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China’s Cheating Husbands Fuel an Industry of ‘Mistress Dispellers’ (nytimes.com)
110 points by credo on July 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

I doubt that this will ever work in countries other than China because women (and marriage) in other countries are mostly protected by law, while in china, women are not so well protected. Also, culturally speaking, a divorced woman is very hard to get marriage in China. While a divorced man is easy. In society, People think that "divorce" somehow depreciated the value of a woman, while "divorce" means nothing (sometimes positive thing) for a man. Also, after marriage, Chinese woman will not focus mostly on work or career promotion but rather on family, so in the long term, they are 1) financially attached to the husband 2) emotionally attached to the husband. This makes them want to "fix" the marriage rather than abandon it, even if the fix is superficial and (maybe) temporary.

But as more and more young women (born after 80s and 90s) are married, this kind of issue may be mitigating. Because young women tend to be much well-educated and wealthy

I am a Chinese. as far as I know, even the relatively backward rural areas currently divorce has become more common. I d'not know what is progress?

surely the one child policy will give women an upper hand in the coming 20 years?


All things being equal, yes women would have the upper hand.

But cultural norms warp things a little more. The cultural tendency is for a man to marry down, and a women marry up in social level terms.

Which means there's a layer of women near the top who can't find a husband. Particularly in professional careers. And the lowest social rung of men have no women to marry down.

This asymmetry means there's a band of powerful and successful women who don't normally find husbands. They become China's "leftover women", who have basically given up on the idea of marriage beyond the age of 27. One recent solution here is these women look abroad for suitable husbands. Despite being negged annually, the social stigma of not marrying up takes many options away from women.

I always find it strange how we make it seem like mate criteria is sacrosanct and beyond critique.

I get that norms are strong. But in tech, we are constantly asked to question norms all the time and at times, deliberately counterbalance them. Surely we should also question social norms that inform our thinking in finding a mate? Especially if the person is having trouble finding someone suitable.

If I were to say to you I had trouble finding a woman, I don't think people here would say, "hey you should look at dating someone overseas." I think people might suggest opening my scope to other ethnicities/body types/meeting opportunities.

China's "leftover women: [the phrase] is part of an orchestrated state campaign to push “high-quality” women into marriage and having children. The phenomenon of “leftover women” was actually created by the Chinese government through a “very aggressive state media campaign.”

The problem has been named and created, whereas the initial reality was different.


No, because even though there may be fewer young, attractive women due to the policy there are still hardly any wealthy, single men, comparatively speaking.


No more than every man being entitled to a gorgeous woman.

For most people, political correctness flies right out the window when it comes to sexual attraction and mate selection.

In Japan I would say it is similar, maybe not up to such extend but also in the same way

Yeah I heard about that, it is sad that Japan women are suffering from this too.

wow, as a Chinese myself, I agree on everything you said. Well put!



Did you read the article? Men in China institute the vast majority of divorces, and they usually keep the house (even if the women helped pay for it), the children, the money, and the higher earning potential. This isn't women unfairly taking all of men's resources, this is women being left homeless when their husbands find another partner.

In contrast, men in the US get custody as much as women when they pursue it. And while I won't argue about the exact proportion of money that is kept by the man and the woman, neither party is left homeless and jobless.

So your comment seems like a false equivalence to me. Furthermore, even if the Western situation is biased against men, that doesn't make China's system any more acceptable. Two wrongs don't make a right, after all.

The divorce rate in the USA is nowhere near that high. It peaked at around 60% in the 80s and has fallen to below 50% since then.

There is a reason many woman want the apartment in their name as a co owner before they get married: otherwise they'll have no recourse on divorce. Even if they helped pay for it, they need their name there or they have no rights. This is how it is in China, relatively simple. As for parental rights, lots of moms never see their kids again as they go to live with the husband's family, same problems, different victims!

He said that women file 65-70% of divorces, not that the divorce rate is 65-75%.

