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Marriage breakdown. Australian/Vietnamese

Community Member

Hello, I have no idea if this is in the right place, so apologies if it isn't.

Background: I am 53 yr old male living in rural Qld. I suffer diagnosed PTSD, anxiety and chronic depression as a result of childhood sexual abuse from my step-father. Up until the age of 40 I was on a wild roller-coaster ride of drug/alcohol abuse, failed relationships, trouble with police, admitted to psyche wards etc. It was hell. Finally I got the help I needed and with the use of CBT strategies and SSRI's, (which I haven't taken for years), have been able to keep my life reasonably balanced.

Eight and a half years ago I met the girl of my dreams, a lovely Vietnamese lady and we have had what I consider to be a great marriage. We have no children together, but my 18 yr old daughter has been in the family home throughout and considers my wife as a step-mother. She departed interstate recently to commence University. Funnily enough she is studying Psychology. My elderly mother also stays with us in a self-contained granny flat. Her and my wife are/were best of friends.

Our marriage has not been without its ups and downs, as per usual, but in general we have had a happy time together and I love her dearly.

I have had minor episodes of depression/anxiety but I have the strategies in place to recognise and deal with it.

However, on the 22nd December I crashed and burned. I was in the middle of an incredibly busy and stressful time with my business and also as President of a local sporting group. I knew I wasn't feeling 'right' but the pressure I was under blinded me as to how close to the edge I was. I had a major meltdown and spent 2 weeks over xmas basically in a catatonic state with absolutely terrible anxiety attacks. I slowly dragged myself back out of the hole, but I sensed a change in my wife.

She was cold, uncaring and distant.

Ten days ago she simply disappeared with as many possessions as she could. No explanation, no goodbyes, (even to my mother), blocked all phone number and social media links.

As far as I knew she was dead.

She contacted me last night and basically said that she can't cope with my issues, that she doesn't believe that depression/anxiety is real and that all I need to do is take control of my mind. No matter how I tried to explain that depressions robs my ability of control, she wouldn't have it.

I am a broken man. Is this a cultural issue with her? Has anyone else experienced this in an inter-racial marriage?

I need to understand why?

8 Replies 8

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi cs65 and warm welcome to our community

It's really good to see you've found your way to our forums and thank you for sharing your story. It is that your wife just up and left with no forewarning.

I come from a culturally mixed family. There can be some differences in values, beliefs, norms etc between the different cultures that impact significantly on family relationships. Both my parents had their own mental health illnesses however neither were diagnosed. It was before mental health was recognised as something that needed to be attended to. My father had PTSD, anxiety and depression from the war and his childhood upbring. My mother never understood it and used to call him a psycho. They stayed together, however, perhaps we would have been better for we children if she hadn't.

You've asked some really good questions but I'm not sure I've helped you much. The aim of me replying is to bump your post back to the top in the hope someone else will see it and respond.

In the meantime - There is a great thread here 'We do not fully understand each other's culture' under the Multicultural Experience forum.

Kind regards


Community Member
Thank you Pamela. I will check out the other thread.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi CS65 and welcome,

I wonder have you felt able to run a google search about mental health in CALD communities? CALD meaning (culturally and linguistically diverse).

This will show you many publications (some from the Australian government) which help to explain some of the common barriers people face when needing mental health treatment.

Perhaps this will help you to understand why your wife has responded as she has even if it doesn't make it hurt any less.

Stigma about mental illness varies widely between cultures. Often we grow up never challenging our way of seeing the world and view of common issues until faced with the idea that others don't feel the same.

My husband has a Polish background and sometimes we have to work through unexpected differences. It is incredibly difficult at times.

As I understand it broadly some cultures view mental illness as shameful. Not just for the individual but also for the family group. Others see having a mental illness as not being a good provider for your family. Obviously I do not agree with this or think this applies to you. I just want to show that to some people they grew up with these attitudes. It can be very difficult to change beliefs that are ingrained.

I don't know that this will help ease your hurt and at heart I hope your wife is able to accept this illness in time. But above all it is vital to care for yourself.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi cs65,

I feel for you...you have obviously been through a lot. It sounds like you have had many traumas in your life. There’s a lot of pain there...

I admire how you turned your life around. You demonstrate a beautiful resilience...it’s lovely...

You sound like you really love this woman. She clearly meant/means a lot to you. I can only imagine the hurt, confusion and heart break, because of her response and actions. I’m so sorry you’re going through this...

Maybe I can offer my thoughts. It goes without saying that not all Asian cultures are the same, but I do believe that there is some cultural overlap/similarities between certain Asian cultures. I say this because I have some mixed Asian heritage myself...

In addition to the very thoughtful and kind insights that have been shared above, I feel there’s something I can add. In many Asian cultures, there is a very strong sense of “duty” (for a lack of a better word).

What I mean by this is a sense of being expected to push ourselves to fulfill our duties (e.g. work duties, parenthood duties, duty to our own parents, duty to our extended family, duty to our community, etc, etc), regardless of the state of our own mental health. I feel the mentality is mental health takes a huge backseat to this sense of “duty.”

