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Lesson 17

       Is Romantic Love the Most Important Condition for Marriage?

                                Choosing a Spouse

    If you are young and unmarried, you must have in your mind the image of an ideal husband or wife. Most young people like to indulge in fantasies, and your image may ta.ke the form of a certain famous film star or pop singer. But if you are of a practical turn of mind; your "ideal" would be more down to earth, and your "image" would be modelled after what you see around you. Though images do not always coincide with realities (for after all, an ideal is an ideal), it is nevertheless an interesting subject for study, for it tells us what the young people expect from the present society.

    Dr. Li Yinhe of the Sociological Institute of Beijing University has made a study of a certain amount of matrimonial advertisements, and he found that the present generation of China put great emphasis on, in order of importance, (1) age, (2) height, (3) education as the three most important standards in choosing a spouse. Next comes (4) character and temperament, (5) profession, (6) marital status and personal history, (7) appearance and (8) health.

    Such order of emphasis is peculiarly Chinese. Other conditions such as religion, race and love, so important to people of other nations are completely missing in Dr. Li,s list. Many foreign scholars are also interested in the Chinese idea of an ideal spouse and they just can't understand why the Chinese men especially set so much store by "age" when they choose a spouse. A man of over forty would want a woman under thirty and a man of thirty would want his future spouse to be under twenty- five. One possible explanation is that youth is almost synonymous with beauty. At least the two words young and beautiful always go together. The Chinese people have not yet discovered mature beauty.

    Height definitely is uniquely Chinese in playing such an important role when people choose a spouse. To be eligible a man has to be at least 1.70m. in height. It is said that to a choosy girl, any man under 1. 70m. is considered a semiinvalid! So far no one has offered a satisfactory explanation to such a strange phenomenon.

    As to the third important condition, that of educational level, people find it a puzzle too, because in present day China education doesn't give you high social status, nor does it bring you good pay. Yet both sexes set a great store by it. The thing to notice is that a man with a university education is content to have a wife with senior middle school education while a woman with a university education would never consider a man with only a senior middle school education: Her husband has to be at least a university graduate too, preferably someone with a post-graduate degree.

    What conclusion can can we draw from all this? I think that in seeking a husband or wife, we Chinese have not yet freed ourselves from our feudal tradition of arranged marriages. Instead of having our marriages arranged by our parents, we now arrange our own marriages.In the old days stress was put on equal social and economic status of the two families, which was considered a condition of a good match.

 Now love marriages boil4down to more or less the same thing, except that stress is no longer placed on the condition of the two families, but on the two individuals themselves. And conditions vary with the trend of the times. Not so long ago it was Party membership that was all important. A girl who was a Party member would not be satisfied with a man who was only a League member. He had to be at least a Party member, and preferably a Party member with a responsible position.
    In essence we are still selling ourselves to the highest hidder. To put it another way: We are still trying to get the best bargain with what capitai we have. Is it so much different from the old mercenary marriage?

II. Read
    Read the following passages. Underline the important viewpoints while reading.

                      1. Husband and Wife by Arrangement.

    Yoshio and Hiromi Tanaka are a young Japanese couple living in the USA while he studies electrical engineering. They clearly love each other very deeply, but, says Yoshio, "We didn' t marry for love in the Western sense. We got married in the time-Itcanoured Japanese way. Our parents arranged our marriage through a matchmaker. ln Japan we believe that marriage is something that affects the whole family; not just tbe young couple concerned.

So we think it is very important to match people according to their social background, education and so on. Matchmakers are usually middle-aged women who keep lists of suitable young people with information about their families, education and interests. When our parents thought it was time for us to get married they went to a local matchmaker and asked her for some suggestions. We discussed the details.and looked at the photos sbe sent, and then our parents asked her to arrange a 'marriage interview, for the two of us."

