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August 9, 2013

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Classes about love and how to find it become popular

Zheng Ting is a frequent guest at an evening “salon” where she shares her love and relationship problems with others and listens to advice from an “emotions coach.”

Seated around a room in downtown Beijing, nearly 30 people, including a handful of men, discuss their problems in finding a suitable marriage partner or maintaining a healthy relationship with boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse every Friday.

Ting, 29, described her first session at the salon as “enlightening.”

“Just as with other skills, we can learn how to love,” she said.

Although she has a good education and a good job, Zheng has yet to meet what is supposed to be the essential component of a happy life: Mr Right. She has gone on nearly 100 dates.

Zheng is not an exception. “Emotions coach” Zhao Yongjiu has “trained” a number of young people frustrated in love since he launched his training program in 2008.

“Compared with their parents, young people care more about the quality of their romantic relationships and would like to follow their heart in looking for a spouse,” Zhao said.

Zhao provides “love courses” in addition to the salon, teaching his students how to control their emotions, improve their self-acceptance and learn how to communicate effectively through constant practice.

Zhou Xiang, 27, said he was worried about opening up about his problems when he first joined the course after ending his last relationship.

“Everyone here has their own problems and this makes you feel equal and more relaxed,” Zhou said, adding that he has moved on and now is prepared to start a new relationship.

Zhao has provided training to more than 1,000 people.

Huge market of love-seekers

“I have no worries since the potential market is huge,” Zhao said.

Similar training programs are becoming more popular in other cities.

In Shanghai, counsellor Wu Di also gives talks and one-on-one psychological counseling to young people who want to get in touch with their emotions and learn how to love.

Wu said the “leftover women” phenomenon will fuel market demand for her program, as well as other services.

“Leftover women” is a derogatory but wildly used term that refers to women at around age 30 and above who have yet to marry. Some people apply it to women in their late 20s.

Although these women are often well-educated and financially independent, Chinese men tend to marry women who are younger, earn less and have less education than they do.

According to a 2010 report by the All-China Women’s Federation, more than half a million single women in Beijing are age 28 and older.

“Many of these women have social fears or hold incorrect views on love and marriage,” Wu said. “They can only find true love if they abandon outdated attitudes and learn how to love.”

China’s gradually rising divorce rates have alarmed married people, who are also taking courses on how to maintain healthy marriages.

Figures from civil affairs departments show that China’s divorce rates have increased for seven consecutive years, with rates in Beijing and Shanghai exceeding 33 percent.

The popularity of “emotions training” is a sign of social progress and has helped people get rid of unrealistic beliefs regarding love and marriage, said Cheng Xiuying, a professor of sociology at Tsinghua University.

“But no training is a cure-all in dealing with the complicated relationships between men and women,” Cheng said.



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