> The divorce rate in the USA is nowhere near that high. It peaked at around 60% in the 80s and has fallen to below 50% since then.

I should have stated that better. Historically, in America, from the late 19th Century until the present, women have filed the majority of divorces; approximately two thirds, regardless of prevalent economic circumstances.

Well, that makes more sense. I honestly never thought about who filed, even in my parents' divorce.

The key paragraph, in my opinion:

"One response to marital infidelity is divorce. But divorce can be costly, especially for women. Aside from the social stigma that falls more heavily on women, family property and finances in China tend to be registered in the husband's name. A divorced woman can find herself homeless, adding to the pressure of taking measures to save the marriage."

"70% of women think that men should only get married after buying their own housing properties" according to a 2011 survey. The survey also shows "that about 80% of the single women interviewed think that it's reasonable for men to only consider a relationship if they receive a monthly income of above 4,000 yuan" (http://www.womenofchina.cn/html/womenofchina/report/136873-1...)

Reducing that number to 0 percent and getting people to want income responsibility and property shared between man and wife in a 50/50 way would help towards making divorce outcomes equal.

It seems that marriages in capitalist societies are inherently unstable. If rights are equal, then women are incentivised to divorce to "cash in" the value of their husband. If the rights are unequal, then men are incentivised to divorce to "trade up" to a more attractive wife.

It's only agrarian societies that manage to make husband and wife dependent enough on each other that divorce is a bad option for everybody.

> If rights are equal, then women are incentivised to divorce to "cash in" the value of their husband.

This only applies if earning potential between women and men is wildly disparate. When women can and do earn as much as men, the "cashing in" factor largely goes away.

I think this is a problem if the actual net worth is significantly different between partners, not earning potential.

Sure, but the same logic applies. If your main concern is someone taking your money in a divorce, marry someone who has similar net worth.

For most people, earning potential is 99% of lifetime net worth. The vagaries of the aristoracy aren't that interesting.

This is where lawyers help! By soaking up all the marital funds in a divorce, lawyers remove the profit incentive of leaving a partner.

That's a pretty dark take on the situation, but knowing a few people who have gone through divorce, pretty accurate.

Didn't stop them in the end though.

it's interesting that in the west, divorce usually means the women gets half the networth of the man, in which case, it's the man who normally don't want to divorce.

I actually think this biases mate selection (not necessarily in a good way) toward people of similar or slightly greater/lesser income

Unless the wife has higher income in which case the husband benefits. Or maybe they even earn similar incomes...

Yeah. I'm not sure what decade these people are living in. If you're worried about marriage because you think your wife is going to divorce you and take half your money, you could choose a spouse with her own source of good income.

That limits your choices quite a bit. For example there are a large number of attractive women with terrible incomes and/or no savings, for which "scoring a successful man" may be a "valid" mating strategy

If you select someone as your mate who is mostly interested in you for your money, then you should expect that they will take a big chunk of your money if you divorce. I don't mean this in a "you deserve it" kind of way, but in a "this is the relationship you agreed to" way.

If your mate is with you for your money and you are with them for their youth and looks, then assuming you stay with them long enough that after a divorce much of their youth and good looks are gone, why shouldn't they get some of your money? You got their most valuable assets.

You're assuming that only gold diggers will take half your money when they divorce you.

But that's not true. Under United States laws, all women will take half your money when they divorce you. Doesn't matter that they're gold diggers or not.

And also, most women marries up (marry a guy who makes more than her), not down.

I'm not assuming anything. If you are worried about your spouse taking "your money", then don't marry someone who isn't bringing in a similar amount of money. It's not complex.

This whining about women taking "your money" in a divorce is absurd. Get a prenup or marry someone with as much or more money. If you marry someone with less money (i.e. someone "marrying up") then you are knowingly "marrying down". Don't whine about fairness. This isn't a problem with the courts being "unfair" so much as a problem with people being petty.

