SINGAPORE — Adultery and extramarital affairs are ancient vices, but with dating apps such as Tinder and other social media platforms, a whole new world of infidelity is now at your fingertips or just a click away.
Marriage counselors and therapists who spoke to TODAY said the accessibility of online platforms has given people greater opportunities to engage in illicit affairs and have sex outside of committed relationships. – most of these activities only being exposed when the person is caught.
Last week, a 47-year-old married man was jailed for engaging in paid sex with a 15-year-old girl he met on Sugarbook. The dating site matches younger women, or “sugar babies,” with older men who are supposed to pay for their company.
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, relationship counselor and clinical sexologist at Eros Coaching, said online cheating has been happening for some time.
Although technology is an enabler, Dr. Lee emphasized that it depends on how the individual uses it.
“It can be used to facilitate romance in a long-term relationship or marriage, for example, to flirt, to create time and space for romance. Those who intend (to have affairs) can also use it to facilitate cheating,” she said.
Along with dating apps that allow people to connect, there are also apps that facilitate timed messages that expire, providing a channel for discreet communication. One can also find and potentially connect with random strangers on messaging apps such as WeChat and Telegram, Dr Lee said.
“There are people who try their luck on the condition of having a female first name, for example.”
Mr Ronald Lim, Head of Reach Counseling Service, said online cheating might be more difficult to detect, given its discreet nature. Coupled with easy access, this can be tempting for people who aren’t satisfied with their relationships or are looking for excitement outside of marriage.
“As we are now always on our phones reading the news, texting, emailing, watching videos, the person may not know what their spouse is doing unless they are sitting next to them. him,” Lim added.
Mr. Kirby Chua, counseling psychologist and coordinator at the Grace Counseling Centre, has a different view.
Even though everyone now uses a smartphone, it’s not true that online cheating is harder to detect, he said.
“It works both ways. I’ve seen people get caught because their wives checked their phone or other devices related to it.
WHAT ADVISORS SEE
At the Grace counseling centre, Mr Chua estimated that couples seeking advice due to infidelity online have doubled since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is becoming very common and I am not surprised to hear of such cases. It’s like Covid-19 – it’s everywhere. And it’s not just the guys (who go astray),’ he added.
In about a fifth of the cases he saw, it was the woman who got lost. Most are in their thirties.
Among the cases Mr Chua recently encountered was a Singaporean couple in their 30s who sought professional help to save their marriage, after a family friend saw the husband’s profile on Tinder.
It turned out that he was having sex with various people he met through the dating app.
“He had been doing this for months and his wife never noticed. When she found out she was super shocked – something I would consider a red flag in their marriage,” Mr Chua said.
“Because if they had had a love life in harmony, she might have seen the signs. I believe the couple had communication issues early on (before affairs even started).