Echo couldn’t figure out why her Shanghai businessman husband routinely came home well past midnight, straining their 10-year marriage — until she looked at his phone.
Flirtatious messages from other women revealed a pattern of affairs facilitated by WeChat, China’s top messaging app.
WeChat and other platforms have helped revolutionize inter-personal relations in China, but are also blamed for adding to growing strain on Chinese marriages by making it easier to flirt with potential new partners.
Divorce is rising in China due to a range of factors, causing a concerned government pass a law in May imposing a month-long “cooling-off” period on feuding couples before they split.
But thanks to technology, “making acquaintances has become more convenient. It’s possible there will be temptations,” said Echo, who declined to give her full name and is now seeing a marriage counselor along with her husband.
Extramarital sex is hardly a new phenomenon in China, with its thriving sex industry and hostess bars, and a 2015 study by a respected Chinese sex researcher found a sharp increase in affairs in recent years.
The errant-partner issue went viral in April when Chinese model-celebrity Zhou Yangqing revealed that her boyfriend of nine years, Taiwanese singer Show Lo, had used WeChat and other platforms for dalliances with multiple women.
Technology adds to rising socio-economic stresses on couples, said Zhu Shenyong, a Shanghai marriage counselor.
They include growing career and financial pressures, surging business travel, meddling in-laws, and less willingness by Chinese women to endure a poor marriage.
“(Chinese) society is developing too fast, extremely fast,” he said.
“We have quickly become a relatively well-off society, but material happiness means working more and spending less time building and maintaining marriages.”