> Get a prenup

Always a pleasant conversation to start... ;)

> or marry someone with as much or more money.

This strategy works around an artificial limitation imposed by the law which limits your dating pool quite a bit, and overly penalizes the successful. Of 20-odd women I've dated, exactly one made more money than me.

> This whining about women taking "your money" in a divorce is absurd

In medicine, when we evaluate treatments, we base it on statistical efficacy. In law, when we evaluate guilt, we base it on evidence. When determining safe traffic laws (such as requiring seatbelts, we look at accident statistics. But for some reason, in marriage, a high failure rate is always "someone else's problem with commitment". (Along the same lines, I suppose fatality rates from accidents where seat belts weren't used are "someone else's problem with driving"!) No one stops to think "ok so maybe marriage itself may be the problem that needs some tweaking", and evaluates marriage changes/expectations based on empirical efficacy (lasting marriages). In the meantime, women profit off the pains of sorry men in failed relationships. Why is that?

I agree.

She doesn't have to be a gold digger to take half your money because the laws still applies regardless of her gold-digging status.

The proper way to handle this is to marry some who makes the same or more than you.

Or just accept that in a divorce, things will be split more or less equally in the absence of a prenup.

I make more than my wife. If we got divorced, her getting half the assets would not be the biggest problem.

It's up to each person to decide what they find acceptable and act accordingly.

Right. So as has been true forever and a day, men can either think with their head or with their penis.

You mean, use their head for their wallet or their penis.

Another point that is missing here is, in many cultures, women are reluctant to consider any fault in their husbands. Cheating? Fault of the mistress. Domestic violence? Fault of herself. Coming from India, I have seen this happening countless times where women would never see anything wrong with their spouse even in worst cases.

This may seem horrifying but it is often a result when women are brought up to be good obeying wives, be great mothers and religiously do household duties.

Hard to believe this is something more than 'wannabe business PR' plus movie PR.

China female/male ratio is heavily unbalanced. There is a LOT men on market for women to choose. Also almost no foreign woman marry chinese man, on the contrary to the chinese women marrying a lot of foreigners.

1+2 means china is a market where men are at bad position and women has plenty of fish to choose from. Opposite situation which would create such services as described in the article.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_women_of_China

According to 2012 figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s sex ratio at birth (the number of boys born for every 100 girls) was as high as 118.

This is the logical conclusion if you don't understand another country and solely base your analysis on data.

All you said in regards to male/female ratio is true, and single women have lots potential mates to choose from.

Unfortunately, the mistress situation is still common, due to a variety of issues around limited supply of wealthy men, divorce laws favouring the wealthy, societal stigma against divorced people, social norm of judging men by success and women by look, etc, etc.

Not all those issues are female-centric, but combined, they make it acceptable (while still looked down upon, if advertised) for some women to be a mistress of some powerful man, and powerful men to have mistresses.

You are in fact very right, but there is one critical issue here. If we are talking about marriage. Culturally there is a "lifespan" of value to both genders. A Man's valuable lifespan can be well over 20 years, from age 20 all the way to age 40.While a woman's valuable lifespan maybe only less than 10 years, from 20 to 30.

This is because of the "stake" people are seeking when looking for a marriage between genders. Women are seeking wealth, social status, personality and whatever it may take to maintain a stable marriage ( family). While men, in most cases, are looking for prettiness, good-looking or whatever superficial. This kind of value lifespan and marriage purpose mismatch is the whole problem of marriage issues in China.

A divorced, less pretty (compare to those in 20s), mid-aged woman is very hard to find another marriage. Even if they did not even marry before, it is still hard for them. A lot of women in China who are well-educated, well-paid, in their 30s still have problems in finding partners (This is what Chinese society called sheng nu, or "women that left behind":https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheng_nu).

Statistically speaking, women are indeed more than men, but the mating process is not statistic.

