SHANA, Vietnam — If you’re married to a hot wife, you’re probably a little apprehensive about speaking to her about her husband’s cheating.
“I’m afraid you’re going to feel bad,” she told me when I visited her in her home here.
I was worried she might not want to discuss the affair with me, or maybe it would come out too soon.
But it did, and the first thing she did was tell me to come back later.
It was the beginning of what has become a tradition in Vietnam — women are expected to speak about their husbands’ affairs with them, in public, and even when they’re married.
It’s an informal form of communication, and not a practice that’s entirely uncommon in Vietnam.
In the past, women would not dare speak about the affair publicly because they thought it might hurt their marriages.
But since the war, many Vietnamese have embraced the idea of publicizing their husbands cheating — even if they have trouble convincing them to stop.
“It’s because it’s an internal affair,” said Nguyen Minh, a 52-year-old mother of four who is married to her husband, Nguyen Min.
“My husband’s not cheating, so we have to speak up.”
In fact, many women here say they believe it’s safer to speak out publicly than to hide the matter from their husbands, especially if the husband is a public figure.
“You don’t want to offend your husband,” said Tieu Thi Thi, a 25-year old mother of two who is a housewife.
“But if you’re talking to a guy who’s not a public person, then it’s not worth it.”
There are some advantages to publicly speaking about a husband’s affairs.
First, it can show the women that their husbands are honorable, and that they are not the only ones who have affairs.
And second, it may help to prove to the men that their wives have more important things to do with their lives than what’s happening in their personal lives.
“They think that women can’t be independent,” said the mother of three who is also a housekeeper.
“So when they say that they want to have an affair, they are telling the truth.”
The women in this Vietnamese village are in a delicate position, because their husbands have made their lives miserable.
They’ve seen their children starve, and they’ve seen them take their own lives.
Yet they still refuse to speak to the media about their marriages or their husbands.
It can be very hard for them to trust their husbands — especially if they know they might be lying to them.
“We’ve been married for so long, and I’m so used to my husband, he’s always telling me what to do, he always looks at me like I’m stupid,” said a 39-yearold housekeeper who gave her surname as Phuong.
“And now I’m going to have to take him to court, because he told me that I had an affair.
But I just don’t trust him.”
The wives of the wealthy, well-connected men who run large businesses in this region say that many of them are terrified of speaking out publicly.
“Many of them think they’ll lose their job if they tell anyone,” said one woman who asked not to be named.
“Some of them say, ‘If I tell my husband I had sex with him, it will make me look bad, it won’t help me in the future.
It won’t make him change.'”
And some of the women who do speak out have also been sexually abused by their husbands over the years.
But the wives say they’ve never been physically or verbally abused.
“Even if I’ve been beaten or raped by him, I don’t think it will change his heart,” said Phuang.
“He will continue to have the same kind of sex that he always had.”
This article originally appeared on The Wall St. Journal.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.