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Virtual affairs souring real relationships

With more and more men and women having cyber affairs, Internet infidelity seems to have arrived in India and for that matter to the whole world. The faithful are trying to catch their techno-savvy unfaithful partners red-handed in cyber space, some by keeping pace with technology, others by reading self-help books. Some others are seeking professional help to cope with their agony. Casual Internet affairs, which usually last up to a few weeks, are increasingly souring real-life relationships. Anoop (name changed) works from home on his PC and promptly logs off around 7 p.m. when it's time for his wife to get back home. "My wife hates to catch me chatting on the Internet. So instead of having a long fight, I just log off," Anoop told on the Messenger. Anoop insists that the women he chats with are just "friends". "Once in a while I may also flirt with them," he said.

Excessive use of Internet is also becoming a reason for break-up of marriages. Adil, 48, (name changed), who lives with his wife and two teenage children in east Delhi, has posted fake profiles on almost all matrimonial sites. He interacts with prospective brides trying to pass off as a 30-something groom and often exchanges phone numbers. "He spends most of his leisure time on the Internet," said his wife, who is seeing a marriage counsellor. "His other 'hobby' is to surf adult sites. The kids use the same computer and often we find indecent pictures of women popping up on the PC," she said. "We called in an engineer and installed filters to stop such pop-ups, but he keeps removing the filters. He doesn't care about the children. It is too early for the kids to be exposed to such adult stuff," she added.

Ariestotle (chat name) is a film production assistant in Mumbai who usually works 15 days a month. "I usually chat with women," admits Ariestotle, who is logged on to the MSN messenger round-the-clock. "The only time I am not logged in is when my brother wants to use the PC or I am not at home. I use my cellphone to interact then," he said.

It's not just the husbands and boyfriends who are cheating - the wives and girlfriends are not very far behind. Anita (name changed), 29, by her own admission is addicted to the '30-something-room' on a popular Indian chat site. "Even when I am at work I have to just log in and be there. I may not be participating actively, but the compulsion to log in is immense," she said. Anita has befriended quite a few friends in cyber world. "I have had a few showdowns with my husband over this. So I am a little careful now. I chat and even call up these friends when he is not around." Anita can discuss everything from books to films to her married life with her cyber friends and most of her discussions are on-camera. "I am very thick with these friends. In fact, they are my best friends. They cheer me up when I sulk and are always around when I need them."

As rebuilding trust after an episode of Internet infidelity may not be easy, plenty of websites are offering tips to deal with it. They ask spouses not to go online unless there is a purpose, and not to sign in if they are bored, lonely or had an argument with their spouse.

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