>Statistically speaking, women are indeed more than men, but the mating process is not statistic.

Now it would be fascinating if people could generate probability distributions that accurately describe social-economic systems/relationships like what I would say that you accurately describe quantitatively.

A well-educated, well-paid woman doesn't need to marry a wealthy man.

Cultures change. Changing gender imbalances are one of the driving forces of said change.

it's not that simple. in china's current materialistic society you have a small pool of rich men with a lot of woman chasing after them. the majority of rich businessman do in fact have mistresses and their wives do take drastic measures to get them back.

The culture of a place plays much more important role that mere ratios of men/women.

Besides, it's not like this is for the general population. Mistresses are a common trait in the upper classes -- which, in a huge place like China, are still in the tens of millions...

But how many of these men are actually desirable by the women?

The services in the article cost upwards of $10k which means the woman in this case might be married to a rich high status man, which is arguably difficult to come by.

If you are a women age 28 married to a high status man for say six years, you probably want to keep that man instead of trying to find another one.

How is that woman entitled to the status attached the man she married?

I don't understand your objection.

The woman does not get a copy of the man's status.

She gets high status by marrying a high status man.

The wife of Donald Trump does not have to achieve anything to gain status. She gains status simply by being Trump's wife.

because he chose to marry her, which means they unite their status.

> China female/male ratio is heavily unbalanced. There is a LOT men on market for women to choose.

The ratio of females to males that women actually want is balanced the other way. And it's that way pretty much everywhere in the world.

A f/m << 1 just means there are more men to settle for, not really to choose.

I'm confused by this logic - what about women men actually want? Surely that should cancel out the other side.

while the skewed sex ratio is true, lumping all of China together is misleading. The sex ratio is quite balanced in cities, for example, meaning that women living in cities don't quite enjoy the advantage.

>* Hard to believe this is something more than 'wannabe business PR' plus movie PR.*

By the way what is that movie's actual name? I haven't been able to find it on imdb, rotten tomatoes, etc.

According to the article, this is mostly men who are trying to status-signal by having a mistress; it's not Average Joe who's keeping a mistress on the side.

Men are not fungible.

A man is not fungible, but 600,000,000 men are.

Either a good is fungible or it isn't (well, a good has an elasticity, it's not binary of course), it doesn't depend on the supply. Consumer choices are a function of elasticity and location on the supply/demand curve (and many more things ofc, but that's not relevant for this point). In other words, supply nor demand are a component of fungibility.

Books, Music, Movies, TV, etc are all treated as fungible commodities due to the wide range of options. In much the same way that Meat and Coal have a wide range of quality and unique traits, but again the market has no problem dealing in bulk purchases.

Granted, this often breaks down such as with the last mortgage crash but no abstraction is actually true.

What? No, nobody treats movies or music as fungible. Hence the extreme importance of A&R's, for example.

And when you buy beef in bulk, that doesn't mean that they'll send you whatever meat they have on hand, nor is that what 'fungible' even means.

Fungible is not some abstract ideal it's just a reference to how things are being treated.

Electronic money, Stock etc are defined as Fungible because two people can exchange tokens of ownership in the same thing without impacting anything. The same is 'said' about crude oil and other physical thing even though they are not actually identical they are treated as such.

However, the same effect happens when company's own huge set's of IP. That IP is treated as an income stream and money does not care about it's origin. The reverse even happens with money. Coins as collectors items are independent from there nominal value.

For a back and forth example. Two Kids might trade 1's because the Serial Numbers of one of the bills contain 666 which lowers the value to one and increases it to another. Later if the bill is spent it could go though a hundred transactions where nobody cares about the SN.

What's the point though? Wouldn't the husband just end up with a different mistress?

I mean they do not resolve the problems in the marriage that led to the situation. Do these women believe it's a one time thing? or that that specific mistress is special?

