Letters from Japan: Goodbye 2023
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? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve more or less reached the end of 2023, and, while we’re still living in unprecedented times, some things have changed for the better.
It’s been a rough year for many people’s relationships it seems. A lot of people catching partners in lies, finding out about affair partners or even being the affair partner themselves. The one common thread through all of these situations seems to be people wanting a connection.
Wanting a connection is a good thing, but it needs to be one that is going to benefit all parties involved. Don’t allow yourself to fall for people that won’t be there for you completely and honestly. At the same time, don’t give up on who you are as a person, or what you want for your life in order to fit some ideal a potential partner puts forth.
Be good to yourself, to your loved ones, and I hope you have a happy, healthy and enjoyable 2024.
I’m dealing with yet another Japanese partner who won’t actually talk when there’s an issue with our relationship or their life. It’s like they just shut down and sulk instead of doing anything useful or productive. I know if they were Western we could talk it out and clear the air, but they just sulk harder or ignore me. Why are Japanese people like this?
Dear No Communication,
While I can understand your frustration at your partner’s lack of communication, two things immediately stand out to me in your message.
One, you frame your partner’s lack of communication as being exclusively a Japanese issue. It’s not. It may be an issue of emotional maturity or they may simply dislike confrontation. People around the world for various reasons step back or stop talking when they are dealing with a problem. That has nothing to do with their race.
Two, “yet another Japanese partner.” As in, you have had more than one Japanese partner react this way. You claim that a Western partner wouldn’t do this—how do you know they wouldn’t? Do you have prior experience, or are you assuming it would be different?
…perhaps you should take a look at how you approach the issue yourself.
If you have had several partners shut down instead of talking, perhaps you should take a look at how you approach the issue yourself. Are you taking an assertive approach when they need time to think? Are you offering advice when they don’t want or need your input? Are you raising your voice or acting in an aggressive manner towards them?
I can only guess based on the limited information in your email, but it sounds to me like you may have a language gap in your relationships, which makes communication in general difficult, and a communication style breakdown as well.
…if you have an issue you’d like them to address, try bringing it up and leaving them with it for some time before revisiting it.
Perhaps the next time an issue comes up with your partner, try asking what they need from you. Ask if they want you to just listen silently, or if they want advice before you do anything else.
Alternatively, if you have an issue you’d like them to address, try bringing it up and leaving them with it for some time before revisiting it. Sitting with a problem and letting emotions settle can be good for all parties. You could also consider writing a letter—rather than a text—as the time it takes will let you cool off while you put your thoughts in order.
My Japanese husband and I have been together for eight years now, we met in university overseas and exclusively speak English to one another. We never lived together before marriage, but now that we do and have for a couple of years, I’m at my wit’s end. He expects me to take care of everything, even simple things like putting a tissue in the garbage can for him when he’s closer to it. I work 45-plus hours a week, so does he, but I’m supposed to do literally everything in the house? At this point, I just want to go back overseas and stay there. Is my marriage worth saving?
Dear Desperate Non-Housewife,
I’m sorry things are going that poorly for you. If you’re contemplating leaving your husband, then I think you are in need of more help than just an advice column can give.
Have you sat your husband down and told him how you feel about his lack of help? What was his reaction if so? If not, perhaps that should be your first step.
“She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By The Sink” by Matthew Fray explains a husband’s reflections on how his behavior contributed to a divorce.
You said you communicated exclusively in English, so I thought this may help. I’ve had it sent to me by other people who said it helped their partner understand how they felt, so it may be of use to you too. “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By The Sink” by Matthew Fray explains a husband’s reflections on how his behavior contributed to a divorce. This could be a good way to begin the discussion between the two of you.
If you have tried talking to him but didn’t see any lasting changes, then perhaps you should speak to him about going to marriage counseling. Sometimes having a neutral third party is all it takes to get things to change in a relationship.
…you should speak to him about going to marriage counseling.
Please note that as time marches on, many Japanese men are doing their fair share of learning to cook and clean. I know many international couples, as well as Japanese ones, where the household work is evenly divided unless one partner exclusively stays at home. I wish you all the best.