    A Japanese marriage interview is held in a public place, such as a hotel or restaurant, and is attended by the boy and the girl,their parents and the matchmaker. Information about the couple and their families is exchanged over a cup of tea or a meal. Then the boy and the girl are left alone for a short time to get to know each other. When they return home they have to tell the matchmaker whether they want to meet again or not. If both of them want another meeting, the matchmaker arranges
it, and after that they can decide whether to carry on the coertship themselves. Here Hiromi said with a gentle sinile, "Not so long ago, the girl could never rcfuse to go out again with a boy who liked her, but now she can. I thought Yoshio was really rather nice, so I didn't refuse."

    Yoshio continued: "When our parents realized we were serious about each other, they started to make arrangements for our wedding. My family paid the `Yuino' money to Hiromi's. This is money o help. pay for the wedding ceremony and for setting up house afterwards. We also gave her family a beautiful ornament to put in the best room of their house, so everyone knew that Hiromi was going to marry. Six months after our first meeting we were married. A traditional Japanese wedding is a wonderful ceremony, and our traditional custom of arranged marriages
has given me a wonderful wife."


                       2. Husband and Wife by Airmail

    "You must be mad, " his friends said, as thirty-year-old John Briggs of Hatfield left London Airport to fly to Brazil. John was going half-way round the world to meet a girl he'd never seen but hoped to marry. The trip was costing him three months' pay-in fact he' d had to borrow from his father and an aunt to buy his ticket-and he had no idea whether the pretty dark-haired girl he only knew from photographs and letters would even like him. "I' d had a good life as a bachelor," says John, four years later, his arm round his wife and their two lovely children, "but I felt something was missing. I had a good job, my own house and plenty of friends.

 I'd had plenty of girlfriends too, but somehow no one ever seemed quite the right girl for me. Then one day I was looking through a magazine during my lunch hour when a photograph of a pretty girl caught my eye. It was part of an advertisement for a World Penfriends Circle. I decided to write off to them immediately. All my friends had a good laugh, I remember."

    John received the names of four girls, two. from Japan, one from Finland, and one from Brazil, and wrote to all of them, enclosing a photograph of himself, The last to reply was Maria from Brazil, but it was Maria who came to take first place in John's heart. They wrote to each other for a year, Maria in Portuguese and John in English- all the letters had to be translated-and then one of Maria's uncles came to Fngland on a business trip. Maria had asked him to arrange a meeting with John and report back to Brazil on what her English penfriend was really like. The uncle said that John was "a fat little fellow without much hair", but he must. have said some nicer things too, for Maria's parents wrote to John inviting him to visit their family. John replied saying he'd love to.

    A practical man, John started to get organized. As soon as he had the money for his air ticket he wrote to Maria asking her what her views on getting married were. He also sent an engagement ring, and a Valentine card every day! Maria wrote back to say they could decide whether to get married or not once they met-but she started making a wedding dress of beautiful white silk, just in case...

    The day John was due to arrive Maria waited anxiously at the airport. Suppose h?didn't like her? But when his plane came in she didn't. even recognize himl Her uncle had to point him out. "He was the man with the nicest smiie, " says Maria, "and he was just the right height for me! " They both realized immediately that they were just right for each other in lots of oth.cr ways too. Ten days later they were married and Maria came io live in England with her husband---"the best thing that's ever come to me through the post?she says.

                      3. Husband and Wife for
45 Eacb

    Attractive Kay Knight is expecting her first baby in a few months' time. She smiled happily at her husband Mike as she told us their story. "I woke up on my thirty-fifth birthday thinking, 'Help. I'm turning into a real old spinster schoolteacher. ' All my. friends seemed to be married with homes and families of their own. But where was I? I love my job-don't get me wrong. I've had a very satisfying career, but teaching other people' s children isn' t the same as bringing up your own."She'll make a wonderful mother," said Mike. "I can't think why she wasn't snapped up years ago. But I'm glad she wasn't, or I wouldn't have found her."

