Exterminating infidelity, like a spy
An increasingly number of rich people in China are turning to a very unique, albeit controversial, service in order to save their marriages
Individuals who do not wish to divorce their cheating spouses now have another means to resolve the problem at hand — a clandestine operation undertaken by professionals to “exterminate” the third party. But contrary to what the term implies, there is no violence involved.
These operatives are actually marriage counselors who resort to a variety of ways to engage the third party and convince them to back out of the affair. They charge about 200,000 yuan ($31,500) or more for a successful case, and 90 percent of their clients are rich wives mostly aged between 35 and 55. Male clients form the remaining 10 percent.
China’s divorce rate has being on the rise for 12 consecutive years since 2003. There were 3,637,000 divorces cases last year, up 3.9 percent from 2013, according to statistics by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2014. Extra marital affairs are one of the reasons behind those broken marriages.
One such “exterminator” is Ming Li, who works for the Weiqing Group, an agency that provides marriage counseling services in over 40 Chinese cities. Ming said that the high fees are justifiable because it could take several months to a year’s work before the third party voluntarily exits the affair. While there is no official data on extramarital affairs in China, Ming claimed that they account for 85 to 90 percent of her marriage counseling cases.
According to Ming, who has 15 years of experience in marriage counseling, exterminators usually attempt to gain the trust of their subjects under the disguise of a compassionate outsider.
“It’s just like being a spy,” said the 46-year-old who is based in Shanghai.
For one of her cases, Ming went to great lengths to move into the apartment below her target. She then deliberately spilled water in her own bathroom before confronting the woman, claiming that there was a water leakage from above. The two ladies soon became acquaintances as a result of that incident, and Ming even regularly offered to buy things from the supermarket for her new “friend”, including treating the latter to expensive salmon. The breakthrough came when the woman confided in Ming about her ongoing affair.
Premium products like salmon hardly ranks as the most expensive investments these exterminators have to make. At times, they resort to even costlier gifts such as jewelry and designer handbags, said Shu Xin, Ming’s colleague.
According to Shu, one exterminator had even gotten the third party woman a job back in her hometown and prepaid the company her wages for one year.
Other methods include helping the third party find a more suitable partner, disclosing the little-known secrets of their married lovers, and involving their family and friends in the persuasion process.
Many people may not have
Ming Li, heard of affair exterminators but the profession is not new. In fact, Ming said that such discreet services have been around since she started her career in marriage counseling 15 years ago. In the past, most of the wives who were cheated on simply demanded for a divorce without considering the ramifications. While these days they are more inclined to maintain a complete family for their children, according to Ming.
“Ninety-eight percent of them don’t want the divorce even when their husbands promise to provide for them financially after the split. This is because they think their chances of getting remarried, unlike their husbands, are very slim,” said Ming. “However, compared with their male counterparts, cheating wives are more determined to file for divorce and give up money for love.”
A small number of Ming’s clients include the very individuals she is supposed to persuade too. Ming reluctantly admitted that she sympathizes with them at times.
“Some are cheated into the relationship. Some are confused. They know their chances of marrying the people they are seeing are very slim. They also dare not tell their friends or family about their situation. Some mistresses even panic when someone knocks on their doors, thinking that people have come to beat them up,” Ming said.
Ming pointed out that sincerity, tolerance and eloquence are key to becoming a successful affair exterminator, in addition to being able to “think in the third party’s shoes”.
The job requires at least five years of experience in marriage counseling and personal marital experience. This is to ensure that exterminators can truly understand the case at hand. As such, most of them are aged 35 and over. The majority of exterminators are women.
Shu revealed that his agency plans to train 1,000 exterminators within three years despite the high costs involved — training a person to become an effective affair exterminator requires at least six months and an investment of more than 300,000 yuan. He added that most of the exterminators hired today were at some point in time a marriage counselor, a psychiatrist or a divorce lawyer.
This unusual business has also aroused the interest of investors, some of whom had showed up at a summit on affair extermination services in Shanghai on Oct 10, reported thepaper.cn. The summit aimed to provide such services with proper accreditation and enforce regulation.
Organizers of the summit, China Marital Family Work Association, laid down the rules including compliance laws and protection of privacy for affair exterminators during the event, and a hotline has also been opened for customers to report misconducts by the exterminators.
The industry has already stirred controversy on the Internet. While some people think it’s a bright business idea, others consider it useless as it does nothing to prevent the cheating from reoccuring.
Chen Yaya, a researcher on gender equality at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, expressed concern that such an industry may give people the impression that they can make a fortune by interfering in other people’s marriages. However, she was supportive of such a service.
“The aim of persuading the third parties to back off helps defend marriages, which aligns with our mainstream values. There is no harm in finding a solution in a civilized way,” said Chen.
“However, those who can pay for the service are only a very small fraction of the population. As long as the business does not break the law while fully considering and protecting the interests of all sides, it’s okay with me.”
Jia Mingjun, a divorce lawyer in Shanghai, warned that this practice may invade the privacy of the parties involved if their affairs or other life details are disclosed without their consent, though he also thinks the affair extermination business is a positive thing to have.
Having been a divorce lawyer for 13 years, Jia said that though divorce rates have risen in tandem with the rapid development of the economy, people’s emotional needs and family disputes have generally remained the same. Also, he believes affairs are not necessarily the main cause of a divorce, but just one of the possible outcomes.
“A couple may have other problems first, such as major disagreements with his or her partner, or disputes with the inlaws. The possibility of infidelity increases as a result,” he said.
Some are cheated into the relationship. Some are confused. They know their chances of marrying the people they are seeing are very slim …Some mistresses even panic when someone knocks on their doors, thinking that people have come to beat them up.”
who works for the Weiqing Group, an agency that provides marriage counseling services
Marriage counselors say that women these days would hesitate about divorcing their husbands as they’d much rather offer their children a complete family.