Gratitude and Love in Cultural Perspective

The grateful attitude and emotions toward other people and life are referred to as gratitude. When we express gratitude for what other people and life have given us, we experience several situational emotions. When we are grateful, thankful, and appreciative to someone for something, we can feel a variety of positive emotions. Gratitude and love commonly go hand in hand and are closely related to each other.

Gratitude and Love in Our Life

As I showed in another article, gratitude and love frequently go together. Not only does the experience of gratitude entail the emotion of love, but love also implies the expression of gratitude.

Love frequently involves expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Love, gratitude, and appreciation are deeply relational feelings that encompass a wide range of dispositions, moods, and situational emotions and feelings. Participants use a variety of methods to express their feelings of love, including loving others, loving oneself, receiving love, and feeling thankful for love.

A Chinese Cultural Perspective on Gratitude and Love

The indigenous Chinese concept of “enqing” means grateful love (Chen & Li, 2007). This type of love includes the feelings of responsibilities and obligations associated with a spouse’s feelings of appreciation, gratitude, and indebtedness for what the partner does for the marriage. The origins of “enqing” are in Chinese relationship orientation and the traditional Confucian value of duty in marriage.

While Western marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of togetherness and compatibility, Chinese marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of admiration and gratitude.

The Chinese Concept of “Enqing”

People in traditional Chinese society typically place little emphasis on marital intimacy. Instead, “enqing”—the expression of gratitude and admiration—may bind Chinese couples closely together.

Many researchers have identified “enqing” as the primary element of Chinese marital affection and love (e.g., Li & Chen, 2002; Tang, 1991; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019). In traditional Chinese marriage, “enqing” plays a central role in marital affection and love. The four pillars of Chinese couples’ love are:

(a) feelings of gratitude,

(b) admiration,

(c) togetherness, and

(d) compatibility

(Chen & Li, 2007).

How Gratitude and Love Develop in Chinese Marriage

Why and how does this kind of grateful love between married people grow?

In traditional Chinese culture, parents frequently arrange marriages. Under these conditions, many people got married without knowing each other well. Moreover, even after they get married, Chinese cultural norms do not consider the intimate relationship between the couple as important. The “enqing“, or expression of gratitude and admiration, develops from conjugal love and role fulfillment. That is what keeps Chinese couples together and close.

People experience intimacy more frequently in modern Taiwanese (Chinese) marriages than ever before. However, the presence of “enqing” remains. Modern Western ideas about love have an effect on Chinese marriages. Nevertheless, the traditional Chinese idea of “enqing” has not gone away (Li & Chen, 2002).

How the Expression of Gratitude Differs in Chinese and American Cultures

A series of cross-cultural studies examined the impact of verbal and nonverbal expressions of appreciation on the quality of romantic relationships in “high-context, collectivistic cultures and low-context, individualistic cultures” (Bello et al., 2010, p. 294).

The authors discovered that in cultures such as the United States and China, appreciation takes different forms and plays different roles in relationships. Participants from both countries listed specific ways they express gratitude in a romantic relationship.

The results show that Chinese participants prefer nonverbal expressions of appreciation over verbal ones, while American participants favor both verbal and nonverbal ones.

Overall, data showed that Americans use significantly more frequent expressions of gratitude in love than Chinese people. This is mostly due to the extensive use of verbal expressions in the United States. Chinese people, on the other hand, use more indirect ways to express gratitude in love than Americans see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

How Altruistic Are Chinese Attitudes in Love Relationships?

The concepts of altruism and altruistic love are well known to Western and Eastern scholars and the educated public. Ideas of selfless, altruistic love can be traced back to ancient times in many cultures of the world, specifically in Western and Eastern civilizations. These altruistic ideas were among the earliest in the cultural ethics of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam (see for review, Karandashev, 2022a).

It is apparent that the Christian teaching of agape love, which I presented elsewhere, is similar and comparable to the Confucian concept of altruistic love, presented in another article. Yet, they have some important differences.

What Is the Legacy of Confucian Teachings of Altruistic Love in Modern Asia?

The religious and philosophical teachings of Confucius (trad. 551–479 BCE) have served as the cultural basis for many Chinese values, ethics, and social and moral philosophy. Altruism was a central tenet of Confucian ethics, and his ethical teachings placed a considerable emphasis on concepts such as loving kindness and selfless love. As he once said,

“Do not do to others what you would not like to do to yourself.”

