Letters from Japan: 2 Couples In Trouble

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com with the subject "Ask Hilary."

Hey there,

My partner and I have been in a serious relationship for the past 3 years, so much that it looks like a proposal may happen in the next few months (not that I mind if it doesn’t happen so soon anyway!). He is a divorcee with a child that he sadly doesn’t have access to because his ex-wife is mentally unstable and refuses to let them meet. She has also harassed me through several social media platforms numerous times to the point that I have reported her to the police.

Although she no longer bothers me anymore, I wonder if I am being too neurotic (not sure if this is the right word for it) that I am uncomfortable that she still uses my partner’s surname, despite the fact they have been separated for 7+ years.
As you can understand, she is not easy to reason with and I wonder if she refuses to change her name as a controlling method to have that last ‘grip’ on my partner. The woman in particular also had a child from a previous marriage before meeting my partner, so I am not sure if it’s because she’s keeping it for the sake of their child. What are your thoughts? – Shinpaisho

Dear Shinpaisho,

I want to commend you for being so understanding of your partner’s circumstances. I don’t think you’re being “neurotic” as you said—divorce is a complicated situation in general, and his ex seems to be a little bit off-center herself given the online stalking.

I get the feeling that, as his ex has another child from a previous relationship as well, this keeping-the-last-name might be what she is used to. That being said, there’s also a good chance that she had changed her first child’s name to match as well, and it would be a case of changing all three to her maiden name. This can impact their school registration, potentially cause bullying at school (divorced mothers are still treated as taboo by less socially aware people), and might also affect any single mother’s benefits that she and her children could be receiving from their local government. It would be a huge stressor on his ex-wife and she might not react in a rational manner if you were to suggest it.

[Changing a last name] can impact [the child’s] school registration, potentially cause bullying at school (divorced mothers are still treated as taboo by less socially aware people), and might also affect any single mother’s benefits that she and her children could be receiving from their local government.

Joint custody, as you probably know, isn’t an option in most divorce cases in Japan. Child support might be requested, but it might not necessarily be enforced. What this means is that she doesn’t have to give her ex-husband any visitation if she doesn’t want to, and there’s not much he can do about it, unless he wants to fight for sole custody of his child instead. That could bring a whole different level of harassment down on you both, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless he has genuine concerns about his child’s safety and welfare.

Basically, if his ex-wife isn’t bothering you and your partner online or in reality, and your partner isn’t concerned about her using his last name, then I think you’ll have to just grin and bear it. His ex-wife doesn’t get to dictate your relationship to him, so giving her this power to get under your skin is just hurting yourself in the long run. You sound happy together (congrats on the pending engagement!) so I would focus on that instead and let this naming issue with his ex-wife go. You’ll feel a lot better if you do. Best of luck!

Hi Hilary,

I met this Japanese guy online. I live in the Philippines and he is working here. We went on a single date then we became a couple. Things went well for a month until he decided to end our relationship. Of course, it’s hard to accept because I already fell for him deeply. He said that he wanted to focus on his job as he has to pay off his debt. He borrowed money from friends during college. It was really hard to accept the fact that he was breaking up with me. I refused to accept that we were breaking up. He told me that he wants us to be friends. In short, exes/friends with benefits. I love him so much that I accepted his proposal. I stayed at his place almost every weekend. We have sex all the time. We cuddle. We still do the same things couples do except going out on dates. Lately, I got really upset because he wants to end our current set up. What should I do? I love him so much that it is so hard for me to let go. Should I continue being understanding and hope that he will change his mind and he will come back to me or should I really forget and let him go? Please help. – Hurt In Love

Dear Hurt In Love,

You’ve certainly been through a roller-coaster relationship, haven’t you? It sounds as though you both started this relationship with different expectations in mind. You were looking for something serious and romantic, and he sounds like he was only looking for something casual or just physical. Being in love with a friend-with-benefits always ends up hurting someone—and you’re that someone.

Being in love with someone that doesn’t love you back is very painful and can be hard to change, but you are worthy of having someone who will love you back completely.

Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re going to change what he wants out of this relationship no matter how much you love him, or no matter how much you try to hide your real feelings for him. Being in love with someone that doesn’t love you back is very painful and can be hard to change, but you are worthy of having someone who will love you back completely.

He doesn’t sound like the right man for you. You deserve to be with someone that wants to go on dates with you just as much as they want to have sex with you, and I’m sure you will find them if you end this current relationship. Breaking up is hard to do, and it will leave you feeling lonely and sad for a while, but then it will get better. It always does. I’m cheering for you! Good luck!