Expat Marriage Issues

I am pretty new to the forum. I really appreciate everyone’s support for each other with some very challenging issues.
For my case, it is a little unique…I am an American expat that has been living in China for 15 years. I met my wife, who is Taiwanese, in China. We got married in Taiwan almost 10 years ago, and we have a 7 year old a daughter that is an only child. My wife’s family paid for a house in China after we got married, which we did not ask for, but we appreciated. Prior to my wife and me getting married, we always discussed having a child and when it was time for our child to go to elementary school, we would move back to the USA.

About 3 years after our daughter was born, I really started to notice a change in my wife. The first few years of marriage were ok, but not perfect, but in the beginning, she was a sweet person that would go out of her way to help others. She started to not respect me as much and we were really falling out of love. I had also started to lose respect for her.
One of the main challenges that we have is that she is only comfortable using Mandarin, and I am only comfortable in English. She blames me know for not being fluent, but over the years, I have dedicated many, many hrs of study with so many different teachers and coaches. I have asked her to help me, but she never wants to help me learn. She would rather make fun of me for saying something wrong than to try to help me learn.
A few years ago, she met some neighbors and started to go out very late to bars. Back when we met, she had never gone to bars, but now she was going out 3-4 nights per week until 3 or 4 am in the morning with friends. I was always pissed off at this, but she never cared and still goes out.

I have in the past wanted to try to fix our marriage by contacting a bilingual couples coach, but my wife would never go for it. She doesn’t want to talk about our problems to a stranger.
A couple of years ago, I talked to her and asked her why we did not have a romantic relationship and what she wanted for our future. She said she didn’t want to divorce and our daughter to grow up in a one parent household, and that her parents haven’t had a romantic relationship for many years. She viewed me as “family” and not in the romantic way anymore.

A couple of months ago, I found out that my company was going to be moving my salary fully from the USA to China, and I would lose the retirement benefits I was able to contribute to as well as health insurance. This was a very big blow to me, so I spoke to my wife that due to this, I wanted to move to the USA to get this benefit. I also strongly feel that our daughter should be able to live in a free country, and be able to practice religion, and better schools.
During COVID, I have not been able to travel back to see my family since 2019. I would usually travel at least 2x per year. Also, the last 3 years have been more and more difficult to live as a foreigner in China due to the COVID mandates, but also the government making it feel more strict for foreigners. The situation that happened in HK and the one that they are always threatening with Taiwan is very sad.
Our daughter goes to an “international” school, but they have all Chinese books. We heard next year it will be converted to a Chinese public school. This was the last straw for me, as I don’t want my daughter to be subjected to this.

After I explained this to my wife, she was crying a little, but didn’t argue back. A few days later, we spoke to her brother and sister in law about moving next year, and they are also planning to move out of china and move back to Taiwan. We all agreed to this, and I was in good spirits and started to research moving back to the US. I also asked my brother in law if their parents support our move, and they said this is ok.
But every time I even mention a tiny detail about moving back, my wife completely shuts it down and doesn’t support it whatsoever. My daughter supports moving back to the USA, but my wife never accepts it. Now over the last month the situation has gotten worse and worse.
We were barely communicating before this, but now it has gotten to the point of almost avoiding each other.

I have been thinking about divorce in the back of my mind for some time, but I also afraid of what will happen if our daughter doesn’t grow up with both parents. I’m afraid that since she is an only child, she will not have anyone to talk to about this. Especially if she moves back to Taiwan, and I move back to the USA. I would feel guilty about my daughter and her situation. Even if I moved to Taiwan with them, I would continue to feel uncomfortable with the situation - I would still need to consider divorce, as I now feel the marriage may be past the point of no return.
I have seen comments from posters about divorce in Taiwan, but not sure about families that split up and one goes back to the home country?
I welcome your comments on this.


yes, those happen too, and they are never easy.
Will a move to Taiwan be easier for your wife? will a move to Taiwan be viable for you financially and professionaly?