The Chinese word “ren” expresses one of the most significant cultural meanings of love. Confucius defined “ren” as the common Chinese word for “love,” “ai.” In many lexical contexts, it is translated more specifically as benevolent love, kindness, compassion, and altruism.

Different from the Christian concept of agape love, the Confucian concept of ren love reflected the Chinese hierarchical social structure of group relationships.

Selfless Giving in the Modern Understanding of Altruistic Love in China

In modern Chinese society and scholarship, the altruistic nature of love is expressed in selfless giving. In this regard, the Chinese understanding of altruistic love resembles the traditional Christian concept of agape love as being unselfish and undemanding. Both concepts include giving without expecting anything in return as one of their central emotions and actions (Chen & Li, 2007).

Sacrifices in the Modern Understanding of Altruistic Love in China

According to the traditional ideology of Confucianism, the commitment of an individual to the affectionate relationship of marital love implies sacrifices. It is applicable first to such a close relationship as the family.

In modern Chinese culture, people tend to exhibit the capacity and disposition to put their families’ harmony, cohesion, and prosperity ahead of their own personal interests, goals, and well-being. This is a cultural Chinese trait that goes back centuries.

For instance, Wang (1999) considered self-sacrifice and devotion as the primary components of family commitment. His research has shed light on the role of self-sacrifice in the Taiwanese culture of interpersonal relationships. The author provided convincing evidence supporting the high value of sacrifice in Taiwanese marriages. He revealed that even in today’s Taiwanese society, cultural norms anticipate that spouses will make sacrifices for one another. Results of the study showed that in most cases of marital relationships, partners are willing to sacrifice something if it helps improve the quality of their relationship or the health of their partner.

The Impact of Chinese Collectivism on People’s Willingness to Sacrifice in Marital Relationships

Depending on its individualistic and collectivistic values, a culture can affect a spouse’s willingness to make sacrifices within a marriage. The degree to which a culture places an emphasis on collectivism as opposed to individualism can have a direct impact on how men and women are willing to make sacrifices for one another in marriage.

In a collectivist Chinese society, societal beliefs can interfere with the individual rights of a spouse, such as a woman’s right to equality. This is why gender inequality is culturally acceptable. For men and women, such marital customs are acceptable for the sake of interdependence and relationship harmony. On the other hand, people from a culture that emphasizes individualism view such gender inequality as unacceptable. Their cultural beliefs about individual rights and independence may conflict with the potential need for self-sacrifice that marriage may necessitate. So, due to high values of autonomy and personal independence, it is challenging for men and women in individualistic cultures to maintain a balance between personal and family needs.

The Chinese Culture of Altruistic Love

Western scholars and the educated public are well familiar with the concepts of altruism and altruistic love. In the ancient Greek philosophy, the word “agape” defined this kind of altruistic, selfless, and all-giving love. Later, Christian teachings elevated the concept of universal altruistic love, characterized by unconditional kindness and compassion for others. However, these Western cultural ideas of altruistic love are not unique in the history of human civilizations.

In different parts of the world, especially the Eastern cultures, the ideas of altruistic love appeared quite early in the history of Chinese civilizations.

The Confucian Contributions to Chinese Culture

Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are the three Chinese religious philosophies that have had the greatest influence on Chinese culture. Their schools of thought also substantially affected the Chinese understanding of altruistic love. The ancient Chinese philosopher and prophet Confucius (trad. 551–479 BCE) is perhaps the most significant social reformer in East Asian history. His name is associated with many of East Asia’s foundational concepts and cultural practices. He was known in early modern Europe as an originator of “Eastern” thought. He had a substantial impact on the social and cultural development of China in its early history. This is why his name is well-known as a global metonym for the culture of traditional East Asian societies.

Confucian religious and philosophical teachings have been the foundations of Chinese values’ ethics and social and moral philosophy. Altruism was a prominent theme in Confucian ethical teaching.

So, the concepts of loving kindness and altruistic love played a central role in the ethical teachings of Confucius. One of his frequently quoted sayings says:

“Do not do to others what you would not like to do to yourself.”

It is easy to see how this Chinese concept of love is comparable to the Christian teaching of agape love, which I mentioned earlier.

On the other hand, this Chinese concept refers to love in a structurally graded form and not the unconditional love advocated by Christian teachings. The concept of altruism in Christianity takes on a more egalitarian form. It emphasizes love for all people rather than the establishment of hierarchical structures as in Chinese cultural concepts.

