Letters from Japan: 'Can I sue my husband's mistress for psychological stress?'


Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to with the subject "Ask Hilary."

Hi Hilary,

I’m a foreign woman married to a Japanese man and currently living in Tokyo. I am a housewife but also have a part-time job at an international company.

Last year I caught my husband cheating on me with multiple women, including sex workers. It’s like he’s obsessed with sex. One of his partners is a married woman he used to date before we were married (he told me it wasn’t a serious relationship)—we used to fight about her but he said they weren’t in contact any longer. It turns out she is one of his affair partners despite her also being married.

I’m shocked by how shameless they are. My husband and I are now in relationship counseling, but I want to sue her for psychological distress. I have limited knowledge about legal matters in Japan and I don’t have much money for hiring a lawyer. Do you have any advice for me?

Heartless Wife

Dear Heartless Wife,

I find your choice of moniker intriguing. Do you see yourself as heartless for wanting to make this woman pay, or because of your current views on your partner and his behavior? Because you’re in counseling with your husband and don’t seem to be divorcing him, I assume you want this relationship to work.

It’s reasonable to be angry with both your husband and his affair partners, and even more so when one of those partners is someone you two have fought about in the past. However, it might be helpful to you if you talk about these feelings with a psychologist or counselor on your own, in individual counseling.

According to Japanese civil law, while you can sue his affair partner for emotional distress, there is no guarantee that you will win or be awarded anything—and you will definitely need a lawyer and time in order to sue properly.

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How about first examining your performance as a wife first to determine why he needed a mistress?

3 ( +21 / -18 )

It is - or used to be common in Japan to sue someone your spouse has been having an affair with if it has damaged or broken your marriage. Actions have consequences, and those who say they are not in the wrong because they are not the one cheating, are kidding themselves.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The biggest mistakes this woman made are in marrying the cheating arse nugget in the first place, and then by staying with him.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

She wants to sue 'the woman' but notes "last year I caught my husband cheating on me with multiple women." I think she might be a little nuts, or she should put them in order or keep a book and record. Before that, ask herself why her husband enjoys other women more than he does her.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

so, she is going to sue "multiple women, including sex workers"? A hint, there is a common link to all this mess, and that's your husband. Blaming the problems in your marriage on other people won't solve anything

16 ( +16 / -0 )

divorce is so difficult to get

It isn't, but staying together is economically and socially the easier option, even when you hate each other.

However, his screwing around reflects very poorly on him, not on her. They need to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, not sneak around and lie.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

If you think it has nothing to do with you and you are just being hard done by, etc., it's because you are not looking at what YOU did to bring about the situation. It's NEVER one sided.

Invalid CSRF

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I will remember this guy as a liar.

If he lies on cheating her, he lies on everything.

Mutual respect has to be from both sides.

I feel sorry for her as it is so well known for Japanese women to go to fuzoku.

When introduced to the subsidiary of my international company when starting to work in Japan on first day, I was proposed a "tour" by head of HR there and made me visit the area where you can enjoy after work. It was not only the izakaya my total surprise.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

 It is excruciatingly difficult for a man to get a divorce in Japan unless his wife agrees. The procedure is medieval and can last as long as 5 years.

Both people must consent for a quick divorce, this is true.

Presumably, by "a man... his wife" you mean "a person...their spouse". Or are you suggesting only the men have problems?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

perhaps instead of the wife it should be the man suing for psychological stress due to lack of fun in the bedroom?!

I know a few Japanese men either married or in serious relationships who have secret/aka pinky finger "friends" and from what they all say it seems commonly accepted in Japanese male culture to have a mistress or extra-marital relationship as long as you don't bring any of it home or let it interfere with family....just keep bringing home the bacon and handing it over to the wife!

Upon hearing this the first few times from them I asked why they would risk jeopardizing their relationships and they all claimed their mate wasn't satisfying them sexually, some holding out for years due to excuses such as tiredness, age, stress, or a flat-out non-interest in it

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Cheating seems to be more common and accepted Japanese society more than in Europe or the US. As a student I used to work at a luxury hotel and everyday we had multiple couples checking in for day use. After a while you could pretty much tell who is married or not.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What about sueing your husband? Or was he forced into the extra marital relationships. Better still, how about divorcing the worthless, lying, cheating, mendacious waste of space of a spouse. Why are you so desperate to be with a man who doesn’t have one iota of respect for you.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The husband was with the woman before. The wife knew she was still in the picture as they used to argue about her. He then has an affair with her as well as well as employing the services of sex workers.

His behaviour is getting worse, and no amount of counselling will change his ways. There is a pattern here.

Suing for damages achieves nothing and will just drag things out. Will the husband of the mistress sue her husband for damages as well?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

perhaps instead of the wife it should be the man suing for psychological stress due to lack of fun in the bedroom?!

I don't know. If you are cheating with one woman, it may be because something is lacking in the bedroom. If with several women simultaneously including sex workers, maybe the guy is addicted to sex. Sometimes having a lot of sex just makes you want sex more.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@reckless no one should stay in a relationship that makes them miserable, unhappy or scared. She has the option of going home. I think she likes the idea of being married, maybe divorce is taboo for her. If it was me, though, I would be on the first plane home.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I agree with seriously looking into the physical side of your relationship and whether or not you are using it as a weapon in a carrot and stick way? Its often said unfairly that familiarity breeds contempt and that a wedding cake reduces a woman's libido by a large percentage. I'm not sure if you knew about his nature before you tied the knot and whether or not you want to have a family? As you are probably aware, a man can commit no shame outside of his home/house and this does involve extra curricular activities. Some Japanese spouses severely limit the husbands expenditure and allowance to 1000Yen a day which makes health delivery games very difficult.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

He either needs to work on not getting found out, or he just doesn't care coz he knows his missus is a mug who'll keep taking him back.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about first examining your performance as a wife first to determine why he needed a mistress?

Have you ever been cheated on before? No matter what you do, it's never enough for these types of people, they like the responsibilities and things that come with a serious partner while having the fun of screwing around behind their back. Either you've never had a partner or you're probably a cheater trying to defend their actions

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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