Problem page

“I’m a woman in my 30s. I have been having a relationship with one of my co-workers for three years, and we have started discussing marriage.  He is much older than me.  My parents were shocked when I told them, especially my father who yelled at me and then tried to sign me up at a marriage broker without my permission.  It is a fact that my boyfriend will reach retirement age at the same time our child (if we have one) becomes an adult. I will then have to play the role of breadwinner, and I may have to care for him in his old age when I reach my own retirement. My parents tell me I’d just be creating problems for myself by marrying a an older man. I don’t want to break up with him, but I don’t want to fall out with my parents, either.”

This is a surprisingly common dilemma in Japan.  One of my friends was in the exact same position, and she decided to go ahead with the marriage against vigorous parental opposition.  Unfortunately her husband died only a few years into their marriage, leaving her with a small child and a fat pension.  She then moved back in with her own parents (who had forgiven her and were thrilled to have their only grandchild living with them) and proceeded to have the time of her life.   In another case, a co-worker of mine – a man in his twenties – fell in love with an older woman, a single mother in her thirties.  His parents were so opposed to the union that he ended up waiting until his father died before popping the question to his girlfriend.   This particular problem is not limited to Japan.  I can think of several similar cases in NZ, and I’m sure you can think of a few of your own.  However, it’s true to say that in Japan, people think of their life decisions (marriage, parenthood, divorce) in terms of how they will affect the others around them, rather than in terms of personal gratification.  And that’s not always a bad thing.

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6 comments on “Problem page

  1. Petra says:

    Hmmm… I don’t know.

    When pressure of family becomes so hard that you forgo your own plans for life – can that really be a good thing?

  2. Miko says:

    Divorce rates have doubled in Japan since 1990 (right about the time that people started wholeheartedly accepting “love matches” instead of arranged marriages), but Japanese people still do tend to bow meekly to family and societal pressure when it comes to planning their lives. Sometimes it astounds me.

  3. karen1945 says:

    I don’t think I could have married someone to whom my family was terribly opposed. Usually, there are good reasons when family advises against a match.

  4. Miko says:

    I would never marry someone whom the Sonbeam didn’t approve of. I wish my own parents had had the same kind of foresight, it would’ve saved us all a lot of heartache. They both remarried when I was a young child, and I didn’t get along with either of my step-parents, or feel welcome in their homes. Now they wonder why I’m not talking to them.

  5. dodi says:

    hmm.. mind I ask how much older your boyfriend than you? My husband is 10 years older than me.

  6. Miko says:

    Well, I don’t have a boyfriend now, but in the past I had one who was 12 years older than me, and yes it was a problem! He was 44, I was 32, and we were just at totally different stages of life. For example, whenever we went out for one of my loooong walks, he would have to sit down every half an hour or so for a rest, or be treated to a strong cup of coffee, or take a nap to recover afterwards (not that he did much sleeping – interestingly, he had a much stronger sex drive than I did, but I figured that he was just getting as much as he could while the going was good, and who can blame him.) Intellectually we were perfectly matched, but chronologically we were worlds apart.

    On the other hand, now that I’m in my forties myself, I’ve dated a couple of men in their sixties, and found that I have a great deal of trouble keeping up with their active social lives. Baby-boomers like them tend to have a lot of time and money on their hands, and people of my generation don’t; we have no choice but to keep our noses to the grindstone!

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