The Chinese “Ren”

The fundamental virtue of Confucian moral ethics is the concept of “ren.” It’s important to note that the idea of “ren” is also highly valued in Buddhist and Taoist cultures (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951).

The word “ren” is frequently translated as kindness, altruism, compassion, benevolence, and benevolent love. Confucius defined the term “ren” with the common Chinese term “ai”, which means “love.” It is important to note that the Chinese character for “ren” consists of two parts: “human”and “two.” Therefore, according to Confucius, ren is an essential human quality in which two humans express benevolent and altruistic love for one another.

How Is Confucian Ren Different from Christian Agape?

In contrast to the Christian ideal of agape love, the Confucian concept of ren reflected the hierarchical social structure of Chinese society. The five (“wu-lun”) zones were distinguished by the hierarchy of their group relationships.

In Chinese culture, these five cardinals of wu-lun are, in descending order,

(1) Emperor-Ministers (state level),

(2) Father-son (family level),

(3) Husband-wife (family level),

(4) Older-younger brothers (family level), and

(5) Friends (individual level).

In Chinese culture, these five wu-lun of social relations establish the relationship web of society. In Chinese culture, the social life is made up of these five wu-lun of social relationships.

The Hierarchical Nature of Love Attitudes in Chinese “Ren”

Confucius viewed “ren” primarily as the love attitude of a bountiful lord. The superior must demonstrate generosity and kindness toward his subordinates.

Confucian ethics did not expect subordinates to show superiors benevolent love since this would be presumptuous. The culturally proper expressions of love from subordinates toward superiors are loyalty and submission (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951).

According to Confucius, people tend to feel and show more natural love towards their parents, relatives, and other close relatives. He taught that altruistic love between members of a small network of relationships is stronger than between members outside of this relationship network.

The Cultural Legacy of Confucian Teachings on Love

Confucius and his disciples in the following times believed that equal love for all was unnatural (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951). Therefore, the Confucian cultural ideas of this graded love have been prevalent in many Asian societies for a number of centuries (Ma, 2009). As a direct consequence of Confucius’ legacy and his cultural roots, the hierarchical model of love is still widely accepted in Chinese society. Such a hierarchical conception of love is also widespread in other East Asian cultures that are dominated by the Confucian philosophy (Karandashev, 2022a).

Three Surprisingly Unusual Matriarchal Cultures in Asia

Many of us are familiar with traditional patriarchal societies that are widespread across the world. In patriarchy, the father is both the home and family head in many respects.

Can a matriarchal culture of gender relations be possible and viable? In a matriarchal system, the mother is the head of the home and family. Some matriarchal communities are successful worldwide.

Is Patriarchy the Only Possible Type of Culture?

Many of us know about patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout history in many traditional societies of the past. In a patriarchal system, the father is the head of the household and family. In a patriarchy, the father holds the position of authority within the family and is in power. Over the course of history, cultures around the world began to adopt a more patriarchal framework, which is prevalent in most traditional societies and communities. That social system entails many consequences for gender inequality and corresponding stereotypical gender roles. Cultural norms and customs favor men, who have higher status in gender relationships. Women in such patriarchal societies presumably have lower status and lower rights in family relationships. Women are respected and admired mostly for being able to bear and raise children.

What Is a Matriarchal Culture?

A matriarchal system, on the other hand, is a social system in which the mother is the head of the household. Some of these societies with matriarchal cultures of social relationships have been successful across the world. These matriarchal communities have managed to survive to the present day. In these societies, women are the most important guiding force in politics and the economy, as well as in all other areas.

Let us look at some of them, which the editorial fellow at Town & Country, Sarah Madaus, briefly described. Let us learn about how these cultural communities have deviated from the western-patriarchal cultures. Within these communities, located in different parts of the world, women are in charge of everything, including the political system, the economy, and the larger social structure. This article focuses on three cultural groups in Asia.

The Minangkabau people of Indonesia

The Minangkabau people, commonly referred to as Minang, are an ethnic group that lives in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangs are the largest matrilineal culture in the world. It has a complex social system built on matrilineal clans and property passed down through female lineage, including land and homes.

The cultural beliefs of Minangs are that the mother is the most important person in society. Women in their society rule the domestic sphere. In Minangkabau society, marriage is permitted, but partners must have separate sleeping quarters.