Not saying she is, but if there is a chance she is cheating, get proof, then if you do get divorced you can get full custody of your kid and get her the fuck out of China


You mentioned that your wife is only comfortable speaking in Mandarin. That may be a big reason why she doesn’t want to move to the USA.
Does she work, too? If yes, can she find a similar job there? If not, she may also be concerned about her social life. Does she know anyone who lives in the USA?
Have you asked her why she isn’t supporting the move? Knowing her reasons will make it easier to convince her to accept the change.


First of all…you are one of many, many marriages with major problems. Heck, over 50% of my wife’s friends (Taiwanese) are divorced or simply in a non-loving relationship with their spouse.

So many cases…but I pick the one most similar to your situation. Two Taiwanese married here then moved to the U.S. When their child was 10 the wife had an affair with a fellow teacher at her school. The couple basically stayed together for another couple of years but the relationships was not good. Finally, the guy took his daughter and moved back to Taiwan. He talked the situation over with his daughter first who wanted to go to Taiwan with him…with clear remarks about not wanting to live with her mother.

They have been back in Taiwan for about two years. The daughter was shy/reserved and maybe scared at first and relied alot on being with her father. Her father spent alot time with her. She started participating in various activities and now is quite adjusted to her school and life in Taiwan.

I think their success was due to adequate communication. Before the move they discussed clearly what the future would hold. Seems the daughter was very clear and wanted the move. They are quite happy now.


Better Divorce , so your daughter will grow up with a Dad and a Mom in healthy separated relationship.

Instead of an environment of tension,stress and fights where later on she probably will prefer to search “normal home” feelings into her with friends or other people.

She might have stepdad or stepmom in future… but only One mother and only one Dad.


Damn, that’s a situation no one envies you about. Losing respect for each other… and she openly ignores your boundaries (going to bars all night and not caring that you mind) is not good. I wish you to find a good solution.

The “view as family” seems common, though. As far as I understand that is not necessarily a problem, often Taiwanese even seem to see that as something extremely positive. The romantic / sexual part can be a bit separate from that - additional.

I’m not a counselor, but it seems you already at least once did one of the most important steps that counselors might suggest: You asked her what she thinks and what she wants. If you want to find some way to make this whole mess work again, my feeling is this way could be a good start.

As far as I understand, partly from looking a tiny bit into “nonviolent communication”, most arguments are not actually really over the topic that started them.

Basically: What people say… is based on what people feel. What they feel… is based on what they need. So, if you want to give them what they need (eg. help them be happy) you often can’t tell just by what they say/request, and not even by understanding how they feel.

It can generally be really hard to find out what’s really going on in the other person - what feelings they have, and especially what basic needs they have deep down that drive their feelings and then in turn their behavior. Without understanding which deep basic needs are important for the other person, it seems very hard to make the other person feel good - which seems kind of a prerequisite in most cases to make long term relationships work well for both.



Maybe think about hiring a private investigator to find out what she’s up to at 3 and 4 in the morning.

Either she’s cheating on you or she’s an alcoholic. Beyond that there’s the issues of what she’s doing the next day. This is not the actions of a responsible adult.

If she’s cheating then that would explain why she doesn’t want to leave. You can be an alcoholic anywhere really.

Plenty of separated people in Taiwan with kids. Plenty of single fathers raising their kids.


Why even bother? If you’re always pissed off at it, do you want to live with it? I wouldn’t.


Because if you have proof she’s cheating then it’s easier to get divorced and get a more favorable outcome. The family obviously sound like they have money so her parents would probably set them, or at least their daughter, up in a place. Which also makes you wonder why she doesn’t want to move to Taiwan. If all she’s doing is getting drunk all night and sleeping most the day I doubt she’d get custody. And you wouldn’t really want your child growing up thinking that that’s normal behavior.


Good points!

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Exactly. Let sleeping dogs lie.

