During the pandemic, a lot of people in relationships turned to Ashley Madison to reignite the spontaneity and excitement in their lives. The site saw an 18% increase in sign-ups per day in Australia.
For those unfamiliar, Ashley Madison (AM) is a dating website designed for people who are married or in committed relationships. Its tagline is: “Life is short. Have an affair.”
As one can imagine, that mentality was more common than ever during 2020. For many, being stuck with a partner 24/7 might have highlighted certain annoying traits that could have resulted in a lacking attraction and thus, fewer nights of passionate sex between couples.
While some relationships dissolved, others continued on, and if the AM data is anything to go by, then we can be pretty sure some people sought out a little something on the side.
To find out more about how couples navigated affairs during the pandemic, we spoke to AM user Diana (not her real name), a 37-year-old corporate professional who joined the site in July 2020 and has since had three separate affairs.
Were you happily married when you joined Ashley Madison?
Yes, I would consider myself to have been very happily married when I joined. My husband is an amazing man, very family-oriented, devoted and loving… however, we are quite different in character. He’s quiet and introverted, while I’m social and extroverted. He’s completely devoted to me, our home life is very relaxed and normal and I do appreciate him and the value of him as a life partner.
Does your husband know that you’re a member of Ashley Madison?
How do you think he’d react if he knew?
He would be devastated and almost definitely divorce me. I do feel moments of extreme guilt and shame but at the same time, I think what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. I don’t want to leave my husband, I’m not attached to any of the men I’ve had affairs with and I never will be. For me, they are totally separate.
Are you afraid he’ll find out?
Yes, the fear of him finding out one day really scares me. I couldn’t bear to see him hurt like I know he would be. Therefore, it’s a total priority to keep it hidden.
Did you feel like your marriage was missing something that an affair could give you?
Although my husband is very loving, we’ve been together for the best part of a decade and for a few years now, I’ve felt like we are stuck in a comfortable routine. Our sex life has decreased dramatically, mostly because of the daily stresses of work and life. Having an affair with a stranger is a break from monotony.
I missed the excitement of being with something new and different, someone completely separate from my daily life. I think I just wanted to have experiences with someone that is all about the fun parts; no talk or stress about work, life, the house etc. With AM, I can find someone to share my fantasy moment with, and then we can both go back to the reality of our everyday lives.
How many people have you had affairs with?
I’ve chatted to quite a few men, but I’m extremely selective. I need someone who is good-looking, tall, fit, mature, financially well-off and a professional job (so as to avoid the bad spelling!).
Obviously, any man who sends me dick pics is immediately blocked. And of course, I need them to be discreet. I get lots of messages but I would say that 99% of them don’t meet my criteria! Out of the hundreds and hundreds of messages, I’ve only met four men, slept with three of them and am still chatting with the fourth.
What were the affairs like? How long did they last?
The first man was much older than me (although I’m sure he lied about his age to seem younger). He was married and was an experienced dom. I didn’t have any experience in this area, but was curious so I tried it. I wasn’t really physically attracted to him and I quickly realised that full BDSM wasn’t for me, though parts of it were fun to explore. It became too suffocating in the end, so I stopped it after two months.
The second man is the only man I am still currently sleeping with, and on the reg. I think it’s been about five months now. Our relationship is very straightforward and uncomplicated. We’re a similar age, both “happily married” but both want some excitement on the side. We have a lot of chemistry and he ticks all my boxes – literally. The sex is great because we have a good mental connection, which is a must for me. I value and respect his maturity and humility, I don’t have time for drama or ego. There is mutual respect for each other as people, as well as respect for each other’s privacy and boundaries. I need to feel safe in an affair, sexually and emotionally, and I do with him.
The third man was just a one night stand. Another successful professional, mature and intelligent. I wasn’t physically attracted to him at first, but the conversion was great and after a long date, there was some chemistry and I was curious about how he was in bed so I just went for it. I don’t mind one night stands, but it was a bit disappointing and I definitely needed more chemistry in order to continue the affair so I moved right along.
The fourth and final man is definitely very handsome, but he’s super young, unmarried and naive, so I have my reservations. I definitely prefer to have affairs with people that are married like me, to minimise risk. We’ve been out on two dates without sex, and we’re still chatting. There is definite chemistry but I don’t know if our mental connection is strong enough. I definitely seem to prefer older men, as they just generally have it more together.
How do you explain your absence to your partner when you go on dates?
My husband often travels interstate for work so I always have a chance to meet up for an affair then. Otherwise, I try to organise for the day time and just say I have a work lunch or work meeting. I’ve only gone out a few times in the evening and only when my husband was also out working or with friends. I always make sure I get home early and never stay overnight anywhere so he doesn’t suspect.
Was that a challenge throughout all the pandemic travel restrictions?
The biggest challenge throughout the pandemic has actually been that we’re both often working from home, so it’s difficult to chat with affair partners on AM without always keeping an eye out behind you.
Did you have any COVID-safe structures in place?
No, I guess not, but I am quite responsible and safe when it comes to the pandemic and I don’t meet just “anyone”. The people I did choose to meet were definitely intelligent and mature enough to also be responsible about COVID. I would ask if they have been to any hotspots before meeting up.
Do you find your marriage is happier now that you’re having affairs?
I think so. Having affairs has definitely made me happier! And happy wife, happy life, right? Having a little fun on the side is all that is needed sometimes to cure the boredom of day-to-day monotony at work and at home. It is just a moment to escape and recharge. It has also significantly increased my sex drive and I’m sexually more open and adventurous. Therefore, I’m happier and hornier…which can only be good for my marriage and my husband.
Have you had any close calls with being found out?
I haven’t so far. I delete all the apps, AM and messaging apps and reinstall every time I want to send a message or log in. I’m very very cautious and don’t leave any traces. It’s also not something I’m doing every day. Even if we do message, it’s only a few short ones. I’m not looking for a full on relationship with all the talking and the emotional stuff. It is just sex. I organise a meet up only when I know it is safe and the circumstances allow.