The Khasi people of India

The Khasi people are an ethnic group native to Meghalaya in north-eastern India. Even though most Khasis live in Meghalaya, a large population of Khasis also reside in the neighboring state of Assam and certain regions of Bangladesh.

In the hilly Indian state of Meghalaya, property names and wealth are passed down from mother to daughter instead of from father to son. This is because in Meghalaya, the Khasi people have a matrilineal system of inheritance in their communities.

In this particular system, lineage and descent are determined by the clan that one’s mother belongs to. When women marry within the Khasi tribe, their surname is passed down rather than their husbands’.

The Khasi family is referred to as a “ling.” A ling commonly includes a mother, her husband, her unmarried sons, her married daughters, their spouses, and their offspring. In matrilineal families, such as those of the Khasis, the husbands visit their wives. Only mothers and mothers-in-law are permitted to care for children. Men are usually not permitted to attend family gatherings.

The Mosuo people of China

The Mosuo people are a small ethnic group that lives in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China. They are also known as the Naxi amongst themselves. Geographically, they reside close to the border with Tibet. They adhere to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Mosuo people have a system of matriarchy in their society. The family lineage is determined by the women of the family. Their society is matrilineal, which means that ownership of property is passed down the same line of female ancestors. The mother has the primary role in raising the children in the family.

The Mosuo live in a surprisingly modern way. In many regards, women are equal to men. In other gender relationships, women are superior to men. Both women and men can have as many or as few sexual partners as they want without judgement. Extended families raise children and care for the elderly. Mosuo men build houses. They are responsible for livestock and fishing. They also assist in the upbringing of their sisters’ and female cousins’ children.

The Cultural History of Erotic Love

The term “erotic” is derived from the Greek word eros (érōs). The ancient Greek word “eros” was first used to describe a desire for beauty and an appreciation of art (Lomas, 2018).

“Erotic love” refers to the perception of a lover’s beloved as a beautiful object worthy of aesthetic admiration. “Erotic love is about aesthetic pleasure, while sexual love is about sensual (sexual) pleasure.” (Karandashev, 2022a). Both are surely interconnected. In sexually stimulating situations, erotic can readily shift to sensual and sexual sensations. These sensations naturally overlap because human emotions are complex.

The cultural concepts of erotic art and literature have been portrayed in painting, sculpture, music, lyrics, dances, theater, and fashion. These artistic mediums convey the aesthetic values of bodily form and motion, facial structure and expression, and musical melody and rhythm.

Throughout the history of art, different cultures have presented erotic art and erotic love in various ways.

Many examples of erotic and pornographic art have been seen throughout history in various cultures, including classical ancient Greece (5th–4th centuries BC), ancient Rome (1st century B.C.–mid-3rd century A.D.), the Chinese Ming dynasty (14th–17th centuries), the Japanese Edo period of Tokugawa (17th–19th centuries), Korean 20th-century culture, early modern Italy, India, and modern Japan (see for review, e.g., Feldman & Gordon, 2006).

Erotic Love in Ancient Greece and Rome

The sexual cultures of pre-Christian Greece and Rome were open. They were artistically and literarily well-developed. Erotic art and sexual pleasure were highly regarded by them.

The Romans were more sexually liberal than people in subsequent Western cultures. The erotic art was proudly displayed in homes and public spaces, displaying wealth and luxury. Artists sold their erotic works to a variety of consumers, including the wealthy and the poor. (Clarke, 1998; Hubbard, ed., 2013; Nussbaum & Sihvola, eds., 2019; Skinner, 2013; Vout, 2013). The depictions of sex, sensuality, and erotica in ancient Greek and Roman art were very explicit. Beautiful bodies, phallic symbols, amorous poses, and sexual situations of their gods were depicted in sculptures and paintings. Scenes of seduction adorned the drinking cups, oil lamps, and walls. Roman painters represented a variety of human sexual interactions between men and women, women and men, threesomes, and foursomes, demonstrating how the ancient concepts of erotic love, sensual love, and sexual love differed from modern cultural models (e.g., Clarke, 1998; Vout, 2013).

Courtesans and their Erotic Love

In many cultures, erotic love was displayed by courtesans, such as hetaeras, tawaifs, and ji-s, who performed their “love” with artistic charm, elegant conversation, and sexual favors to excite the erotic love of men. The art of the courtesans showed erotic love in beautiful ways.

