Wives, mistresses fight back
Updated: 2011-10-21 11:53
By Yu Ran (China Daily)
Online groups help victims of love cheats build a new life, Yu Ran reports from Shanghai.
Liu Zhixian relives her sadness and heartbreak every time she learns that another man has cheated on his wife.
"I ended my 16-year marriage three years ago because I was tired of arguing with my husband about his affair," she said. "Now I want to help more women who have similar experiences so they can start a new life."
Liu is the key organizer of a group that offers solace and advice in Xiamen, Fujian province. It provides an online platform for women with unfaithful husbands and it aims to help them save their families or, at least, to talk about their experiences.
"I've seen so many women choose to get divorced because their husbands had lovers," said Liu, 40. "We should unite and gain strength from the experience we have been through and help each other with family affairs and emotional problems," Liu said.
They aren't the only women with broken hearts and Internet connections. Mistresses, too, are seeking help and solace through their online communities. Whether these forums are helpful or harmful is open to debate.
Since Liu started the anti-mistress association in June, it has grown to about 3,000 regular participants and eight chat rooms based in provinces including Hunan in Central China and Fujian and Shandong in the East. The women tell their stories and seek advice. They chat online and sometimes arrange to meet.
"To offer them more professional assistance," Liu said, "we've got volunteers (as mentors), psychologists and lawyers to give advice from time to time, then help them eventually walk out of the darkness."
Key goals for Liu and her team are to help women save their families, if their husbands also want to keep them together, or help women regain their confidence by giving up on the marriage and living for themselves.
"We don't insist on encouraging all the wives to save their marriages, but to make wise decisions for their own sakes and for other members of the families," said a volunteer who would give only her surname, Su. "Sometimes, to give up and move on is the best way out for them."
The avid response to her association taught Liu that it isn't easy to help so many people straightaway, she said. "I will try to help those people I can manage instead of expanding the scale of the group, so I can guarantee I will be available for all my members anytime if they need me to be the listener."
Liu has two children but is not employed.
The other woman
Not that the wives care, but life isn't always good for the mistresses, either.
Yang Li said she and her lover had been together for two years when he told her he was married and a father. "I insisted on breaking up with him," she said, "but he begged and promised me that he would marry me when I am 30."
That was eight years ago.
She turned 30 this year, and there's no marriage in her future. She moves through her days like a zombie, she said, and she feels well used.
But she maintains a tiny hope that her lover will come through for her (and, so, would not allow her real name to be printed).
"My life has been ruined by my boyfriend," said Yang, who is from Jiaxing, in East China's Zhejiang province. "I am not protected by the (marriage) law for being a mistress for so many years, while he's still enjoying his family life with his wife and son."
She has cut herself in frustration a few times, she said, and writes articles on her personal blog to describe her ambivalence toward her lover.
She signs her posts with a string of names that translate to: the person who derailed, the wrecker, the principal culprit, the initiator of evil, the arch-criminal. Those are her terms for men - one in particular - and she means them as a warning to other women.
"I regret that I trusted him through years and I hate him as the principal culprit for cheating me and his wife, then making me be the person who's been spurned as the panderer," Yang told China Daily.
Thousands of other mistresses - also called family interveners in China - have posted their stories, their feelings and even their experiences dealing with the wives on online forums collectively called "the mistress association". Like the wives, they ask for advice, although their questions involve how to deal with the men and their wives, even how to keep their lovers away from their legal families.
Mostly, they use pseudonyms online, and those interviewed for this report insisted on made-up names.
"I don't post blogs or ask for help frequently but I wanted to know how the mistresses like me are living, whether it is as hard as what I'm going through now," Xiao Ye said.
She is 28 and the mistress of a successful, 36-year-old businessman from Nanjing, Jiangsu province. She said she is the woman the businessman truly loves, but he didn't meet her before he married.
"Both of us believe that we were born to be together, but he met me at the wrong time, so I'm awaiting the day that he ends things with his wife and marries me," Xiao said in a recent blog post.
"Believe" and "wait" are common words on the mistresses' online forum because most of the women still hope to have a family with their lovers. After all, affairs do lead to divorce - about half of them last year, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
"I know that it's immoral to intervene in a family as the third person," Xiao said, "but if we're truly in love with each other, why can't I follow my heart to love someone and get married?"
A little guidance
"I think it's quite ridiculous to have either a mistress association or an anti-mistress association, as we're both victims fooled by the men who treated us as toys," said Yang, the 30-year-old in the 10-year affair.
She suggested that the women from both associations join forces to blame the men who destroyed their families and their unmarried lovers.
Zhang Zhenyu, a psychology professor at East China Normal University, takes a more moderate view.
"Those two groups, especially the anti-mistress associations, have both positive and negative effects - by helping the heartbroken women share their feelings with others, but by leading to certain ultra emotions toward society as well." He said their negative emotions could affect the next generation and lead other women to be afraid of marriage altogether.
Zhang said both factions need more professional assistance to ratchet down the negative impacts, overreactions and aggressive behavior. He said a neutral person - a lawyer or psychologist - who can make suggestions regularly and moderate emotional excesses is essential for those groups.
One man's view
Most of the women's associations were started by women, but one based in Changsha, Hunan province, was founded by a man with a unique perspective. He is a marriage and family therapist who used to be a private detective. He asked to be called only by his surname, Zhou.
"I was paid to find the mistress for the wives who found out that their husbands had cheated them. Now I am also qualified to offer professional advice to them," said Zhou, who was certified as a therapist two years ago.
Having found at least 50 mistresses for his clients, he said, he witnessed too many heartbroken wives screaming, crying and shouting ugly words at the mistresses. Zhou warned the mistresses to stay away, he said.
"The majority of wives who insisted on meeting the mistresses still wanted to keep their husbands away from their lovers and continue to run the families together," even when they couldn't persuade their husbands, he said.
Zhou also had a few conversations with the husbands, at their wives' request, and said he understood the feelings of powerlessness on both sides.
"I cannot say who was the only cause of the family betrayal. Wives, husbands and mistresses all made mistakes when they dealt with their relationships," Zhou said.
He said he discovered that most of the wives who hired him knew they had contributed to the affair because they had ignored their husbands' feelings for too long. "Most of the men who were exhausted by complaints from their wives every day sought to be taken care of by a third person."
Zhang, the psychologist, said that even before marriage, couples must recognize that "taking care of each other is the basic responsibility. If they want their marriage to be happy forever, they have to stick together emotionally and consider each other's feelings all the time."