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Wow, your wife sounds horrible doesn’t seem like she even want to compromise. You’re right to consider divorce if she selfishly wants everything her way. Sounds like you’ve been making too much sacrifices catering to her that she takes everything for granted. Since she acts like a pampered princess even if you two divorce and you take your daughter to live in the states she should be fine. Ask your daughter if she wants to live with her mom or you that should settle everything. It’s better to live in a happy single parent home than having to cope with your parents’ unhealthy marriage and crazy outbursts.

If your wife refuse to divorce but you want to nothing should stop you. I would up and leave since this marriage has been long dead anyways why continue to be unhappy and miserable? Not worth it. Better to divorce than have your daughter go through marriage hell with you. Just saying. Even if she doesn’t understand it now she will when she is older. It’s going to save her from a lot of trauma and disorders.

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One of the biggest reasons she doesn’t want to move to the US is because she says it’s “too boring.” Every time we visit the US, she makes this comment and that she would never want to live there. She actually studied 2 years in the US before moving to China, and has a little family in the US, but that hasn’t helped this out. Every time I have researched places to potentially move, I am always trying to find more areas with more Taiwanese and Asian population, but she never let’s me even start the conversation.

She gets extremely frustrated with English. Therefore, the majority of my day is spent at work and at home picking up only 5% of the conversation in Mandarin. Our daughter is fluent in Mandarin and English, which is a plus and we want to maintain that.

She does work 2 jobs from home. She is also the leader of the parent group for our daughter’s class. She stays fairly busy, but that means she never wants to let up and give me any time. I have mentioned in the past that she doesn’t need to work more, but she doesn’t accept that. I even said in the US she doesn’t have to work, but that didn’t fly either.

I appreciate the comments. For the communication, I spent a lot of time with my coach trying to find ways to communicate with her. Every time I have mentioned anything regarding feelings, she said I am being childish. This is a big reason why I wanted to have a bilingual couples coach to listen to both sides, but she has never wanted to.

The loveless marriage that appears to be more common with Taiwanese is really heart-breaking. It seems pretty normal to them. I really don’t want to be in a loveless marriage forever. I have already been in one for the past 5 years or so. Virtually nothing romantic whatsoever or any love/affection spoken/shown for years. This is why I want to consider if it is unrecoverable.


Living in China, there must be many opportunities to get your Mandarin above the 5% comprehension level. Am I missing something?


A move to Taiwan would be much easier on my wife. She has commented that it would be different if we would move to Taiwan. For me, I think the financial/professional prospects would not be as high, given the salaries and the real estate prices. I have a pretty decent position here and feel I could get a nice position back in the US, but not too sure about Taiwan.

Also, regarding Taiwan, as its future is unknown with China trying to reclaim this. This would also be very concerning for me, especially for my daughter . A big reason I want to move out of China is for her future and freedom. My wife doesn’t seem to care too much about this, though.

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I don’t think she is cheating, but I am not certain.

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Regarding her going out late nights. I think a reason she does this is because she has a pretty controlling mom, and she never had the chance to go out when she was younger, so she has been taking advantage of it. In the beginning, this really pissed me off and and concerned me, and I confronted her many times and had to set rules like she was a child, but she still went out anyways. Now, I am numb to this…


Her behavior is definitely suspicious, but at this point you are basically married to a stranger based on your description of how she treats you. She doesn’t care about your experience in china, she won’t make an effort to learn your language, she calls you childish, she doesn’t listen to alternative options, she won’t compromise, she won’t go to counseling, your marriage is loveless and probably romanceless. I don’t think she cares about you or respects you at all actually.

It’s time to figure out a plan for yourself and your daughter. This woman isn’t interested in any vision of the future where you are gonna be happy and it’s up to you to find out how to achieve that for yourself. You need to find a way to negotiate a way to either have partial/full custody of your daughter or a living situation in which you can see her regularly. It takes two to tango and your partner has basically put up an eternal ‘do not disturb’ sign. This all sounds extreme, but the family cannot be repaired until she is willing to sincerely work on it.

The playing field is slanted against you, you are on her home turf, but you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any favors by staying in a toxic marriage.