A.C. Snow

Stealing someone else’s heart could cost you

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A word to wedded roaming Romeos and wandering wives: Beware. Your infidelity could cost you a bundle.

The N.C. Court of Appeals has given new life to an old but little used North Carolina law, deeming it constitutional that someone can be sued for alienation of affection. The court has upheld a ruling on an alienation of affection suit that had been thrown out earlier by a Forsyth County judge.

North Carolina is one of the few states that allows damages for stealing love.

The Forsyth case involved a nurse who had had an affair with a doctor at the medical facility where she worked. The doctor is being sued for damages.

Stealing someone’s love is no trifling thing. A lot of good people suffer from wounds of the heart. I’ve been told by one person that being rejected by a spouse is a kind of death.

“Losing someone you love to another is actually worse than losing him to death,” the woman insisted.

“Actually you lose him twice,” she said. “And the first time is more painful, because your pride, your self- respect, self- confidence and a part of your heart die along with the marriage.”

In my own family, many years ago, a young man too handsome for his own or his wife’s good allowed his affection for his loyal and loving mate to be alienated by a “sweet young thang” who worked with him on the second shift at the hosiery mill.

“Did you ever think about suing the other woman for alienation of affection?” I asked the wife later.

“No,” she said. “At the time, all I thought about was borrowing a gun and shooting her!”

How strange that she never once thought about shooting him. It was as if he had been dragged, gagged, bound hand and foot to the other woman’s house trailer against his wishes.

Another victim offers this advice: “Once you truly learn what a cad your philandering spouse has been, you may want to send the other woman or man a dozen roses for exposing who your spouse really is and for taking him/her off your hands.

“Then, lawyer up and sue the hell out of both of them for destroying your peace of mind and your trust ... both of which are priceless and sometimes irreplaceable states of mind.”

The alienation law seems peculiar in these times when freedom of choice in sexual affiliations is so much more prevalent than it was at the time the law was enacted.

While listening to a call-in program on the radio, I heard a woman tell a psychologist that she and her boyfriend had been living together for five months when they decided they were ready “to move to the next level of our relationship,” which was meeting his parents.

Late for the rendezvous, she was introduced by her boyfriend to his dad, who said angrily, “The reason you’re late is you’ve been up all night having sex with my son,” except his language was not that restrained.

The psychologist’s solution: “You and your boyfriend had not been dating long enough for you to meet his parents.”

The circumstances that cause a spouse or partner to become alienated from the person to whom he or she is supposedly committed by vows or choice are legion. They surely go much deeper than leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube.

What is also puzzling is how one measures the monetary value of a philandering mate’s affection. In one 2010 North Carolina case, the jury awarded $9 million in damages to a wife who had sued her husband’s mistress.

Anyway, because of the Appeals Court’s reminder, more jilted spouses or partners may be aching in their hearts but wearing smiles on their face all the way to the bank.