Marriages feel the strain

MARRIED women in Hong Kong are having a tough time. Most face the endless demands of being workers and mothers, as well as wives, and it seems there is precious little satisfaction in that latter role.

A survey commissioned by the Prudential financial services group and carried out by Survey Research Hong Kong found married women were generally unhappy with their men - much less happy than their men were with them. Almost half the men surveyed said their wives were the factor in their lives that made them most happy. Only 30 per cent of women returned the compliment. And while only eight per cent of men said their wives made them most unhappy, 18 per cent of women made that complaint about their husbands.

Living in Hong Kong can be a battle. The cost of housing, education and medical care are high; the pressure is on both men and women to earn any extra dollars they can. The workplace can be brutally competitive.

So it would not be surprising if men and women had less time and energy for their partners than they, or their partners, would like. A survey would find a measurably high rate of unhappiness.

Modern, educated, articulate women - the ones working in Hong Kong's tough jobs - might feel more acutely their unhappiness at their husbands' lack of understanding and contact, for they are not prepared to accept second-best roles, or second-best treatment, as their mothers might have. Men may be less sensitive to the ebb and flow of their personal lives, or too involved in their careers to worry.

But it may be that there is no disparity in feelings of unhappiness. It may simply be that women are more comfortable talking about their personal lives. In that case, the survey would prove that the main difference is that women are more honest than menwhen answering pollsters' questions. And that would mean that marriage in high-stress Hong Kong is under even more strain than the survey suggests.