Over 40 and ready for a fling

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 1995, 12:00am

MEN over 40 who have been married for more than 11 years and work irregular hours are most like-ly to be unfaithful, says a survey of broken marriages.

Infidelity was most common among male office workers. And it was most likely to happen with someone working in a service industry, the poll by Hong Kong University and Caritas counsellors found.

The profile of those most likely to stray was drawn up after examining 421 extra-marital affairs, 179 of which were cross-border romances.

More than 90 per cent of the marriages broke down because the husband was unfaithful.

And more than a third of the marriages where one partner had been unfaithful had lasted for between 11 and 15 years.

The next riskiest groups was those married between six and 10 years (20 per cent), followed by 16 to 20 years (19 per cent) and 21 to 25 years (12 per cent).

Only five per cent of the respondents had been married for less than five years. The remaining eight per cent were couples who had been married for more than 25 years.

Those who had irregular work schedules including overtime, shift work and foreign trips were among those most likely to have extra-marital affairs.

Administrators formed the largest group of straying spouses, while nightclub and bar workers and those in the service and sales industries were the most common extra-marital partners.

Twenty-six of the affairs produced 33 children.

Angie Lai Fung-yee, co-ordinator of the Caritas family service, said that after 11 to 15 years of marriage couples became complacent and so were vulnerable to affairs.

Most couples said that before the affairs took place, they had been having disagreements or problems with their sex lives.

Most of the jilted spouses experienced depression, anger, anxiety or helplessness and the commonly coped via revenge or self-destructive acts.

Many children blamed the unfaithful parent and became alienated from them.

More than 40 per cent of the marriages ended in separation while another 30 per cent who remained together did so only in highly stressful circumstances.

Couples married for longer, with a satisfactory sexual relationship and children, tended not to break up. They tended to put up with the affairs.

People who had affairs in Hong Kong were found to be younger, better educated and have a longer and more stable extra-marital relationship than those who had affairs on the mainland.

More than a quarter of the affairs carried on in China were commercial, including keeping concubines.

About 70 per cent of those who strayed on the mainland went there to work. Loneliness and curiosity were the main reason given for seeking a lover.

Caritas called for more support services for couples at risk and single parent families. More resources were needed and social workers' workload needed to be reduced.

The group handled 341 cases of extra-marital affairs in 1993, but the figure rose to more than 500 this year.

It said better education was needed on the importance of the family. Pamphlets could be distributed at the airport and Lowu railway station.

'Co-operation with companies involved in China trade in running programmes for their staff, distributing educational packages, reaching out can help prevent extra-marital affairs among the high risk group,' Caritas said.