The failed-marriage market

By Feng Suwen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/10 19:58:39

Love counseling China’s profitable new industry due to rising divorce and infidelity rates

Photo: VCG

Love counseling is regarded as a business with big potential in China by pioneers in this industry, according to the first relationship protection industry expert forum held in Shanghai on Monday. "This is an industry with unlimited potential, as everyone has a great chance of running into emotional troughs and marital problems," claimed Shu Xin, founder of Shanghai Weiqing Network Technology, when addressing audiences at the forum. "The business of protecting relationships can be profitable," he said.

Of romance and revenue

An increasing number of companies devoted to romance counseling and love tutoring are springing up in recent years around China, rapidly growing into its own strong market force.

Shu himself is the founder of Weiqing, a marriage counseling agency with 17 years of history, well-known for its "33 ways to dispel a mistress." Shu shared with the Global Times that presently he is working on a new case to help a wife form an alliance with her in-laws to shame her cheating husband into ceasing the affair.

Weiqing attempted an IPO in 2016, but had to retreat due to its failure to disclose its confidential client list out of privacy concerns. Public information reveals that the company generated over 20 million yuan ($3.06 million) in revenue in 2016 and managed to achieve a 100 percent annual growth rate for three consecutive years. Its biggest anonymous client, a woman, spent 1.4 million yuan that year to get rid of a woman that almost ripped apart her family.

Shu dismissed widespread rumors about how his business "threatens" mistresses to leave disloyal husbands. Instead, he tends to give away moral lessons and leverage the power of empathy in separating young mistresses from strayed husbands.

"The first step is to befriend the mistress. After we gain her trust, we will ask her to put herself in a scenario where her parents or children became a marriage saboteur. Furthermore, we will encourage her to think in the shoes of the poor wife and guide her to imagine the pain of betrayal herself."

10 billion yuan market

According to Shu's observation, 90 percent of extramarital affairs his company has dealt with are caused by an unsatisfying sex life between husband and wife.

"If men cannot get it at home, they are more than likely to walk out and resort to others."

His message chimed with that of Chris Wu, founder of Xiaolu, an online platform that publishes content about love and affection. He believes bad marriages are sometimes not entirely the fault of the husband.

"Older generations are not very careful with grooming and maintaining their appeal," he followed up. "Some middle-aged women focus too much on children and the daily grind. They gradually become aggressive 'tiger moms' and lose connection with their husbands."

Wu was once himself a victim of a failed romance. After a heartbreaking goodbye from his college girlfriend in the US more than 10 years ago, he spent $3,000 to sign up for a self-improvement course on love and affection. While sitting in the classroom and healing his wounds, he also saw a big business opportunity.

According to Wu, his company - now 4 years old and with over 12 million registered users from all over China - provides articles and tips on love and relationships generated by the company, which hires around 600 staff in total.

Five percent of their user base pay for accounts, contributing to a total of around 200 million yuan in revenue in 2017 alone. Wu believes his company is only seeing a small chunk of China's 2 billion yuan "love counseling market," which he expects will grow to 10 billion yuan within the next five years.

He told the Global Times that, according to the US Department of Labor, there is a vertical industry called "mental health and family relationship counseling" with a market value of $8 billion, providing 168,000 jobs in the United Sates, a country with over 300 million people.

In China, however, only 12,000 professional marriage counselors are available to serve a 1.4 billion population. This leaves plenty of market opportunities for Chinese entrepreneurs such as Wu and Shu.

Photo: VCG

Emotional consumption

An August 2017 report on emotional and psychological services in China issued by the China Marriage and Family Network revealed a clear trend in the rising demand for professional help in this supposedly private matter.

Highlighting the concept of "emotional consumption," the report purported that Chinese people are upgrading from "shop for what they need" to "pursue what they desire," focusing more on self-improvement and emotional well-being.

Unlike their post-1960s and post-1970s generation parents, who were not at all adventurous and married the only person they ever dated, today's Chinese young adults tend to sample different lovers before tying the knot.

This creates an abundance of market opportunities for emotional counseling thanks to "a rising amount of interactions between people," according to Wu.

Shu likewise saw huge market opportunities created by the rising number of people-to-people exchanges in modern China. He firmly believes his expertise in safeguarding marriages can be replicated to protect and improve other types of relationships, such as those between friends, between parents and children and even between vendors and clients.

Shu has already laid out a three-year plan to expand his company to 300 offices from its current 59 across the country. Regretting being too protective of his "tricks and secrets" in saving matrimonies, Shu admits he has now shifted away from his old hands-on approach to training and management.

Instead, he is passing on his know-how and delegating more authority to his 297 employees, most whom are licensed psychological consultants and social workers.

"Our mission is to teach people how to maintain relationships," Shu told the Global Times, highlighting that his company has a 98-percent success rate.

Developing a love quotient

Recalling the cases that have most impressed him, Wu said that those who worked and studied too hard when they were teenagers usually missed the chance to develop their "love quotient."

"Chinese parents are customarily heavy-handed in suppressing puppy love," explained Wu. "Some kids grew up to believe their life will work out perfectly by going to a top university and finding a well-paid job. However, they were never educated on how to smoothly manage a relationship and a family."

He went on to explain that a lack of romantic experience usually gives rise to alpha-male behavior or selfish female characteristics. Those who only care about themselves are not prepared for relationships and will end up causing a rift within their family.

This explains an earlier case from September of 2017, when a Chinese A-level mobile app developer committed suicide following an ugly divorce from his new wife, who after just one month of marriage extorted him multiple times for cash by claiming she had proof of his tax evasion.

The talented man was the founder of WePhone, a top-ranking mobile app, which earned him a fortune. Presumable, he became so self-confident that thought he could use his money to obtain a "trophy wife" via an online matchmaking platform.

Sadly, he blindly selected the prettiest woman who turned out to be way out of his league not just in looks but also diabolical scheming. In his death note, the man called his wife "extremely vicious" and claimed she was the reason he ended his life.

"People need to learn how to build and nurture functional relationships," Wu told the Global Times.

Puppy love training

The recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China also highlighted the "people's pursuit for a better life." A long-term advocate for building a harmonious society, the government realized there is an urgent need to shed light on the state of its citizens' mental health.

A guideline on improving mental health services, issued by Chinese authorities in January of 2017, stated that the size of the Chinese population suffering from mental distress is "on the rise" due to faster economic growth and intense social competition.

Some individual high-profile cases caused by severe psychological disorder have "dampened morale and endangered social stability and public security." Chen Yiyun, a researcher at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes the key to successful emotional education lies in getting an early start on love.

"In fact, the root of many marital problems can be traced back to as early as puberty," she told the Global Times.

Worried that "getting married is now easier than getting enrolled in kindergarten," Chen stressed the importance of providing love education not only to Chinese adults, but more importantly to children in school who are becoming ever more curious about the opposite sex.

She is now playing a leading role in promoting "puppy love training" among public schools across China, targeting 10-19-year-old teenagers. Her lessons encompass everything from appreciating one's own appearance to explaining one's "special feelings" to someone of the opposite sex.

Having spent over a decade abroad, Chen pointed out there is also an insufficiency in love education in Western countries, where emotional breakdowns and divorce rates are much higher than China.

"Marriage and family studies is a very unique academic subject in China," Chen explained. Citing its biggest difference from clinical psychology, she believes China can only borrow a little from Western countries in this regard.

"A better livelihood leads to more life desires. Marriage in China is no longer just about forming a family and raising children. We need to teach people how to love, as mankind was not born with the skill of love. Love education can be a breakthrough in China. If proven effective it may even benefit the rest of the world," she envisioned.


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