Marriage in China is never just about the couple. It involves both families and even more complexities. To try and keep everyone happy, a new union style called “double header” or “two-headed” marriage has become popular in eastern China.
Under this type of relationship, a married couple often lives with parents of one side, stay with both in turn, or simply live apart. Therefore, there is no need to buy their own house and in many cases they also forego a dowry, a practice still regularly observed especially in rural China.
The new trend also sees the couple have two children, with the first one taking the father’s surname and being mostly raised by the man, while the second goes by the mother’s surname and is taken care of by the woman.
According to China Women’s News, many couples who choose to live in this style are single children from the countryside.
“Because of the fast pace of modern work and life as well as the immature child care services industry, many young couples are too busy to take care of children and have to rely on parents,” says Yang Huili, deputy director of the Marriage and Family Professional Committee of the Provincial Bar Association in Zhejiang province. “Meanwhile, some young couples who are single children get spoiled by their original family whose financial conditions are relatively good, so they struggle to live independently and have to depend on the original family.”
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The hashtag #What do you think of “two-headed marriage”# has become one of the top trending topics on social media site Weibo in recent days, accumulating more than 120 million views.
“It’s an alienation and collapse of regular marriage relationships under current economic and social pressures,” reads one popular comment under the hashtag.
“This marriage is more like an AA system [“going Dutch”],” says another commenter. “It saves expenditure and also makes inheritance easier for both families.”
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It’s hard to predict whether the double header marriage style will expand to the whole country, especially as China continues to lift birth restrictions, but it’s certainly rousing considerable debate. Some experts have claimed that it contributes to a fairer marriage relationship and higher birth rate.
“I think this kind of exploration is very good for the stability and harmony of the family,” says Yang Hong, a lawyer based in Zhejiang province. “Two families have agreed to have two children, which helps cope with the population aging problem. With no dowry, young people might be more willing to get married. It also avoids disputes over surnames and child-raising issues.”
It’s also yet another sign of the multitude of pressures young people in China need to navigate when it comes to marriage.
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