Coun­sel­ing on in­crease for cou­ples liv­ing apart to help kids

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Top News - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­[email protected]­

Coun­sel­ing ser­vices say they are see­ing an uptick in busi­ness from cou­ples that ex­pe­ri­ence mar­i­tal trou­bles af­ter mothers ac­com­pany their chil­dren over­seas for ed­u­ca­tion.

“With more young Chi­nese chil­dren be­ing sent abroad for school­ing, and many mothers stay­ing with their chil­dren over­seas, we see a grow­ing num­ber of cou­ples with re­la­tion­ship chal­lenges af­ter liv­ing apart for years,” said Shu Xin, di­rec­tor of the Weiqing Group, a Shang­haibased re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­ing agency that opened a global ser­vice on Sun­day.

The agency has had a rapidly grow­ing num­ber of cases in which a spouse lives over­seas, ris­ing from about 50 last year to 250 this year.

About a third of this year’s cases re­sulted from the woman stay­ing abroad with a child while the man re­mained in China for work, the agency said.

The is­sue has at­tracted more at­ten­tion in China af­ter the air­ing of Al­ways With You, a TV se­ries about four mothers stay­ing in Canada to be with teenage chil­dren study­ing there. In the se­ries, which ran in the Chi­nese main­land in July, most of the mothers en­coun­tered mar­i­tal chal­lenges.

Chen Chang, di­rec­tor for the se­ries, told the Bei­jing News that as they pre­pared for film­ing in Van­cou­ver, they found that only 20 per­cent of the ac­com­pa­nied Chi­nese teenagers in school there had both par­ents liv­ing with them, while the rest were with their mothers.

“It’s a re­sult of Chi­nese peo­ple’s com­mon un­der­stand­ing of the so­cial roles for a cou­ple: The man makes a greater fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion, and the wife fo­cuses on the child,” he said.

Shu said in a typ­i­cal case han­dled by Weiqing, an elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer from Jiangsu prov­ince sought help in Fe­bru­ary af­ter sus­pect­ing that his wife — who had lived in the United States for six years, since their son be­gan school there at age 11 — was hav­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair.

Two agency coun­selors who went to the US for two weeks rented a house in the com­mu­nity where the woman lived, got ac­quainted with her and fi­nally re­vealed their iden­tity and in­ten­tions af­ter win­ning her trust. The coun­selors sug­gested the mother did not need to re­main with their son and in­stead should re­turn home, and she took ad­vice, Shu said.

In some cases, the mother fell in love with a man while abroad af­ter fall­ing out of con­tact with her hus­band, and in oth­ers, the hus­band who stayed home had an af­fair.

While re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­ing is of­ten avail­able abroad, Chi­nese cou­ples may not use it be­cause of lan­guage bar­ri­ers and cul­tural dif­fer­ences, he said. To meet the grow­ing de­mand, Weiqing, which has 18 years of ex­pe­ri­ence and op­er­ates in 40 main­land cities, launched its global ser­vice.

Be­fore cou­ples start a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship, they should dis­cuss how they will han­dle liv­ing apart and how of­ten they will see each other, said Cao Ziyan, chief lawyer for the Bei­jing-based Jiali Law Firm, which spe­cial­izes in di­vorce.

Xue Yali, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at the Fam­ily Study Cen­ter of the Shang­hai Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said cou­ples can make use of such sep­a­ra­tions to make their re­la­tion­ship bet­ter.

“The cou­ple can avail them­selves of the re­sources and op­por­tu­ni­ties in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and en­vi­ron­ments for self­growth and em­power their mar­riage with fresh en­ergy and vi­tal­ity,” she said.

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