It's easy to click your way online to an affair these days, but what about all that digital ‘lipstick’ on your cyber-collar?
This week, Hollywood star Cate Blanchett said she reads all emails addressed to her husband, Andrew Upton, who is reportedly happy with this arrangement — he detests emails.
But not everybody would allow a partner unfettered access to their inbox.
The internet has made infidelity easier and people are availing of its accessibility — the number of Irish sign-ups to extra-marital affairs website, ashleymadison.com, is up 38% on last year, compared to an average, year-on-year 28% increase in Europe.
It’s so simple to ‘find’ someone on Facebook, or send a flirty text to that work colleague you like — while your unsuspecting spouse or partner is sitting next to you.
And, it seems, people do.
According to Cameron Barnes, author of the book Affair!, 70% of married men and 50% of married women will have an affair, “sooner or later” — other research has revealed that 30% of the users on dating websites are not single.
However, today’s easy electronic access to illicit romance can lead to tears.
Lipstick on a man’s collar was a traditional pointer to infidelity, but, as Christoph Kraemer, European communications manager for Ashleymadison.com, says, there’s a very modern equivalent:
“We now have digital lipstick — texts, email, Facebook posts. We have to be very careful of what we leave behind.”
Kraemer says that ashleymadison.com members are advised to keep communications within the website — and, if they want to communicate by mobile phone, to buy a second one, and keep it solely for that reason.
“A lot of people are getting second phones — about a quarter of our members have a second phone,” he says, adding that such a ‘secret’ phone is used only for communicating with a secret lover.
However, texting, emailing and using social media to conduct an affair can be a minefield, says relationships counsellor, Tony Moore. In the early stages of a love-affair, Moore says, there’s such a rush to communicate with a new lover that people can send hundreds of texts in a short period of time — and they can get careless. “Unless they delete each one, they can forget about it,” says Moore, a therapist with Relationships Ireland.
“Social media certainly makes it easier to be unfaithful — and cause huge damage — but it is also easier to trip up, because people get careless.”
Don’t imagine you can wriggle off the hook by pleading that sexy texts don’t matter, and that only sexual intercourse can be classed as infidelity.
While men view infidelity as primarily about sex, for many women, says Barnes, an affair is primarily about emotional intimacy — so a husband’s cheeky msg to a colleague could land him in the soup.
Moore says that it is the ‘functional,’ or humdrum, nature of many long-established marriages that leaves them most at risk of infidelity.
“Of 100 marriages, around 50 will end in divorce,” he says.
“Of the 50 left, about 25 will not be happy.
“Out of the 25 that are left, 15 or more will be staying together for the children.”
Statistically, about 65% of married people have affairs, he says — much of it, Moore says, is now conducted through social media.
But be warned.
“A lot of partners and spouses, often women, will open their partner’s post, so it’s only a short step to checking their texts and emails,” he says.
This can be easy, as many couples may have no passwords, or may use a joint password — and, if a partner or spouse suddenly introduces a secret password, or changes an existing password without telling the other what it is, it will raise suspicions.
It’s a minefield.
“I would say to people to think deeply before starting this stuff — they don’t think of the consequences of lying to, and cheating on, not only their spouse, but their children.”
And here’s something else to consider — if you’re carrying out secret spot-checks on a partner’s text messages or emails, ask yourself what your actions say about the trust in your relationship, says matchmaker, Avril Mulcahy.
However, Mulcahy (avrilmulacahy.com) says that Irish people are no more unfaithful than other nationalities.
“These sites want people to have an affair — that’s how they are making money.
“The more the message goes out there that infidelity is normal, the more money these sites can make.”