Letters from Japan: “Can I Sue Her?” & “Lockdown Weight”
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Ask 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?
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.
it might be helpful to you if you talk about these feelings with a psychologist or counselor on your own
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.
There’s another issue with this: according to the case-law cited in the book Lovesick Japan by Mark D. West, “a spouse who forgives her spouse forfeits the right to sue the adultery partner.” Furthermore, based on the law there’s a chance that, if that married woman gets divorced because of your lawsuit, she or her husband could sue you in return for interfering in their relationship.
In February 2019, the Supreme Court stated that “even if infidelity breaks down marriage and leads to divorce unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as the third party involved unreasonably interfering in the marriage in a bid to prompt a divorce, the third party is not liable for paying damages for the divorce.”
if that married woman gets divorced because of your lawsuit, she or her husband could sue you in return for interfering in their relationship
It can’t be an easy situation to be in, but from my understanding of the law and the fact that you mention having limited funds, I think it would be more stressful for you to sue her, and might cause further problems for you than any benefits. Furthermore, I would remind you that your husband is just as much, if not even more responsible for the emotional distress you have suffered. I think talking to your counselor or going to private therapy for yourself would help you much more at this point in time. Best of luck.
I’m a big girl by Japanese standards, and since this whole pandemic thing started, I’ve been stuck working from home.
I don’t like to exercise, I’m stressed af, and because I’m home 24/7 and eating whatever I feel like, I’ve gained like 15 lbs. What do I do?
Dear Locked Down,
Overeating is a common coping mechanism to which many people can relate. Everyone is under a great deal of stress and pressure, many are experiencing cabin fever, and the whole “lockdown weight” is just adding to that stress.
Even though you profess to dislike exercise, it may be exactly the sort of outlet you’re looking for. In these claustrophobic times, it could be the escape you’re looking for but not achieved through food. Why do you hate exercising? I’m not judging you—I used to hate it too because I’m not a big fan of gym culture. I prefer to do things at my own pace rather than under the guidance of a coach or trainer, plus I’m not personally comfortable with being surrounded by a bunch of naked strangers in the change room afterward. That all makes me less likely to exercise, in fact.
even though you profess to dislike exercise, it may be exactly the sort of outlet you’re looking for
However, because of the lockdown, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go for the walks I prefer, so I bought a stationary bike. It’s nothing fancy, but it counts my distance traveled, rotations per minute, and the time I spent riding. When I’m feeling trapped or stressed, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m traveling to far-off places currently out of reach. Plus, I can sit my laptop on the handlebars and work at the same time if I like. That’s been a fun change of pace while working, and it’s helped me to lose weight, too.
If it’s not the gym culture but the act of working out itself, then you might consider doing some “non-exercise” exercise. Basically speaking, you do your regular house cleaning duties, but you have to do x number of movements at a time as if you were doing reps in a gym. For example, scrubbing the shower floor by doing five swipes with one arm, then the other, then standing up and repeating that for each shower wall. It burns calories just as well and has the added bonus of keeping your house spotless too.
when I’m feeling trapped or stressed, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m traveling to far-off places
To start yourself off, you might want to read this article by Katheryn Gronauer which might help you to change the way you think about yourself and weight loss. After that, you might want to look at different ways of changing your diet in Japan, adding healthier food choices, and of course, doing some exercises at home that will help you shift the weight. These exercises should also help you cope with your stress too, which will help you to stop comfort eating. You can do this!