    How did they find each other? "Well," said Kay, "as a young woman I'd had a few boyfriends, but never anything serious. Then I realized I wasn't even meeting any men, not unmarried ones anyway. So I took a deep breat6 and wrote to a Marriage Bureau. " Iiay ha d to fill in a detailed form and then attend an interview. "It was very thorough, " she said. "They really wanted to make sure I was serious about wanting to get married, and they took a lot of trouble to find out what kind of person I was and the sort of man I thought I'd like to marry. I was told I'd be given three introductions to suitable men for a fee of
15. If I married one of them, I'd have to pay another 30. The first introduction was to another teacher, which she didn't think was a good idea, but the second was to Mike.


    Mike took up the story. "I got married when I was a young man of 22, but my wife was killed a year later in a car accident. I was completely shattered. I put all my energies into m.y work and spent many years abroad with my firm. Then I came back to England. to work at Head Office and realized how empty my life had become. 1 didn't just want to work; I wanted a wife and children. I needed someone to make my house into a home. I wasn't interested in young girls, but how cowld I find a mature, loving woman to share my life? I think my sister and brother-in-law must have g,uessed how I was feeling. They introduced me to a charming older couple one evening. After they'd. gone home I remarked how well-suited they seerned and my sister told me why--they'd met through a Marriage Bureau. `You should give it a try,' she said. So I did."

    Mike phoned a bureau the very next day and went for an interview the following week. He was given three names, including Kay's. He wrote to her first because he thought a school-teacher would probably like ch:ildren. Their first date was a disaster. "We agreed to meet for a picnic and it poured with rain, " he told us. "But we both saw the funny side of it, and from then on everything went right." Within'a month o# their first meeting he proposed and they got engaged. The wedding took place a year ago. "Speaking as a businessman, " said Mike, "this is the best deal I've ever made!"

                        4. Dating Pattens in the USA

    In the traditional dating pattern in the United States,much of the responsibility for a date falls to the young man. In this pattern, the young man must first call fhe girl he wishes to date on the telephone. Usually, this call is made quite early in a week. Most girls iwtraditional dating relationships expect to get a telephone call from a young man by Wednesday. Most dating occurs on weekends. Many young ,people do not have to get up early for school or work on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so Friday nights and Saturday nights are popular nights for dates. The young man must ask the girl for the date, and suggest some things that they might.do together. It is usually up to the young man to pay for all of the evening's activities.

    There are many things to do on dates. Many young people enjoy going to sports events, such as football and baseball games. These games may occur at a high school, college, or in a large sports arena in a city. A very popular place for young people to go on dates is the movies. Almost everyone enjoys a good movie, and almost every town has at least one movie theater. Young people may also enjoy going to a night club or coffee house. Here, they may listen to music and dance, and perhaps meet some of their friends. These are a few of the things young people do on dates in the United States.

    In some parts of the United States, traditional dating relationships begin when young people are in high school. In other places, young people do not go out in couples until they are in college, or in their early twenties. Some young men would rather go out with just one girl all of the time. Every Saturday night, a young man will go out with the same girl. Many girls enjoy this kind of relationship also. It gives both the boy and the girl a chance to get to know one another quite well. Sometimes, this may lead to marriage. Other young people enjoy dating different individuals. One week they may go out with one person, the next week with another. They get to know many people this way, and may not wish to have a serious relationship with just one person.

    Many young people in the United States, especially college students, do not go out on either of these traditional dates. Instead, they go out on group dates. In this kind of dating pattern, small groups of young people go out together. All of the people in the group are usually friends, but some of the people in the group may not know each other. No one young man is with any particular girl. They are all together
as part of the group. This is very different from the traditional date.

    A group date differs from a traditional date in several ways. First, there are no special relationships in the group. No particular girl and boy are together all the time. Second, the group date may occur on a weekend, but it may not be planned in advance. A group of young people may decide on Saturday afternoon that they want to spend Saturday evening together. They may all decide to go to a movies or to some other event. On a group date, no one is paired with anyone else. As a result, every person pays for his or her own expenses. This means that the girls must pay for themselves. They must pay their own admission for the movies, for a cup of coffee, or for anything else that costs money during the date.

