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lpc1998 - 11:02am Jun 13, 2001 SGT (70.1)
When the straying eyes are hers...

STI Wednesday 13 June 2001:

How times have changed. It used to be the unfaithful husband wrecking a marriage but, now, it is the wives who do the straying. Twenty family lawyers and counsellors say it is no longer a rare phenomenon for distraught husbands to come to them for help.

By Theresa Tan

MORE marriages here are falling apart because of unfaithful wives. And the typical straying wife is a woman in her 20s or 30s who has been married for just a couple of years with no children, or maybe one young child. She is relatively well-educated and earns her own income.

Most of the 20 family lawyers and marriage counsellors interviewed say it is no longer a phenomenon for distraught husbands to come to them for help.

In fact, lawyers say that of the marriages they see in which infidelity is discovered to be the major cause of breakdown, the unfaithful one is the wife in about a third of the cases.

A decade ago, only about one in 10 of the affairs were committed by women. The man was almost always the one who strayed, lawyers said.

The five marriage counsellors interviewed said the increasing number of men in a crisis situation because their wives were having affairs was a worrying trend.

Mr Spencer Lee, a counsellor from the Covenant Family Service Centre (FSC), said he had seen about four such cases in the past eight months. Lawyer Amolat Singh said: 'Women have more economic independence and more opportunities to meet other men.

'Gone are the days when women marry one person and cling onto the wreckage. If the marriage is not working out, they would jump ship early.'

Some say the rise in cheating wives is an indicator of changing social values.

Ms Ellen Lee, a lawyer who has been practising for 20 years, said: 'Education may have played a big part as they are more exposed to Western culture and mindsets. They think 'what's the big deal?' '

But, said Dr Anamah Tan, a lawyer who has been practising for almost 40 years, most times, these women just happen to meet someone who meets their needs while their husbands don't.

Many said their husbands worked long hours and did not spend enough time with them.

'Affairs are usually a symptom of a marriage going wrong,' Dr Tan said. 'If the marriage is strong, why should they stray?'

Not everyone, however, agree that more wives are having affairs. Lawyer Angela Wong said husbands were responsible for 90 per cent of extramarital affairs.

'No woman here can afford to juggle their roles as wife, mother and worker. Where do they find time to have affairs?'

Mr Elijah Sim, a counsellor from the Pasir Ris FSC, cautioned that the trend might not mean more women are having affairs, but rather that husbands who had been cheated were more receptive towards seeking help.

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