Want to get rid of the other woman? Hire a firm

By Neil Connor

A Chinese couple in Beijing. Divorce rates in China are soaring, with more than 3.6 million last year. Photo / AP
A Chinese couple in Beijing. Divorce rates in China are soaring, with more than 3.6 million last year. Photo / AP

After 11 years of marriage, Mrs Chen was heartbroken when she discovered a message on her husband's mobile telephone from another woman, one who called him "honey".

He admitted the affair, but after she spoke to her parents and considered the future of her two children, the desperate 39-year-old decided divorce was not the answer.

Instead Mrs Chen turned to another option - seeking help from one of scores of companies in China which offer 'mistress dispelling' services.

For rates starting in the tens of thousands of dollars, these companies deploy a myriad of tactics to persuade women to leave their cheating lovers and are becoming increasingly common amid rising rates of divorce that often leave ex-wives left out in the cold.

Their methods are highly controversial. Some hire attractive men to start relationships with mistresses in a bid to steer them away from their married lovers.

More commonly, the companies will send in undercover female counsellors to build up a friendship with the mistress before subtly encouraging them to end their relationship with the married man.

Complex mistress dispelling - which often involves the counsellors renting rooms near the apartments of the mistress as they build up trust with their target, discovering their habits, likes and dislikes - can cost up to one million yuan ($209,000).

Mistresses are considered a status symbol and an obligatory accessory by some ambitious men in China.

Meanwhile, divorce rates are soaring, with more than 3.6 million last year, an increase from 2.5 million in 2009 and 1.2 million in 2000, according to official statistics.

In a separation women rarely receive an equal share of property and finance, and some deeply conservative family values can mean they often bear the brunt of the stigma from divorce.

One consequence has been an apparent booming trade in mistress dispellers, although numbers are difficult to independently verify.

Mrs Chen, from the south-western city of Chongqing, was advised by her parents that she had no option but to save her marriage, as her interior designer husband was the sole breadwinner for her and her son and daughter.

She contacted Chongqing Jialijiawai Marriage and Family Service Centre in January, and hired them to provide a 150,000 yuan ($31,177) "non-covert" service.

Agents at the company convinced the mistress - a saleswoman who sold products to Mr Chen's company - that there was no future in the relationship.

"We asked her that if the man left his wife, would she really want to become a stepmother and be responsible for his two kids?" said Yu Feng, the manager of the company.

They also advised the husband to break off the affair by claiming that money was the key motivation for his mistress. They then spoke to Mrs Chen.

"They made me realise I didn't pay enough attention to my husband and seriously ignored him, especially after our daughter was born," she said.

Mrs Chen - who did not want to give her last name - was also advised to change her wardrobe, and to speak differently to her husband.

Eight months on from hiring Yu's services, Mrs Chen says the operation was a success, and her marriage is now back on track.

Yu said his company had dispelled more than 200 mistresses a year since it was set up in 2012. His one-million yuan service involves many months of undercover work by his staff. But he denied using male agents to "honeytrap" mistresses, a practice that is thought to be widespread throughout the industry.

Liu Weimin, the head of the National Marriage and Family Counsellors Association in China's southern Guangdong province, said mistress dispeller companies would never be officially recognised by authorities.

The burgeoning industry currently operates in a legal grey area, though Liu said it was clear some of their methods broke the law.

"They use illegal measures to drive mistresses away, such as dispatching handsome men to seduce them," the official said. "It is not legal nor ethical."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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