SINGAPORE - The first time Madam Audrey Chen cheated, she felt so guilty that she had to "hide" at her parents' home.
She says: "I was so certain that my husband could sense or tell what I had done.
"And I didn't think I could hug my daughter without feeling like I have been a bad mother."
But that was the first - and only - time that she felt guilty, confesses the 33-year-old image consultant in an interview with The New Paper on Sunday.
Madam Chen's husband, who wants to be known only as Don, filed a deed of separation last December.
They were married for eight years.
He says: "My wife has humiliated me. While I was faithful, she went on to betray our marriage vows.
"I don't think any man can tolerate that kind of insult."
And this is why, he says he agrees that websites such as Ashley Madison should be kept out of Singapore.
MyPaper broke the news last week of the website planning to launch in Singapore. And it sparked a public outcry, with Singaporeans and politicians insisting that its maxim "Life is short. Have an affair" is not what Singapore wanted.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post that he is against any company or website that harms marriage.
Madam Chen laughs when she is told what her husband said. "Come on, even before Ashley Madison, I have found my partners through other adult dating websites, like AdultFriendFinder," she says.
"There's nothing wrong," she says. "If men can have affairs, why can't women do the same?"
If there is any tinge of guilt, it's when she has to face her five-year-old daughter. Says Madam Chen: "She is too young right now to really understand what has happened."
Madam Chen's foray into illicit affairs began about 2½ years ago. She was on hospitalisation leave after undergoing surgery.
"I was bored at home and was just trawling the Internet to read up about anything and everything," says Madam Chen.
It was during one of these visits that an ad popped up on her screen and when she clicked on it, the ad took her to an adult dating website, AdultFriendFinder.
And on that "so interesting website that promises to find worldwide sex dates, adult matches, hookups and f**k friends", she signed up and made friends with three men. "One of the three men turned out to be a Singaporean who was bored with his married life," she says.
They chatted online every day for about two months before they finally met up. Madam Chen recalls that first meeting. "We behaved like two teenagers on their first date, all shy and awkward," she says.
"We ended talking about our spouses and children - he has two sons - during the dinner. I thought it was really hilarious."
Despite her earlier statements, Madam Chen says she thinks it was because "we felt somewhat guilty".
Yet by the second date, they had a quick dinner before ending up in bed.
"One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was on my way to my parents' place in a cab," she says.
"I called my husband to say that my sister needed to talk to me... and stayed away for three days."
Says Madam Chen: "I also stopped responding to the man's messages and phone calls because I wanted to forget about everything. He got the hint..."
A month later, Madam Chen was back in the game and this time, she hooked up with an expatriate.
She says: "I think after I got over the initial guilt, (the feeling) that came next was the thrill of being able to get away with it."
Madam Chen says she had four flings before "it got more serious with the fifth man".
"He was different from the other four - he made it clear right from the start that he wanted to have clever conversations..." she says. "He was also much older, in his 50s, and a very well-read man."
Their affair lasted nearly a year before her husband found out - he saw an SMS sent to Madam Chen.
"Don was so furious. And humiliated. Looking back, I realised that he reacted more from a wounded man's pride than as a husband betrayed," she says.
"Do I regret it? Maybe, in some ways, since Don is now going to fight for full custody of our girl."
She believes she strayed because the men - in particular, the last man - were listening to her.
She says: "Men generally are bad listeners and Don is not the patient type who'd spend time hear me gripe about work or anything."
In Ms Penny Ang's case, she blames her husband for her infidelity. "He had an affair first..." she says.
She was still trying to recover from the betrayal when she met "a really, really, caring colleague".
Ms Ang, 38, says: "He was so sensitive and sweet, and I knew he was attracted to me.
"It also happened that my immediate boss was trying to date me." The attention made her feel desirable, she says.
Ms Ang's flings with both men went on for six months before her husband suspected something was amiss. She says: "I managed to keep all three men away from one another for half a year.
"The two in the office didn't know of each other's 'existence' in my life precisely because it was an affair, so we were all careful not to arouse anyone's suspicion."
Ms Ang and her husband, who does not want to be named, have been married for 10 years and have no children.
Things came to a head when her husband marched into her office. She gives a weak laugh, then says: "But what he didn't expect was to find out that there were two men, not one.
"He was shocked. The other two were shocked. And I can tell you, all my colleagues were shocked.