That erotic love was not the same as the sexual love that prostitutes provided to men (or women) to satisfy their lust. That erotic love was not the same as romantic love because it was not sincere and not personal. The courtesans’ behaviors and expressions were just role-played love. It was perfectly displayed, but it was not personal. Throughout history and across many societies, courtesans performed erotic love for money or other material benefits. Many case studies of courtesans’ art of love depicted in historical research have presented examples of erotic art and erotic love (Feldman & Gordon, 2006).

Courtesans’ Love in China and Japan of the Past

For instance, during the late Ming period of the 16th–17th centuries in China, women in these roles actively participated in elite culture. The literary and artistic works of courtesans significantly influenced new standards of beauty, gender roles, and cultural aspirations (Berg, 2009). Another instance is Japanese culture of the past. During the Edo period of Tokugawa in the 17th–19th centuries, Japanese art extensively made the special erotic art of “shunga”—the “laughing pictures” intended to entertain people with amusing pleasure. The shunga literature and art of those times were esthetically erotic rather than pornographic. Nonetheless, in contemporary Japan, shunga is widely considered taboo (Ishigami & Buckland, 2013).

Love Destiny Across Cultures

Is love really our destiny in life? What do different cultural beliefs tell us about love destiny? Our love destiny is likely to be our fate for life.

Love is a mysterious and unknown force that many cultural traditions consider fate and destiny. The English term “destiny” has Latin origins, denoting the meaning “determined.” It stands for a strong supernatural power that is embodied and personified as a cosmic or God’s superpower. It determines what happens in people’s lives and relationships.

The belief in fate and destined love suggests that there is only one true love and one predetermined marriage for life. Prospective partners are either meant for each other or not.

The Cross-Cultural Universality of Fate and Love Destiny

In many cultures and periods of history, people have held the view that love and a long-term relationship are their fate and destiny. These are the traditional European romantic love ideals found in literature and scholarship. Anthropological studies have shown that these cultural beliefs exist in many African and Asian societies (see for review, Karandashev, 2017, 2019).

These folk and literary perceptions are mirrored in words such as destiny and fate, which assume the existence of an ultimate agent that guides a person to perfect love and predetermined marital partnerships. True love is an unavoidable fate. It is beyond a person’s control. He or she just ought to succumb and accept it as destined love, with all that happens.

The Lexicon of Love Destiny Across Cultures

In many cultures and languages, there are words that express the meanings of fate, love destiny, or something similar. For example, the classical Greek word for an unshakable and binding destiny is “anánk” (starcrossed love). The Japanese word for the feeling that love with this person is inevitable is “koi no yokan.” The Chinese word for a force impelling a relationship’s destiny is “yuán fèn.” The Korean word for lifelong, unshakable love is “sarang” (Lomas, 2018).

We can see that the notion of predetermined love has appeared in a variety of cultures and languages. Here are just a couple of examples of the cultural beliefs in fate and destiny in love and marriage.

The Burmese Cultural Idea of Love Destiny

In a Burmese cultural context, here is the concept of love as fate. Previously known as Burma, Myanmar is a Southeast Asian country heavily influenced by Buddhist culture. Burmese folklore tradition teaches men and women that love is their fate.

The cultural myth tells people that shortly after one’s birth, the Hindu god Brahma writes one’s love destiny on the forehead. So, the destiny of love is what guides men and women in love and in their marital future, one for life. In Burmese society, there is no custom of arranged marriages. People follow their destiny.

Love is mostly involved in the marital relationship, along with sentimental affection, sexual attraction, sympathy, and attachment. However, despite its importance in men’s and women’s marital lives, love is exhibited in moderation (Victor de Munck, 2019; Spiro 1977).

Like in other East Asian societies, Burmese spouses are reserved in their emotional expressions.

The Chinese Cultural Idea of Love Destiny

These are the cultural beliefs about destined love in Chinese society. People have traditionally followed their faith through relational fatalism. Predestined relational affinity is embodied in the Chinese concept of “yuan” (Goodwin & Findlay, 1997; Yang, 2006).

Because they believe in a predetermined relationship affinity, people think that the type of relationship, how long it will last, and how well it will work are all determined by affinity.

The different types of yuan are the external and stable causal factors determining different types of relationships. This external attribution of the relationship to “yuan” plays its vital social-defensive and ego-defensive roles in the relationship.

