Letters from Japan: ‘I’m Tired Of Her/His Not Understanding’

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

By Hilary Keyes
June 30, 2021
Ask Hilary

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

Hi Hilary,

I’m a Japanese man married to a foreign woman. We live in Japan. We have been together for four years total but I’m not happy anymore. We communicate in English, because we don’t speak each other’s languages. We met at an English class, but after we got married because of her visa ending she quit the class and over time, it became harder to communicate with each other.

She stopped working full-time and does temp work for a friend now. She spends her time on her phone and doesn’t help with the house. I feel like I live with a bad roommate. Because of telework, I spend more time at home now and I realized that we have nothing in common. I do everything and I am tired of her being in my life.

Recently she said we should have a child and I refused. We haven’t had sex in over a year, and I don’t want to. I told her no and she began yelling at me in her native language, then left the apartment. She hasn’t come home in two weeks. I am afraid she will come home pregnant and try to trap me into supporting her and a child I know isn’t mine. How can I fix this? 


Dear Tsukareta,

Based on your email, you seem to imply that your wife needed a visa to remain in Japan and used her relationship with you in order to do that. You have essentially been her lifeline for four years now, judging by your comments, and feel that your wife is taking advantage of your kindness. The fact that you’re afraid of her coming home pregnant, or that you believe she would do so indicates a serious lack of trust in your relationship. You’re not only tired of her, but convinced that she would do anything to trap you.

However, I can also see things from your wife’s perspective. She was struggling to learn another language while living in a country and not speaking that language either, it seems. Then she met you and realized you could make some, if not most, of her problems disappear. She might have thought that things would somehow work out, but has ended up feeling isolated and is clinging to her own native culture in order to feel secure.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she isn’t depressed and struggling with your relationship herself. There’s a chance that she has the misguided idea that having a baby will fix your marriage (it will not) and your rejection of that was more than she could handle. She may be staying with friends from her home country, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she weren’t thinking about divorce herself now.

You both seem to resent each other in one way or another and are both struggling to find a way forward. As I see it, you have two reasonable options to choose from.

Your first option is to put in the effort to find a mediator and translators to help you and your wife communicate with one another and begin to work on building a healthy relationship based on mutual understanding. Your second option is to not and get divorced. However, before you go straight to the divorce part, I strongly recommend finding a way of communicating with one another first – your wife deserves to know how you feel just as much as she deserves a chance to explain how she feels to you.

You both seem to resent each other in one way or another and are both struggling to find a way forward.

International marriages are not easy, especially when neither of you speaks the other’s native language, and personally speaking, the fact that you entered into this marriage because of visa struggles (according to your email) leads me to believe you both weren’t thinking clearly at the time of what exactly the marriage would entail. While you may not have outlined your expectations of the partnership to one another before you signed your papers, it’s not too late to do so now.

Allow me to step away from your story for a brief moment to impart information that others reading this may find useful. There is a disturbing trend of Japanese people forging or lying to get their non-Japanese speaking partner’s signatures on divorce papers. While not exactly illegal, if the non-Japanese spouse takes it up with the courts, the divorce can be nullified and the Japanese spouse can be sued for support. If somehow the divorce is upheld, the non-Japanese spouse can face serious problems with immigration as they may no longer have a visa and find themselves deported.

The only way that a non-Japanese speaking spouse can stop themselves from unilaterally being divorced is by filling out a fujuri moshide (“non-acceptance request”) form via your local ward office. I also want to take this moment to mention Rikon Alert, an awareness campaign run by Rikon Alert (Research Center for Issues On Divorce), available in 11 languages to help protect non-Japanese speakers from being essentially illegally divorced by their Japanese spouses.

As for you, Tsukareta, do the right thing and talk to your wife first, then decide together how to move ahead. Best of luck.

Hey Hilary, 

I just got dumped badly by my Japanese boyfriend of almost a year. I struggle with CPTSD and hormone/health issues. I haven’t seen a psychologist/psychiatrist in like five years because of language issues. The pandemic has literally made my life worse. I can barely leave my apartment because I’m afraid of getting sick, and my boyfriend was my everything. He got me groceries and took care of whatever I needed done. This week I had to pay a lot of bills but I was too tired to go out and asked him to do it for me. Before I could tell him that I would transfer the money to his account after, like usual, he flipped out at me and said we were over. He said I was abusing him, and told me that I should “grow up and get over it like everyone else does.” I had an anxiety attack and instead of helping me, he left me alone. He doesn’t understand what I’m struggling with or how hard my life is. I don’t want to get back together with him, but I can’t stop thinking about what he said and I haven’t left my apartment since. What do I do now? 


Dear Helpless,

While I sympathize with your health concerns and fears over the pandemic, I’m afraid that you have done yourself a huge disservice by not talking to a counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist for the past five years.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. When you compile poor physical health with living away from support systems in your own language and throw a big pandemic cherry on top, you’ve basically guaranteed that your mental health will suffer.

I assume that you have been working from home, which is isolating in itself, but you make no mention of having any friends or close coworkers in your email either. Do you have a social circle here or online? Anyone outside of your boyfriend that you talk to regularly or otherwise engage socially with?

It sounds to me that “your everything” as you called your boyfriend in your email, has been your lifeline and sole connection to the rest of the world. For someone you have barely dated for a year, that is an extreme amount of pressure and an unhealthy dynamic for any relationship.

He’s essentially been your carer for the whole duration of your relationship

If he was expected to get your groceries, handle your bills, and do whatever else you might need, while also being a fully supportive and loving boyfriend and dealing with his own life/the pandemic, it’s no wonder that he snapped.

What he said wasn’t very nice, but to him it’s true. He’s essentially been your carer for the whole duration of your relationship, judging from your email. That’s not what anyone expects to do when they begin dating someone. In fact, that’s not dating—period.

From my own and friends’ experiences as a caregiver, I think I can safely say that he is at the very least struggling with caregiver stress. Irritability, overreactions to problems, frustration, resentment… Those are all symptoms of caregiver stress, and the fact that he ended the relationship so abruptly tells me that he was floundering.

Again, what he said wasn’t very nice and he shouldn’t have left you alone when you were having a panic attack, but when someone is suffering from caregiver stress/burnout, they don’t necessarily have the emotional capacity to do anything but walk away.

You should reach out to TELL Japan for help finding someone to talk to. You need to be able to talk with someone in a consistent, safe, and supportive environment. Someone who is trained to deal with and discuss your situation in a professional capacity.

Please reach out and get the help that you need to move in a direction that supports both your mental and physical health equally. You can do this.

Important Links

  • Rikon Alert. If you are married and struggling or afraid of being divorced without your consent, please go to the Rikio Alert website. Get informed about your rights and what you can do to protect yourself. They have support in 11 languages and will do what they can to help you, no matter what.
  • TELL JapanIf you are in need of help, be that counseling, emergency care or legal assistance, please get in touch with the people at TELL Japan.  They can help you with whatever you’re struggling with, so please take this as a sign to reach out and get the support you need.

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