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.

They are in fact launching into a “playfair”, a 21st-century affair in which would-be adulterers meet, via specialist dating websites, to enjoy the excitement of an illicit relationship without any of the domestic fallout.

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They visit the Government run on-line dating agency set up to tackle the problem, as well as traditional matchmakers, following the twists and turns in the lives of young Iranians trying to get married.

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.

Yet both parties are married to other people, whom they have no intention of leaving.

Although they will go on to enjoy all the spoils of a relationship, from intimate phone calls to Christmas shopping trips and, of course, regular sex, this is understood from the outset.

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.There is also the army of therapists and counsellors who continue to pedal their own secret agenda of enforced exclusive monogamy.This killjoy attitude frames affairs as deviant escapism and fantasies without merit for people who have failed to grow up.Sex is everywhere and it is also clearly separated from marriage.Meanwhile, Nordic countries are already way ahead of the game.Sex has become a major leisure activity of our time, accessible to everyone, married or not, rich and poor.