Singapore Love and relationships: Are you having an affair without knowing it?

People become more uninhibited online, especially when they can’t see who they are talking to. But as long as there’s no physical contact, there’s no harm done, right?

Wrong. The time and emotional involvement placed into these online relationships can strain or even destroy marriages. Platonic relationships too, can harm marital bliss, should one prioritise online interaction over time spent with the husband/wife.

Dangerous boundaries can be crossed when it comes to online relationships; with or without physical contact. Flirtatious messages could encourage people to take it to the next level of physical intimacy.

As the experiences of these two Singapore women would show, the ‘new’ extramarital affair takes place online – accidentally or otherwise.

Mandy and Sue-Ann are split on the issue. Mandy considers emotional cheating an infidelity while Sue-Ann insists that “no physical contact means no affair”. Both readers have been involved in online flirting, growing close to the men they were talking to.

Mandy consoled Benjamin after his breakup. She looked forward to talking to Benjamin more than to her fiance. When Sue-Ann began her online relationship with James, she was going through a difficult time with her husband. She flirted and shared a lot with James, enjoying the attention that he gave her.

While the women eventually gave up their online relationships, neither has been upfront about what they had done with their husbands. Sue-Ann doesn’t feel the need to tell; she hasn’t done “anything wrong” and she thinks that her husband will “blow up” if he knew. Mandy too, wants to avoid jeopardising her marriage by keeping mum about Benjamin.

Counsellor and director Sandy Hui considers emotional involvement a form of infidelity. She defines infidelity as “a violation of mutually agreed-upon rules in an intimate relationship”. Basically, it’s still a form of being unfaithful if you become too emotionally attached to another, she says.

Psychologist Ho Shee Wai agrees with Sandy. Shee Wai says: “You cross the line when you start hiding that online relationship from your partner”. Such deceit creates very real consequences. The sense of betrayal can hurt just as much as conventional affairs. Whether its a ‘sext’ or just a casual hello, you might want to think twice before hitting that send button.

Sandy Hui is a counsellor and director from My Counselling Room, located at 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #05-03, The Central, Soho 1, (S) 059817. Call 6881 6321 for an appointment or visit for more details. Ho Shee Wai is a psychologist and director at The Counselling Place at 7500A Beach Road, #05-323 The Plaza, (S)199591, Tel: 6887 3695.

Non-profit agency Counselling & Care Centre (CCC) provides subsidised marital counselling services at Blk 536 Upper Cross Street, #05-241 Hong Lim Complex, (S) 050536. Dial 6536 6366 to arrange for an appointment or visit for more information.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer September 2010.

Image: Corbis