Should Spouses Be Allowed to Sue Their Ex-Partner’s Lover?

Newsweek has a piece up about a few leftover laws allowing partner’s to sue their ex-husband or ex-wife for emotional humiliation, lack of morality and what they call, “alienation of affection.” And while historically, the law has been used by men to sue their wife’s lover, it has most recently been used by women, to sue their husband’s lover.

While the alienation-of-affection laws have been used by men to sue their wife’s male lover, today they’re more often used by women to go after mistresses. That’s how Cynthia Shackelford, 60, a former teacher, recently won a mind-boggling $9 million judgment against Anne Lundquist, her husband’s lover, whom she accused of “alienation of affection” that resulted in the end of her 33-year marriage.
Denying that this was a case of revenge, Shackelford insisted March 23 on CBS’s The Early Show that her intent was to deter so-called home wreckers. “My main message is to all those women out there who might have their eyes on some guy that is married, to not come between anybody,” she said. Perhaps for Shackelford it truly wasn’t about the money, but the motherly-looking Anne Lundquist isn’t likely to come up with millions of dollars on her salary as a dean of students for a small college. But nonetheless, a moral case was made and the jury ruled in favor of the wife. Lundquist is appealing the judgment.

Wow, to deter home-wreckers? I have always felt that the concept of home-wreckers is sexist because it is based on the idea that a) single women are villains, b) men are prizes that women have to fight over and c) single women’s unfettered sexuality is a threat to the lily-white perfection of heterosexual coupledom. Home-wrecker is a pejorative and it ignores the ways that men benefit from women fighting over them and the role they play in cheating and ending relationships.
Something I have never understood about cheating is why blame the person their partner is cheating with as opposed to, I don’t know, their partner? Suing your partner’s partner (just typing that made me dizzy) ignores the fact that it is your partner that did the cheating, your partner is the person that should be accountable to you, not some stranger. Suing your partner’s partner won’t change what your partner did, which is the actual offensive violation, in my opinion, assuming you were in a consenting relationship where the expectation was monogamy.
Depending on the circumstances perhaps you should be allowed to sue your partner for hardships, abuse, alienation, but suing their other partner makes no sense to me. It appears that the initial law was a function of sexism, since it dates back to when women were considered property and blamed for all the misgivings of men and it seems that it continues to be sexist, because it perpetuates the myth that women are to blame for men’s sexual “transgressions.”

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