A poster for Mistress Dispeller, a Chinese film about a man whose job is to lure women from their married lovers and whose wife fears he's falling for the mistress he was hired to dispel
Beijing, July 30: When Wang, a 39-year-old from Shanghai, discovered texts on her husband's phone that suggested he was having an affair with one of his employees, she was distraught. "I couldn't sleep at night and couldn't stop crying," she said. "I was very hurt."
She decided to take action, though perhaps not in the expected way. Rather than confronting her husband, she searched online for a "mistress dispeller.'' Mistress-dispelling services, increasingly common in China's larger cities, specialise in ending affairs between married men and their extramarital lovers.
Typically hired by a scorned wife, they coach women on how to save their marriages, while inducing the mistress to disappear. For a fee that can start in the tens of thousands of dollars, they will subtly infiltrate the mistress's life, winning her friendship and trust in an attempt to break up the affair. The services have emerged as China's economy has opened up in recent decades, and as extramarital affairs grew more common.
With greater opportunities and incentives to be unfaithful - not a few businessmen and officials signal status by maintaining fetching young women - new businesses to combat the cheating have apparently flourished.
The personal accounts from people who say they have used them are difficult to independently confirm, and there are no exact figures for the number of mistress dispellers in China. But a search on Baidu, a Chinese search engine, yields pages of ads and blogs that link back to mistress-dispelling companies based in cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou.
After her own search, Wang decided to hire Weiqing International Marriage Hospital Emotion Clinic Group, a mistress-dispelling service in Shanghai. "I looked at some cases on their websites and didn't know if I should trust them,'' she said. "But I felt I had no other options, so I thought, why not try it?"
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,'' Wang said. "I just feel relieved that my husband is back.''
Wang, who was recommended by Weiqing to be interviewed for this article, declined to give her full name, saying she wanted to protect her family's privacy. She would not say how much she paid, except that it was enough that she asked her parents for help. Weiqing said it started helping clients like Wang in 2001 in Shanghai, and has since expanded to 59 cities.
Mistress dispelling typically begins with research on the targeted woman, said Shu Xin, Weiqing's director. An investigation team - often including a psychotherapist and, to keep on the safe side, a lawyer - analyses her family, friends, education and job before sending in an employee whom Weiqing calls a counsellor. "Once we figure out what type of mistress she is - in it for money, love or sex - we draw up a plan," Shu said.
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE