Have you ever heard the saying "opposites attract"? It describes the relationship between a husband and a wife. Even though all of the marriages are the union of a man and a woman, each marriage has its differences. I am from a traditional Chinese family and my parents just celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary. I compared past Chinese marriage and current Chinese marriage, and found marriage in China is now undergoing change. People are getting married later, and the percentage of people getting married continues to drop as divorce rates rise.
Truly arranged marriages are becoming very rare, and marriages by free choice are nearly universal. First of all, the motivation for marriage is changing. In the past, people married as a traditional custom or to have sons to continue the family line. Nowadays, more people get married because they met someone they loved. When it comes to finding a spouse, arranged marriages are gradually giving way to love marriages. According to the Chinese National Statistical Office, in the last ten years, arranged marriages have decreased from approximately 58 percent to 39 percent, while true loving marriages have increased from approximately 36 percent to 55 percent.
In a survey of how people met their current spouse, for every ten people three to four were aided by their family network of relatives, parents, brothers and sisters, whereas four or more drew on their personal network of friends, work colleagues, and classmates. This showed that true arranged marriages are becoming very rare and loving marriages almost universal. Secondly, values and attitudes toward divorce are changing even more dramatically. The divorce rate in China, which saw a sharp rise in the latter half of the 1990's, ranks even higher than that of Korea which has very high divorce rates. Until recently, divorce has been viewed as the dissolution of the family and a tragedy for the individual. Today, however, more and more people see divorce as an appropriate solution to an unhappy marriage.
The reason most often given for divorce is personality differences. Recently, as the paternalistic values of men have clashed with the more egalitarian values of women, a growing number of women are initiating divorces. Noteworthy among the changing views on marriage is the attitude toward pre-marital sex. Although there is still some adherence to the traditional idea that "women must remain pure before marriage", more and more people are accepting that "it is natural to have sex before marriage if it is with someone you love". Even as late as the mid-1980's, almost everyone advocated celibacy before marriage for women. By the mid-1990's, however, the ratio had dropped to one-third, and more than twice as many people said they would approve of sex before marriage if the two people loved each other or were going to get married.
Interestingly enough, significantly more women than men approve of sex before marriage. As has been seen in the West, more tolerant attitudes toward pre-marital sex are soon followed by changes in actual behavior. It is expected that China will soon experience more thorough changes concerning sex before marriage Thirdly, double income families have been gradually becoming the norm. Traditional couples, in which the husband works while the wife stays at home and takes care of household duties are slowly decreasing in number as couples try to share the responsibilities of work and home life together. In China's unique cultural and historical context, the meaning of marriage is qualitatively different from that of the Western spouse-centered family. However, Chinese marriage is growing more flexible and varied.