Modern Life Q&A is a weekly advice column on the Global Rencai blog where Joy Chen answers readers’ questions about life, work and love.
Q: I am a married man’s lover. He is older than me, a mentor-like figure. He did a lot for me – do you think that’s an older guy’s tactics? When we first met I did notice his ring and I didn’t expect to be with him. But when we are together, I feel complete. I have met his family, friends and buddies, so I am not totally in the closet.
I knew that he does not get along with his wife, but it’s not easy to support a family with a kid. I am not sure if I am ready for being a wife. I can’t give him a promise… he loves me, but I am not sure if he loves me enough… I can’t keep thinking about this… it will break my heart… I love him, but I hate him more –and I don’t know when I can come out of the closet. I want to forget about him but I can’t stop thinking of him. What should I do?
A: Your email reminded me of a newspaper column I once read of 50 life lessons from a woman who is a single parent and cancer survivor, so I looked it up and found it for you here. When I first read this, I was in politics, a world full of intrigue and ethical gray areas, and one of the lessons which stuck with me was: “If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.” This is great advice for both one’s professional and personal lives.
Your secret relationship with your lover is hurting you two ways. First, it’s causing you pain and creating roadblocks in your emotional and spiritual life. Second, it’s holding you back from having the type of open, honest, nurturing relationship that you deserve. Your lover may tell you he loves you and can’t get along with his wife, but I don’t think he’s saying the same thing to her.
Break off relations with him as long as he is married. If someday he becomes available, then at that point you can evaluate whether you want to date him. Breaking up is always really hard, but the breakup will soon be over, and then you can focus on men who are available and who can make you happy.
Q: I am currently working in a civil engineering company. My major in college was English and I studied in the States for a year. My work now consists of translating technical documents and contracts. I feel like this is a dead-end job because I am not a engineer and all I do everyday is assist the engineers. I can see what I am in 5 years, which is still an assistant, getting the same salary and with no promotion in sight. I joined this company a year ago and feel like I’ve learned nothing. I talked to my parents but they said it’s a stable job and they put a lot of effort to using their contacts to get me into this job.
I am really confused about my career path. I’ve been thinking of going to grad school in the States but I don’t really what I want to study, and the tuition is so expensive. So now I feel like I don’t know what I want to do with my life.
A: When one is unhappy with one’s job, it’s natural to start fantasizing about leaping into something new, but if one does that, it’s important to feel pretty sure that that the leap is in a positive direction. I agree that you should not go to grad school in the States just to escape your current position.
Consider some incremental steps to find something you’re passionate about. What are the moments in the past few years when you’ve really felt happy and alive? What were you doing? What skills were you using? I blog about how to do this here. In your current job, volunteer for a project that would give you the chance to exercise that skill. Go online and spend a few hours each week researching jobs which use that skill. Find people who excel in those skills. Study their forums, understand the issues they face at work, start commenting on their blogs and networking with them, online, then in person.
Look at your dead-end job as the perfect launching pad for easing your way into your next position. Meanwhile, don’t expect every job to be perfectly fulfilling. Focus more on developing your best skills. Then, as you grow and develop your brand, and people learn about you, opportunities will start coming to you.
Sex before commitment
Q: I am a virgin. Before graduating from university, I met an American guy. We were attracted to each other so we kissed and behaved intimately, but we didn’t have sex. I had never experienced passion like that before. It ignited my life.
I am going to the States this summer for a graduate program, so this American said he would like to have sex with me. I want to try that too. My idea is: until now, I’ve constrained myself in terms of sex because Chinese guys like virgins. I’ve been afraid that premarital sex would put me at a disadvantage in marriage. But now I think sex is a pleasure; girls don’t need to cater to boys, and having sex is not “giving” ourselves to guys. As for this new American friend, I think I like being intimate with him, so why shouldn’t I enjoy the pleasure?
I think we’re like “friends with benefits”, because we don’t know each other for too long but we really hit it off; his city is so far away from the city of my grad school, so we both know that we can’t be in a relationship (we don’t want to try long-distance relationships). So, we just want to have this mutually consented sex experience.
However, I read your advice that we should only have sex in a committed and exclusive relationship. Is it wrong to have sex with somebody who is unlikely to become my boyfriend?
A: You’re right. A woman’s job in life is not simply to cater to men, girls don’t need to cater to guys, and having sex is not a “giving” of ourselves but rather a wonderful shared experience. Any man who is good enough to marry you will already share that worldview.
Your email made me realize that when I said it’s best to save sex for a committed monogamous relationship, I should have explained why. It’s because men and women typically have different biological reactions to sex. For a man, sex and love are fantastic together but sex can be enjoyed apart from love, and thus the existence of prostitution and hard-core porn. But for many women, sex and love are inextricably bound; if sex happens too early in a relationship, love follows, often blindly. When a woman starts to have sex regularly with a guy, she then will try to seduce him into a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and then onto the path to marriage. This phenomenon unfortunately is shared throughout the world, even among the most modern of women.
When a man has sex, he thinks, “That was fun! I’d like to go there again!”
When a woman has sex, she thinks, “That was profound! I think I’ve found my soul mate!”
Not all women are this way. Some are stronger and more self-assured, and see sex for what it is – a very fun physical act which has only as much meaning as two people imbue it with.
You seem to be approaching your “friends with benefits” arrangement in a mature and clear-eyed way. So, go ahead, have your fun. Just two cautions: (1) Use a condom, every time. (2) Keep it quiet and make sure he does too. People love to gossip and the #1 thing they gossip about is who is having sex with whom. Build your reputation instead on your career accomplishments.
I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.