In establishing a relationship, Chinese men and women particularly appreciate relational harmony. They have a fear of disharmony in the relationship and strive for harmony for the sake of harmony itself. Due to the attribution of yuan, family relationships are supposed to be kept harmonious and stable (Yang, 2006).

Interpersonal Self-Disclosure Differs in Different Cultures 

Self-disclosure is the way an individual communicates and shares personal information with another. Values and opinions, goals and aspirations, plans and thoughts, feelings and preferences, achievements and failures, fears and hopes, dreams and disappointments—all these internal personal things can be disclosed. They can be private and confidential to a greater or lesser extent. Some information can be sensitive because it makes a person vulnerable in a relationship.

Self-disclosure can be verbal or nonverbal. People differ in their willingness to self-disclose.

Cultural patterns of self-disclosure in romantic and marital relationships vary across societies. Societies differ in their cultural norms of how close the interpersonal relationship between partners should be and how emotionally intimate they should be in a close relationship.

Intimacy as Self-disclosure

Self-disclosure of personal information is the way to express intimacy in relationships. Partners do this both verbally and nonverbally. Many Western scholars and laypeople conceptualize intimacy as self-disclosure, as the way of revealing personal values, thoughts, and feelings to another person. Many European Americans consider such experiences and expressions as important things for personal growth and relationship satisfaction, while many Asians and Asian Americans don’t think this way.(Altman & Taylor, 1973; Derlega, et al., 1993; Ignatius & Kokkonen, 2007; Jourard, 1971; Sprecher & Hendrick, 2004, see Karandashev, 2019, for review).

Cultural Differences in Self-disclosure

Cross-cultural studies have shown that the degree of self-disclosure between American partners is usually higher than between Japanese or Chinese partners. These cultural differences might be due to their differences in individualism and collectivism as cultural values (Barnlund, 1975; Chen, 1995; Hocker and Wilmot, 1995; Gudykunst & Nishida, 1983; Ting-Toomey, 1991; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

For instance, spouses in North America communicate verbally more than Chinese spouses. Self-disclosure is frowned upon in Chinese culture, which encourages greater self-restraint in marital communication and limited self-disclosure. These differences can be due to differences in corresponding cultural values. Alternatively, people in different cultures can express their personal information and feelings in various ways (Chen, 1995; Hocker & Wilmot, 1995; Fitzpatrick et al., 2006; Juang & Tucker, 1991; see Karandashev, 2019 for a review). 

The boundaries and meanings of privacy, intimacy, and self-expression may differ across cultures. Various aspects of what is viewed as private, intimate, and public are culturally determined (Coffey, 2017; Heitler, 2012; Moore, 2003).

Self-disclosure in Individualistic Western Cultures

Western individualistic cultures consider self-disclosure as the prototypical expression of intimacy (Jamieson, 1998, 1999). For example, North American culture encourages men and women to communicate in relationships in an open, direct, and assertive manner. As a result, Americans naturally use self-disclosure to lower emotional distance and foster marital intimacy (Bradford et al., 2002; Hocker & Wilmot, 1995; Rosenfeld & Bowen, 1991; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

American men and women believe that self-disclosure with a partner is a vital process to achieve closeness in a relationship. This possibility reflects their individualistic ideals like independence, autonomy, self-assertion, and directness. This perspective appears to be more consistent with an American emphasis on verbal and non-verbal self-expression than with a Chinese emphasis on restraint and silence.

Self-disclosure in Collectivistic Eastern Cultures

Sharing personal information and the exchange of feelings are less important in East Asian cultural settings (Chen, 1995; Goodwin & Lee, 1994). For example, Chinese and Japanese cultural norms teach people to be restrained and reserved in interpersonal interactions. Societies frown upon being too expressive.

These cultural factors determine the manner of reserved self-disclosure in Chinese marital relationships. According to research findings, Chinese native spouses disclose less than North American spouses. For Chinese men and women, self-disclosure can reflect their collectivistic values like harmony, connectivity, and solidarity (Chen, 1995; Hocker and Wilmot, 1995; Fitzpatrick et al., 2006; Wolfson & Pearce, 1983; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

In Chinese households, disclosure is layered: the most intimate expressions are shared with the spouse, while less sensitive information is shared with other family members or strangers. As a result, in both cultures, a married relationship can be intimate yet linked to different social values (Ow & Katz, 1999).