    Many young people find the group date to be a great deal of fun. The young men on a group date are under no pressure. They do not have to be with any particular girl during the evening. They do not have to pay for anyone but themselves. They do not have to be especially polite or formal during the date. Everyone can relax and have a good time. Group dates may lead to serious relationships for some members of the group. Maybe a girl and boy on a group date find that t6ey have a lot in common and enjoy being together. They may spend more time together, with the group, and with each other. But usually, everyone on a group date is just interested in a good time. No one worries about a serious relationship.

    The group date may be good for very young people. They may not know what kind of person they like. They may like to spend their time with many different people. But it also does not give young people a chance to have a serious relationsh:p. A serious relationship can help a young person in many ways. A person may learn what is good and what is bad about a serious relationship. Usually, in dating, young people find out what kind of person they would like to marry. If a young person always goes on group dates, there is no chance to find out. As we can see, group dates have their good points and their drawbacks.

    The group date is very different from the traditional date, don't you think? Young people in the United States today enjoy both of these types of relationships. Traditional dating relationships give young people a chance to get to know one another quite well. Group dates give young people a chance to get to know many other young people and to have a more relaxed evening. Both kinds of dates have their good points. The group date is a.relatively new idea among young people. It.seems to be popular for the reasons described here.

                            5. Courtship Customs

Did you know
that most British couples first meet at a dance?
that in some parts of Africa. men pay for their wives with cows?
that in Germany you can advertise for a partner on television?
that in Britain girls can propose in Leap Year ( 1976, I980 and every fourth year following)?
that in the USA boys and girls start dating very young, as young as 12?

                         6. Marriage : East and West

    "I believe," said Dr. Samuel Johnson in the eighteenfh century, "that marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancel'lor, upon a due consideration of the characters and circumstances, without the partners having any choice in the matter."
    We are bound to acknowledge, after a careful study of the methods of mate selection in the East and West, that the great Dr. Johnson was probably perfectly right.
    From one extreme to the other, four patterns of mate selection may be distinguished.

    1. Selection by the parents - the young people themselves not consulted. This is the traditional method employed in the East. When the choice is carefully and wisely made, it is usually a good one.But it is open to the grave errors caused by ignorance and exploitation.
    2. Selection by the parents, but the young People consulted . This is an improvement on the first method, provided the young people are allowed to make the final decision. In some communities, though they are formally consulted, they are expected to accept the choice made for them, and have no real freedom to express their minds.

    3. Selection by the young people, but parental approvdl necessary. This pattern exhibits at least two forms. The strictest is the one in which no action may be taken by the young people until they bave been given parental permissiop to proceed. A good example is the early American Quaker father in the eighteenth century, who was approached by a neighbour's son John asking his permission to court his daughter Sarah. Unless John was approved by Sazah's father in the first place, no further
step could be taken. But even if her father approved of John, Sarah still had the right to refuse him.

    The other variation is where Sarah could encourage John's attentions without seeking her father's permission; but if she and John became serious, her father's approval was essential before marriage could take place. If he used his veto, she had to give up John-or elope!

    4. Selection by the young people - the parents not consulted. This is the method which is becoming widespread in the West today. The couple may be living away from home, and unable to consult their parents. But even when the parents are formally consulted, all too often their agreement is a mere formality. They know that, even if they raise objections, the marriage is likely to take place anyway.
    Which of these methods is most desirable?

    We would reject the first. Even if it is efficient, we believe it denies to young people a freedom that should be theirs by right. This is the position being widely adopted in the East today.
    We would also reject the last. Young people should not be dominated
by their parents in this matter. But neither should their parents be left entirely out of the picture. The experience of parents can often correct and restrain the headstrong and distorted choices of inexperienced youth. The kind of freedom young people in the West today are demanding is unreasonable, and undesirable in their own best interests.

