夫妇都对婚姻中存在的问题诉诸猜测。当然,不说出来,能够避免听到一些坏消息,但也有可能加深夫妻双方对彼此的误解,导致相互不信任。婚姻要成功,因素实在太多——对彼此大家庭的责任、爱、感激、经济上的义务、家务劳动、孩子的教育等等。其中,敞开心扉的交流是促使旅居异国他乡的夫妇共度难关的关键。

旅居异国时常会带来巨大的挑战,比如语言障碍、保持合法的居留身份等,这些都是住在当地的人们所不必担心的问题。这些问题可以让夫妇双方连结得更加紧密,但也有很多夫妻因为不堪忍受这些问题带来的巨大压力而选择分开。

对那些住在美国且信奉宗教的中国人来说,事情就不同了,因为信教的人认为婚姻是神圣的。此外,解决婚姻矛盾的机制也改变了。牧师取代了警察,成为解决婚姻矛盾的人。

美国夫妇到底是不是更好的榜样?对此我深表怀疑。他们的离婚率不是挺高的吗?许多中国夫妇虽然不离婚,但是他们的婚姻并不幸福。许多问题就像火山熔岩,火山喷发前一直潜藏着,不易被人发觉。大多数情况下,生活会像往常一样继续。然后突然有一天,你听说某某某的老公跳楼自杀了,后来你又听说有人用金属铊毒害了自己的丈夫。

所以说,亲爱的朋友们啊,我们都应该好好地谈一谈。

英文原文请见:http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-02/25/content_12075739.htm。特别说明:因中英文写作风格不同,中文稿件与英文原文不完全对应。(编译 赵欣莹 编辑 潘忠明)

《中国日报》2011年2月25日点此看中文
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