This partly stems from a common perception about mental health issues not being “serious” or “real”, because it’s seen as something we should be able to overcome. Also, it’s perceived as “lesser than” our sense of “duty.”

For example, a family friend works 12-14 hour days most days of the week in his office job. It takes a huge toll on his personal life and mental health, but it’s just something that “you do” according to him. Something you accept and just continue, because...”duty”...

I also have a Vietnamese-Australian acquaintance who has no real down time and just works and works and works. Similar mentality to the other man I mentioned...

The expectation is that we shouldn’t complain or make a fuss. The expectation is we keep pushing ourselves because our sense of “duty” takes precedence above all else.

It’s, in many ways, unhealthy and “tough love” mentality, but it’s common in many Asian cultures. That being said, as I said earlier, of course not all Asian cultures are the same...but some similarities do exist.

I hope maybe this helps a little...

Kind thoughts to you today,


Thank you Pepper, that really resonated with me.

My wife finally contacted me last night, and what you described fitted her attitude to a tee.

No matter how much I tried to explain the realities of my situation she stubbornly refused to acknowledge it.

I have thrown 8 years of my life down the drain because of an illness over which I have no way of 100% ridding myself.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi cs65 (and a wave to all),

It’s lovely to hear from you again, but I’m sorry to hear things haven’t improved. It sounds like things have continued to be very rough for you...

I feel it would have been a very bittersweet exhange. On the one hand, I imagine you must have felt some relief to finally hear from her again. But on the other hand, I feel her refusal to listen must have really, really hurt...

Of course your illness and struggles aren’t your “fault”...no one “chooses” it when it comes down to it. But it sounds like she may not be fully grasping that...

I feel culture can be enormously influential, which is sometimes good and sometimes not so good. I’m afraid that suffering is considered a normal part of life in many Asian cultures, and it is something to be endured in silence. To silently endure is often considered the most “honourable” course of action.

Is it okay if I please ask if your wife speaks a second language? If “yes”, can I also please ask if she is more comfortable communicating in English or in this other language?

The reason that I’m asking is I wonder if it would help to find some publications from reputable organisations/Government departments about mental health in her other language. Sometimes, if translated well, publications in different languages can address its target audience in a way that is culturally appropriate/nuanced.

Kind thoughts to you today,


Hi cs65. If you’re still on the forum, how are you and how did things work out?


I have been in relationship with a Vietnamese-Australian girl and I can offer deep insight into what you experienced if it’s still something that troubles you.

Community Member

Maintaining relationships across different cultures can be challenging for several reasons, as cultural diversity brings unique perspectives, values, communication styles, and social norms. Here are some factors that contribute to the difficulty:

1. **Communication Styles:** Different cultures often have distinct communication styles. Direct and indirect communication, high-context and low-context communication, and varying levels of expressiveness can lead to misunderstandings if not navigated carefully.

2. **Values and Beliefs:** Divergent cultural values and beliefs may lead to conflicting expectations, priorities, and approaches to life. For example, attitudes toward family, gender roles, religion, and individualism can differ significantly.

3. **Social Norms:** Cultural norms dictate acceptable behavior, and individuals may unconsciously offend or misinterpret actions due to unfamiliarity with these norms. What is considered polite or appropriate in one culture may be perceived differently in another.

4. **Cultural Sensitivity:** A lack of cultural awareness and sensitivity can hinder effective communication and understanding. Misinterpretations of gestures, expressions, or even humor can lead to unintended conflicts.

5. **Implicit Bias:** Individuals may hold implicit biases based on cultural stereotypes, which can influence perceptions and interactions. Overcoming these biases requires self-awareness and open-mindedness.

6. **Conflict Resolution Styles:** Cultures may vary in their approaches to conflict resolution. Some cultures may prefer direct confrontation, while others may value harmony and indirect  methods. These differences can lead to difficulties in resolving disputes.

7. **Adaptation and Flexibility:** Adapting to a partner's cultural background requires flexibility and openness. If individuals are unwilling to embrace or understand each other's cultural differences, it can strain the relationship.

8. **Family Expectations:** Family expectations and dynamics can vary greatly across cultures. Different cultural expectations regarding marriage, parenting, and familial responsibilities can create tensions if not addressed openly.

9. **Identity Issues:** Individuals may grapple with issues of identity and belonging when navigating relationships with someone from a different culture. Balancing one's cultural identity while integrating into a partner's culture can be challenging.

10. **External Pressures:** Societal attitudes, discrimination, and external pressures may affect the relationship. Couples may face challenges from family, friends, or communities that resist or disapprove of cross-cultural unions.

Despite these challenges, many cross-cultural relationships thrive when individuals actively work to understand and appreciate each other's cultures, communicate openly, and build a foundation of respect and compromise. It requires ongoing effort and a willingness to learn from one another.