By RACHAEL KAM and SEREAN LAUKUALA LUMPUR: Online social networking sites can be a good place to meet new friends or even seek life partners but they have also become a breeding place for divorces.
Marriage counsellor Yvonne Lee said the Internet had been cited as one of the reasons for divorces of late.
“The Internet can trigger marital problems or worsen a couple’s existing problems. It has opened up more choices for those looking for partners, regardless of whether they are single or married,” explained Lee, a premarital programme trainer at the National Population and Family Development Board in Kuala Lumpur.
Lee, a director of Enrich Counsel-ling and Therapy Centre, said that while the Internet could be one of the causes for divorce, it was still the quality of the relationship that determined the outcome of a marriage.
One in 30 new clients the centre counsels every two months has cited the Internet as one of the reasons for their marital break-up.
A victim of an “online” affair, Ann discovered that her husband, Jason, had registered himself with some foreign match-making and social networking websites to meet other women.
“I thought Jason was having an affair with a woman from China but apparently there were several of them,” she said, adding that they would exchange lurid sex talk and even nude pictures online.
Jason, an engineer, has since left his wife and two children for a married woman he befriended online.
Hillary, 33, from Kuala Lumpur, was pregnant with her third child last year when she discovered her husband’s affair with another woman, a Malaysian working in Hong Kong.
She not only found suggestive emails on his smartphone and computer but also photographs of the mistress with her husband.
Albert, a psychologist, admitted having affairs with at least six women he met on Facebook and three others on Skype before his wife found out about his infidelity and divorced him.
He had joined social networking sites to locate his former university mates and soon added anonymous women as his friends.
Sometimes, it is not the husbands who cheat.
Susan, 42, a mother of a 12-year-old girl dropped a bombshell on her husband recently — she wanted a divorce to marry a Frenchman of African origin whom she befriended on Facebook. The couple run a small retail outlet in Malacca.
Consultant psychologist Valerie Jaques said most couples who cited Internet love affairs as the reason for divorce were already facing some problems.
She added that these problems, whether physical, emotional, psychological or social in nature or a combination, could result in loneliness.
“A lonely person who receives attention via the Internet or face-to-face will be extremely vulnerable, and this can develop into a more serious relationship,” said Jaques from Integrated Psychological Network Sdn Bhd.
“People fall for nice words. Lonely people will be more vulnerable to nice but empty promises.”