    The desirable ideal, we believe, is a cooperative selection by young people and parents together. This may not always be easily achieved.But it is worth the effort that may be needed. It creates unity in ihe family. It balances out the intense feelings of youth against the detached judgement of more mature experience. It offers, we believe, the best basis for successful marriages - especially if backed by scientific knowledge accumulated by study and research.

    At the present time, the East.is moving steadily towards the ideal of cooperation between parents and young people. But the West is moving further away from it, as young people increasingly ignore their parents' opinions. However, there is some compensation in the fact that the results of study:and research concerning the criteria of good mate selection are being made available increasingly to Western youth.

                            7. Marry - for What?

    I'm afraid it is in the nature of an agony aunt's job that she is more concerned with failures than with triumphs. Nevertheless, these past years, I've also noticed something of the pattern that leads to success in married life.
    I've seen, for instance, that making a marriage work begins long before making a marriage. It begins with a girl who thinks less about marriage than girls have traditionally done, and more about herself in relationship to work and to her community. The very first trick to a happy marriage is to become a person of independence and pride who does not imagine a husband is necessary to make her magically complete.

    Whenever I get a letter from a woman who says she "cannot live without" the man who is breaking her' heart, I am compelled to tell her that successful partnerships are not between those who cannot live without each other, but bet.ween those who can live with each other. There is no room even in daydreams for the stupid idea that there is on earth only one mate intended for another.

    To my surprise I have found this antique misconception is still alive and it creates a lazy superstition that has caused more than one marriage to fail. How can anyone who believes her union was "meant to be", not equally believe it was "not meant to be" at the first sign of trouble? Whether or not a marriage was "meant to be" is beside the point; it is and therefore it requires patience and protection.
    Passion is great outside marriage, but not so hot inside it. So why do we marry? For love? Oh yes. Friendship? Certainly. Children? Why not? Money? Dodgy. Fun? Never.

    For most young people-and a lot of older ones-marriage is the first adult commitment, and if it is to succeed it must be undertaken in an adult way. It isn't a bad idea for engaged couples to write out the sort of contract any other working partnership would demand, specifying how many children they want to have and when, where they will live, how they will divide household duties, which in-laws might become liabilities and what to do about th.em, how much money will be coming in, as well as precisely how it will go out.

    I don't pretend any couple would abide by such a contract, but simply in drawing it up they would find out a great deal about each other's unromantic expectations, for these-not sex or fidelity or love -are tlne real marriage wreckers. It is alarming, for instance, how many women race into a lifelong contract with a man whose income and earning power they do not know. Do they still expect Daddy to find out for them?

    Of course, there is only one way to treat any problem inside marriage, sexual or otherwise, and it is the way to treat all the other problems: talk to each other.
    But how many times has a woman written to me--a complete stranger-of a deep misery that she could not tell her husband, or that she failed even to catch his attention? There must arrive an egly momcni between every husband and wife-maybe it's a quarrel or a disappoinrment or a hurt-and if that moment drops without discussion and sinks into brooding or resentment, then it will be the seed that comes in the end to bear bitter fruit.

    Admittedly, it is largely women who write to me and I do see marriage from a woman's point of view. But in this freezing of communication, I think it is often men who are the culprits. Men must talk about their feelings and men must respect the validity of women's feelings, or their marriages become just a way of getting their shirts ironed.

    " When agony aunts like me talk about "working at a marriage", listening is what we mean. Listening is hard work, especially when it is to something we would rather not hear. There is no such thing as a marriage of convenience. Marriage is a cumbersome, inconvenient alliance, but it. is the only way we have of making families and therefore anyone who undertakes it has a responsibility to it. Part of the wife's responsibility is never, never to expect more from "us" Chan she expects from herself.