The distinction is probably lost, but a mistress is someone the husband has emotional feelings for (and what scares the wives is their ability to manipulate their husbands). It takes time to find someone like that and build up a new side relationship. It could happen again, but they're hoping not quickly.

This is different from sleeping with escorts and other transactional women, which a lot of wives are comfortable with and attribute it to the way business works (taking clients out drinking, etc.).

Escorts are considered part of how business is done in China?

Not all the time, but common enough that no one is shocked and it's not a secret that business men engage in these activities.

"While the counselor goes to work, the mistress-dispelling service advises the wife on how to make herself more attractive to her husband."

While this sounds sexist, would any husband actually argue against that part? Let's be frank, here

That was what I found so strange about the wife's relief in the article. The husband probably has other employees.

Repeat business!

> Weiqing eventually ended the affair, she said, by persuading the other woman to take a higher-paying job in another city. “I don’t care how that woman is living now,’’ Ms. Wang said. “I just feel relieved that my husband is back.’’

This makes me sad because the issue is not "fixed", it's just lost one of its symptoms.

If you speak to enough people who have been married for a "long time" you realize they have been through some really hard stuff. It takes an extreme amount of work and forgiveness from both sides. I can't picture success with just one party being interested in staying together.

But how will this work in, say, LA or New York? A friend of mine in NYC had a lovely wife who divorced him after discovering his serial philandering. He said there were young women throwing themselves at him all the time. (He's wealthy.)

The stigma isn't as strong here as it is in China, either. And he ended up paying for the divorce.

On the other hand, she's not as well off financially as she had been. It was emotionally difficult for her as well, but the root of that problem was deeper than the symptom.

Not sure that this service would work here.

I doubt it would work in the US, too. Not only is the stigma against divorce now almost non-existent, we have no-fault divorce law. And people marry and divorce at a higher rate than ever before. It's easy come, easy go. And I would say that our system has a lot of bad effects, too: broken homes and single-parent childrearing are crippling our social structure.

The divorce rate peaked in the 80s and has been declining ever since in the States.

Here's the last 15 years, but can't find the full data set right now: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm

It's amusing that these statistics are on the CDC website.

What's amusing about that? Divorce can be devastating to a person's physical and mental health as can many other social problems. So it seems logical to me that the CDC tracks this.

Similar to Global Thermonuclear War in the movie WarGames, the only winning move may soon simply be not to play :O

Yes but marriage rates have also been falling. No marriage no divorce.

The major alternative to divorce is dysfunctional families which is similarly crippling to children.


Also false dichotomy. We do not know the percentage of successful marriages with undiscovered affairs.

How about counseling? That is a pretty grim view.


Not that sure about that. For every vagina there has to be corresponding dick for the whole cheating thing to work. So I guess cheaters are roughly equal between sexes.

>So I guess cheaters are roughly equal between sexes.

For it to be cheating you need to be married (or in an exclusive relationship) in the first place. If the other party is not, then they're not cheating anyone themselves.

So, if it mostly happens between married men and unmarried women, for example, cheaters don't have to be "roughly equal".

And what are the unmarried men doing in the meantime?

Well, for one they can't cheat their wives, because they don't have any.

As for cheating with married women, in China woman's infidelity is much lower than that of married men infidelity.

"In a representative sample of urban Chinese – 3.9% of married women and 20.6% of married men reported to have the experience of extramarital sex in the past year".

So just because each dick needs a corresponding vagina (and vice versa) doesn't mean that infidelity between sexes is equal. There are other factors in play too.

Not at all. It's not like it's a 1-to-1 relationship, after all.

So I guess cheaters can only cheat with other cheaters...

Laugh; "mistress disspelling" is a time-consuming and expensive remedy which focuses on the symptom of the infidelity. After weeks and months of manipulating the mistress, assuming it works, the husband may just find another one. Back to square one.

What if he already has several? Do you hire three counsellors with three strategies to dispel all of them? That's going to get really expensive, fast.

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