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: Chinese parents always say, lovingly, “No matter how old you are, you are still a little baby to us!” I am 25 and I am sick of this. My parents recently drove me nuts trying to add me on Kaixin (a social network site). They are already on my QQ, SINA, Renren (I guess I am the only kid in China who befriended parents on Renren)… Why do they always have to know everything about me?!
A: Becoming an adult is all about learning to be independent. That calls for big changes in your relationship with your parents, because they’re the “from whom” you’re becoming independent. They have to learn to see you as a friend and not just as their baby, and you need to learn to see them as friends and not just as your parents. Don’t join the Douban group “All Parents are Devils.” Instead, establish boundaries in a clear, consistent and mature way.
Try this: “I’m an adult now, and when you spy on me online, I feel disrespected and belittled. You’ve given me everything. Now the best thing you can give me is to the room to take flight. I promise to come to you any time I need your help and counsel. But in the meantime, can we agree on certain boundaries?” Now if you approach this conversation in a way that disrespects and belittles them, then you undercut your own argument. Rather, speak sincerely and with empathy, recognizing that being your parent means living in a state of constant worry for you, and that as their new friend, you can help them through this transition.
Q: I am great at communicating with clients and friends, but I have a hard time talking with several high school and college classmates. We can talk in person, but I never get interested in them. Maybe it’s because I dislike some of their behaviors. It seems that there is an invisible wall between us at class reunion parties. Why is that so? How can I break the wall and further our friendships?
A: Sounds like you don’t respect these people and don’t share their values, so first, honestly ask yourself whether you really want to talk with them. Your time is precious, and there is no rule requiring you to spend time with people you openly dislike. If you decide you do want to develop relationships with them, then put aside your feelings of disapproval. It’s easy to understand people who are similar to us but harder to relate to people who are different. The fact is, from every single person who crosses your path, you can learn something new and you can find some area of commonality. To start with, you attended the same school, so you already have some shared experiences. When you reach out to them, identify and acknowledge the things you have in common with them, and then make a sincere effort to understand them and their perspectives.
Q: I am a pretty traditional Chinese girl. I want to ask a question about love. One or two years ago, I thought that there was a guy who liked me. For example, he really cared about my opinions of him; he asked about my family background and my hobbies; he even said things like “You are so considerate. A guy who married you must be lucky,” “What a nice thing it would be to have you manage a home,” “You are a (breathtaking) scene,” etc.
Many of his behaviors and words made me feel that he liked me a lot. Later, I found that he said “I love you” to another girl. This guy is quite moral and remained single until 26. He is not a playboy, so I feel very confused why that happened: Why did he make me misunderstand him if he had fallen in love with somebody else?
Now there is another guy who is very nice to me (he behaves in a way only a person in love will do). I am worried if it will end up like the last time-I once again imagined that I am a guy’s favorite girl while I’m not. I really don’t know why a very moral guy will send the messages of love to another person while eventually he is not that into her.
A: I think the problem you’re having is that your stance toward man-selection is an entirely passive one. This “pick me, please!” attitude comes across to men as desperate, and desperation is a turnoff. To want to marry you, a man also needs to feel that YOU chose HIM, and that you did so because of his special qualities. A man wants to chase you, and to earn your love.
And the right guy will be lucky to be with you! Obviously you have many wonderful qualities, or you would not have attracted these two guys. Learn to truly accept and love yourself. Nothing is sexier to men than a truly dignified woman. Then when Mr. Right does come along, he will cherish you the way you deserve to be cherished, and he will never look at another woman again.
I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.