"I think someone even called the Chinese newspapers, but thankfully, all the men in my life refused to speak to the reporter."
The fights at home got worse, with the couple calling each other names and blaming the other for the affair.
Ms Ang says: "I knew he was very hurt and now, I recognise that I had not really forgiven him..."
After several counselling sessions, they have decided to give their marriage another go. But it's hard work, she says.
"Every now and then, we get upset and the past creeps back into our fights. It has been more than a year already and we are still working hard at making it work," says Ms Ang. "But, the bottom line is, we still love each other."
Why more wives straying
Men may be the usual suspects when it comes to cheating but more wives are straying.
Globally, female infidelity is on the rise and Singapore is no exception.
A sexual well-being survey commissioned by condom manufacturer Durex in 2011 revealed that women here are just as likely to cheat. They just have different reasons.
Psychologist Richard Lim, who has been practising relationship counselling for more than 10 years, says: "Women now have better earning power and they are no longer the weaker link. They (the women) know that they no longer have to depend on their husbands."
A panel of professionals - including a private investigator, a divorce lawyer, a counsellor and a psychologist - say they are seeing more men who have come to get help with their cheating wives.
Ms Chang H M, principal therapist at Care Corner Counselling Centre, says that in some cases, the women felt that they could not feel their husband's love after several years of being married.
"The women find that the relationship is lacking - they want intimacy, to be able to 'connect', which can just be touching or kissing," she says.
"But men associate intimacy with sex. So technically, the couple are already speaking in different languages."
Mr Lim says: "In this age, it's easier for the women to seek their needs elsewhere, through a website, a social media platform or even their workmates."
In a previous report, lawyer Amolat Singh had talked of a client who caught his attractive housing agent wife, a mother of two in her 30s, with another man in his own house.
Mr Singh said the adulterous wife complained her husband was not attentive to her after their first child was born.
"They hardly talked and marriage became a routine. Her colleague was very attentive and the affair just happened naturally," he said.
Private investigator David Wong cites an increase of 25 per cent in suspicious husbands who have approached him to track their wives.
He says: "I think the men were not prepared for this trend of cheating women.
"It had always been a man's specialty and here's where you can see the different reactions."
Mr Wong adds: "Most of my women clients, when confronted with evidence of their husband's affairs, end up giving him another chance.
"But four out of every five men will automatically head for a divorce."
As it was in the case of Madam Audrey Chen. Her husband, who wanted to be known only as Don, says: "How can you expect me to forgive her?
"The times may have changed such that women do cheat but male pride still remains the same. Ask any man who is made a cuckold and most will tell you there is no way in hell that he can forgive."
While Ms Phang agreed that websites such as Ashley Madison should be kept away, she feels that this does not mean infidelity will not happen.
Mr Lim shares this view. He said: "The numbers are rising. With or without Ashley Madison."
Infidelity around the world
The 2011 Durex survey, which polled 506 Singaporeans, found that 19 per cent of women were unfaithful to their partners.
While it's the same percentage for men, the difference lies in that the men are likely to be either having casual sex or paying for it, while the women tend to take on longer term partners.
In the US, in a recent study of more than 900 married and single respondents who are dating, researchers found that 19 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men polled admitted to infidelity.
The ABC News report said that more women are cheating on their partners now; research from the 1990s found that only 10 to 15 per cent of women were unfaithful then.
The study also found that women who are unhappy in their relationships are more likely to stray, while men cheat in search of sexual excitement.
A Dutch study of more than 1,500 professionals found that women in high-powered jobs are just as likely to cheat as men in similar positions.
A UK study published by the Daily Mail Online last month found that women between ages 25 and 34 are likely to have affairs.
Nearly two thirds of women opt for affairs lasting 1-3 months, while only 19.6 per cent say they are looking for a onenight stand.
For 79.2 per cent of women, the overriding reason for cheating on partners is an unfulfilled sex life.
And while the most unfaithful age bracket might be 25 to 34 (35.1 per cent), the 35 to 44-year-olds are not far behind, at 30.4 per cent, said the report.
The survey of 10,245 British, female members of the website provides a snapshot of the changing face of infidelity in the country.
Women in S'pore
- 19 per cent are unfaithful
- 15 per cent have a regular lover
- 62 per cent are satisfied with their partner in bed
Source: 2011 Durex poll of 249 S'porean women
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