Just as the Pill opened up premarital sex in the Sixties, the internet is opening up a whole new culture of affairs among married people.
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Here, couples endure the challenges of child care, work pressures, mid‑life crisis and dwindling marital sex against a backdrop of repressive Anglo-Saxon hang‑ups about infidelity, seen always in pejorative terms such as “cheating”. Statistics confirm that British and American divorce rates are among the highest in the world.
Around half of American first marriages end in divorce, closely followed by a third of first British marriages, floundering under unrealistic pressures, often celibate marital beds and drastic overreactions to infidelities.
I have always been baffled by the sour and rigid English view of affairs.
Marital love and passion only rarely provide an equally rich source of the exalted feelings, transports of delight and misery associated with love and romance.
Affairs are about excitement, being alive, seduction, flirtation, love, affection, sexual bliss, lust, caution, eroticism, fantasy, danger, adventure, exploration and the determined refusal to grow old gracefully.
There is also evidence that the more permissive the attitudes of a country, the longer marriages last.
In France an affair is dubbed an aventure, free of insinuations of betrayal.
It is estimated that a quarter of men and women are enjoying casual flings and affairs at any one time.
The setting is the quiet corner of an Italian restaurant in the City; the players are George, an IT specialist, and Zoe, who wears a pretty dress and a big smile; they drink an especially good bottle of wine and when they get to coffee he reaches over and kisses her on the mouth. To onlookers it might be the classic opening scene of a traditional romance.