“Some of them are purely online or chat-based, but it still disturbs the marriage. Some were discovered at an early stage so they weren’t able to escalate to a stage where they meet up and go to the next level of their liaison,” he said.
While some people in fulfilling relationships arital sex “for fun” and thrill, Mr Lim from Reach Counselling Service said that there is another group whose marriage is already in trouble
“I believe that since the affairs are app-based, people become emotionally distant to the activity and may not see it as cheating… they have found ways to psychologically downplay what they are doing.”
“For example, changes in phone usage patterns. Suddenly, there is a password to the phone, or there is another phone – all of these are signs,” Mr Chua added.
- Being on the phone during hours when they do not usually use their phones, such as waking up at 2am to text
- Appearing secretive with their phone, such as taking it to the bathroom, keeping it under the pillow and being wary of people touching their phone
- Smiling, giggling or laughing aloud when using the phone
- Acting distant or spaced out with spouse or family
- Changes in routines such as work hours and in dressing (for example, being more focused on grooming)
Ms Sophia Goh, principal counsellor and psychotherapist at Sofia Wellness Clinic, said that in general, anything that makes extramarital cheating more accessible will increase its frequency.
“And ever since women entered the workforce, and have higher status and monetary power, you see them having affairs as well,” Ms Goh added.
Online channels that make it sound like it is generally accepted to have extramarital affairs may also drive such behaviour.
“With dating apps and sites that market themselves as platforms that facilitate cheating, they normalise it as a lifestyle choice option,” Dr Lee said.
Mr Chua believes that the increase in such counselling cases that he has encountered in the past two years may partly stem from the loss of usual coping mechanisms that people had before the pandemic.
For example, she pointed out that long before dating apps and internet sites were readily available, research showed that people who travelled more frequently were more inclined to have extramarital sex and affairs
“It’s self-soothing behaviour. The pandemic has cut down a lot of coping mechanisms and means of ‘escape’, like travelling or even going to the pub,” he said.
“That’s when they look outside their marriage. The infidelity is a presenting problem. If you look deeper, the marriage may already be on the rocks before the straying. In such cases, the couple must work on their marriage,” he added.
Mr Chua from Grace Counselling Centre said: “Some people will say things like, ‘This guy has a sex addiction’, but I’m very careful when it comes to making a diagnosis.
“It’s rarely sex addiction, but something more emotional and may reflect the marriage – which is what most people don’t want to hear.”
Ms Goh from Sofia Wellness Clinic is of the view that modern-day relationships are more stressful than those in the past due to the challenges of juggling multiple roles within a relationship.
“If you think about how we used to live, our community was larger and our needs were supported by a wider group of people. In modern-day relationships, however, there is an expectation for one person to be your best friend, lover, parental partner and more,” she explained.