Cheating 2.0

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-6 20:28:01

More Chinese having online affairs

Online affairs are popular among Chinese couples since they find them discrete and convenient. Photo: Li Hao/GT


Mao Qinggang (pseudonym), a 38-year-old supermarket owner from Harbin, Heilongjing Province, fell into complete shock after discovering that his wife was having an affair.

Married for 16 years, the couple have a 4-year-old son who they took years to have due to his wife's epilepsy. Having been through so much together, Mao is still having a hard time understanding how his wife could betray him like she did.

It turned out that Mao's wife had met another man through a chat group on QQ, an instant messaging service. The two had been talking online for two years and sleeping together for three months.

"Thinking about it, I should have noticed something was wrong. She was always on the computer and whenever I was near she would immediately turn the computer off," Mao recalled. "It never occurred to me that she was using that computer to cheat on me."

Mao's wife is not the first person to start an affair after meeting someone online. The recent hack of the Ashley Madison website, a platform for married folk looking to have an affair, demonstrated how popular the Internet has become when it comes to cheating, as well as revealed the trauma cheating causes marriages.

Last month, the infamous website was hacked, leading to the personal information of some 30,000,000 users from 48 countries being leaked online. The incident has been linked to several suicides of users in Canada.

According to a New York Times report last month, one lawyer from London described how, since the incident, his phone had been ringing nonstop as people who found their partners were cheating through the website kept calling for divorce consultations.

Married men and women tend to want a sympathetic ear that will listen to their problems, which often leads to affairs. Photo: IC


Marriage killer

Mao's wife Yu Bo (pseudonym), 38, met her lover online two years ago. At the time, the man's wife had just left him, while Yu's husband was concentrating all of his attention on his business and his son and so barely talked to Yu.

"I was very lonely. I had no one to talk to or understand me in real life, so I decided to make some friends and seek comfort online," Yu told Metropolitan.

When Yu met her lover in a chat group, they immediately hit it off, because they lived in the same city and were both feeling lonely.

As their connection became stronger from chatting online, they decided to meet in person. Their affair began soon after.

As social media continues to develop around the world, an increasing number of people have started to use the Internet to sneak around the back of their significant others, according to Lu Mingsheng, an expert on marriage and family law from the China Law Society.

Of the numerous Ashley Madison users leaked, 480,000 were from China.

That number is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online cheating in China.

"Although China doesn't have a website specifically designed for extramarital affairs, many social media apps, such as WeChat or Momo, are being widely used by married people to seek out an affair," Lu said. 

Divorce cases in China rose from 2,678,000 to 3,637,000 between 2010 and 2014. Among these divorce cases, 74.6 percent were caused by extramarital affairs, Lu said.

In a report from January, Shu Xin, the executive chairman of the China Marital Family Work Association, explained that since 2014, divorce cases involving extramarital affairs that started through social media apps have increased 20 percent over the past decade.

According to a January report from Guancha Syndicate, there were 61,800,000 social media users in the Chinese mainland, with the most popular social media apps being QQ, WeChat, Sina Weibo, Renren and Momo.

Social media isn't just a place for people to look for affairs, but also a place for suspicious husbands and wives to catch their significant others.

In January, Lu Lu, 24, an employee at a Beijing IT company who also runs a store on Taobao, launched a service that people can use to test how loyal their husbands or boyfriends really are.

Lu started out by employing 10 of her female friends. Customers who want to test if their partners are loyal are able to hire one of Lu's employees to tempt their partners through social media.

Lu's store received 1,000 orders in its first 15 days. The age of targets ranged from 18 to 35 years old, while 20 percent of them were married.

"Ninety percent of the guys were tempted and asked to meet with the girls online. Some even bad mouthed their girlfriends or wife. Most of the couples broke up afterwards," Lu said.

A sympathetic ear

Chen Zhilin, a relationship counselor based in Chongqing, said that the main reason why more people are using social media to seek out an extramarital affair is because they believe it's more convenient and discreet.

People can sit on the couch at home and hook up with a stranger without raising suspicions by not being home, Chen said.

The anonymity that comes with the Internet has also made it less likely to get caught, as it's more difficult for people to collect evidence that they are cheating, he continued.

Another reason behind these affairs is that when Chinese feel stressed at work or unhappy in life, they normally don't share these feelings with family members or friends because of the worry that things might be made public or that talking about problems with the people they are intimate with would make them seem weak. In the end, confiding in a stranger tends to be more attractive, said Chen.

"Most online affairs in China begin with the desire to simply communicate with other people."

Yu said when she started talking to her lover, she was going through a rough patch in her life.

Her husband was always yelling at her for handling their supermarket business poorly or not taking good enough care of their son, while her family considered her a burden due to her condition.

"I couldn't talk to any of my friends, because I was afraid that they would laugh at me. And I believed talking to my husband would only worsen matters," she said.

"But the man I met online was really gentle and caring. He listened to me. He also wrestled with illness for years, so he understood me." 

According to the report, among the divorces involving online affairs in the country in 2014, 70 percent involved men cheating, while 30 percent involved women cheating.

Based on Chen's observation, online affairs in China are evenly split between men and women. He believes this is because more women in China are economic independent and they believe they have the right to pursue what they want, including extramarital affairs.

"Most of the women who have affairs possess good educational backgrounds and economic resources," Chen said.

Mending a broken marriage

After the Ashley Madison information was leaked, lawyers in Western countries began expecting a wave of divorces, according to the New York Times. However, things are different in China.

In the report, Shu pointed out that after an affair, only 30 percent of the Chinese couples consider a divorce, while 70 percent continue on for the sake of their family and children.

After the affair, Mao chose to stay married for the sake of their son, but they rarely talk unless their son is present.

Sun Hao, a relationship counselor from Beijing, stressed that couples need to repair their relationship if they really want to continue their marriage, which means finding a way to deal with what happened and the trauma it caused.

One of the key things is giving the betrayed partner enough time to deal with their emotions, which usually lasts from three to six months.

Sun said once they return to a state where their emotions are easier to control, it is the time for the one who cheated to apologize and demonstrate that he or she is sincere about continuing the relationship.

Couple's therapy is also recommended by Sun for working out issues.

"Without professional marriage therapy, an affair is likely to happen again for some couples. It is best to have couple's therapy which couples attend together to discover the problems in their marriages that led to the affair in the first place, and work things out."

Mao said that he is still angry about the affair and cannot bring himself to trust his wife, even though it's been a year since he found out. "Maybe over time, if the affair doesn't happen again and my wife is more devoted to our son and family, I'll forgive her and our marriage will work again," he said.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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