China has got an ingenious way to deal with cheating spouses
So, you've heard through the grapevine that your lover has another and you don't know what to do. As always, when it comes to a cheater, there are certain courses of action you can take. You could confront them about it and try to talk it out; stay quiet, forgive, forget and hope they never do it again; or you can take up TLC's mantra, decide that you won't suffer no scrubs and vacate the relationship with your head held high.
However, if you're in China, there is one other option available: a Love Hospital. These are the bizarre establishments which specialise in helping scorned women, and some men, see off their love rivals. Upon discovering their spouse has been unfaithful, people will head down to a Love Hospital for assistance, sometimes paying tens of thousands to bat away their partner's bit on the side.
When the BBC interviewed Ming Li and Shu Xin, who has been running the Love Hospital for 17 years now, they revealed some of the tactics used by these establishments for "mistress dispelling", as it's named over there. Xin disclosed that they had 33 ways to dispel a mistress, including four main techniques: persuading the mistress to fall in love with someone else, getting the husband's boss to relocate him to a different city, getting parents or friends to intervene, and attempting to disgust the mistress by describing the husband's rotten character and nasty hereditary diseases.
In one particularly extraordinary instance, one "mistress disposal professional" told the LA Times that his firm faked a car accident, covering the wife head to toe in chicken blood, to make her husband feel sorry for her. In another, fake loan sharks were allegedly sent to a mistress' apartment with a mystery auctioneer swooping in at the last moment to save the woman, sweep her off her feet and entice her away from her lover. He added that, if these techniques fail, the extramarital affair may be exposed in local media outlets.
Xin insisted that all of his 33 techniques were completely legal, however, refused to divulge the 29 other methods, stating that they were "business secrets". His rudimentary description of the process has led many to speculate that the hospitals also indulges in below the belt practices that may be illegal. Ming Li and Shu Xin insist that all of their techniques are legitimate, although, several stories in the Chinese press about Love Hospitals report otherwise.
In addition, Dai Peng Jun, who runs his own Love Hospital service in Shanghai, owned up to his dodgy practices, admitting to the BBC that he runs a team of undercover operatives who travel up and down the country helping women separate their partners from "unwanted thirds", as they're commonly known as.
"There's one ultimate way of dispelling mistresses," he told them. "We befriend them, we get intimate pictures or videos and then we give them to the clients." What he is alluding to is the process of capturing images that prove a husband's mistress is not being faithful to him. Apparently, most of the time when he discovers her "infidelity", he will leave her and return to his wife and family.
But is this unorthodox way of dealing with love rats acceptable? Despite the fact that there is a strong chance that it is illegal, the process seems morally ambiguous; it's unethical to cheat on your partner, but it also seems unprincipled to blackmail their lover.
However, Peng Jun argued that Love Hospitals provide an important public service, saying that it has become second nature for wealthy men to have a bit on the side and the adultery needs to stop. He appears to be on the money with that. According to reports, the age-old Chinese tradition of wealthy men keeping concubines was declared degenerate and illegal, and the equal rights of women were enshrined in marriage law decades ago. However, since the 1970s, the trend has returned and many wealthy men and people in high places of power have reverted to the old ways. One survey published in the official media, even reports that 95 per cent of officials convicted under President Xi Jinping's latest anti-corruption drive have been found to be keeping one or more mistresses on the sly.
Yet, what are the chances of your marriage being happy, even after the extra woman has vanished? And what if your husband follows the example of the officials and merely picks up another three? Is it worth tens of thousands to go to the effort of removing one, only for another to take her place days later?
The BBC spoke to one woman, identified only as "Mrs X", who had herself spent thousands on dispelling her husband's mistress. She insisted that every penny was worth it, saying: "Of course I still love him. There are many things I still love about him. And now I know what the problem is with our marriage. I know how to manage marriage."
Her optimism will surely astound anyone who has been cheated on in the past. Instead of the heartbreak, pain and mistrust that normally comes after a spell of infidelity, should we all just be turning to Love Hospitals to solve our relationship woes? Perhaps, but I think most of us would rather do a Taylor Swift: break up with them, write a vicious platinum-selling song about it, earn a shedload of cash, and be done with it.