Ashley Madison users open up about affairs – monogamy isn’t ‘realistic’

Nate, who is based in the south-east of England, tried various dating apps before eventually signing up to Ashley Madison, back in 2016. He’d heard about the website before – especially as it had received major international coverage the year before due to a hack that has since become historic – and it seemed to offer exactly what he was seeking.

Indeed, Ashley Madison was founded in 2001 specifically for married people looking for an affair. Even its slogan to this day is “Life is short. Have an affair”. Nate wasn’t put off by the fact that hackers stole the data of 30 million users as, he believes, the Canadian company “learned from it [the hack]”.

Christoph Kraemer, Ashley Madison’s European managing director echoed Nate’s words, telling that “we have tripled our internal security team, who work relentlessly not only to maintain the site’s technology and software suite, but to improve it every day”. He added: “The increase in membership numbers both internationally and in the UK over the last few years show that we have gained back the trust of our community.” Twenty-one years after its launch, Ashley Madison spans 50 countries and is no longer solely for people in monogamous relationships. The website – which also has an app – appeals to singles, sugar daddies, and those exploring polyamory and open relationships too.

Nate, however, has never told his wife about the women he’s met on Ashley Madison. Currently dating a woman he matched with last year, he told that “it’s very much a discreet, secret affair”.

All his affairs have been like this. Nate explained that he sets his location around 30 miles from his home (“10 miles would be the minimum”) as he’s never wanted “one of those traditional affairs with a neighbour or someone you work with”.

“You don’t want that mess on your doorstep,” he said. “I commute, so where I work is convenient to meet someone.”

Describing his dating experiences on Ashley Madison as “very good”, Nate said the website has allowed him to repeatedly find “people I felt a really good connection with”.

He went on to say that he is clear about what he wants from the get-go, writing on his profile about the sort of relationship he is looking for.

“For me, that’s sexual pleasure and enjoyment,” he explained. “But with no strings attached.”

Because of these requirements, not one of Nate’s affairs has lasted longer than a year. “Some women have developed feelings in the past, but at those points I withdrew from them and said, ‘look, I’m not going to change my situation. Let’s leave it here’,” he recalled. In other words, Nate has no intention of leaving his wife.

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But that isn’t to say that his relationships haven’t had depth to them. “I’ve certainly learned that trust can lead to much better experiences, as well as communication – learning about what your partner likes and enjoys, and how you can pleasure each other.” 

Nate’s other rule is that he won’t have multiple affairs at the same time. “I’ve done that in the past and it was exciting, but a bit mad. It was stressful,” he said.

He is currently dating a woman in her 50s, who he sees once or twice a month, and the age gap has been “really fascinating” to him. “She’s really liberated and really invested in experiences and fantasies and pleasure,” he noted. “She’s so clear about her desires, her intentions. Maybe because she’s lived a lot of life.”

The 39-year-old recalled a threesome they had, which “she really enjoyed”. She sees other men too, which Nate is fine with, as long as she’s having safe sex.

Will this relationship last longer than a few months? “I can’t see us not seeing each other for a little while,” Nate said. “But it may be that for whatever reason she or I will turn around and say, ‘thanks, it’s been lovely but I need it to stop now’. In which case, I might have a little break.”

In the meantime, Nate will spend time with his wife, who he has stopped trying to speak to about his sexual desires. “I want to make sure she’s happy,” he said. “But I want more.

“One of the things I’d find hot is if we developed something where she was able to feel comfortable seeing other men. If she’d do that I honestly would probably stop doing what I’m doing. I’d be like, ‘actually, this is really exciting. We’ve got a great sex life now. I don’t need Ashley Madison anymore. I don’t need that outlet anymore’.”

It’s not something Nate thinks his wife will ever be open to, but he said he’s not unhappy. Ashley Madison has helped to strengthen his marriage. “As bizarre as it may seem, it [my affair] sort of takes the pressure off. I’m no longer being that nagging partner who keeps asking, ‘why don’t we try this or that?’.

“I wouldn’t want to change my situation,” Nate added. “We’re best friends and we share so many interests otherwise.”

But a monogamous relationship doesn’t allow “the fun, the exhilaration, the feeling of butterflies in the stomach of meeting someone new”. For Nate, living life to the full is experiencing “all of that”.

Christoph agrees. He is a managing director at Ashley Madison for a reason: although now divorced, he was in an open marriage, having always believed that humankind isn’t “designed to be monogamous”.

“Monogamy doesn’t correspond to the wants, desires and needs of many people, if not the majority,” he told “This is not to say that monogamy does not work for some people, but to have it as the only acceptable relationship model is obviously not working, and it’s not a reality.”

Christoph has statistics to support his claims as Ashley Madison is not only growing, but it is attracting more women and young people under 25-years-old who want to explore “different non monogamous relationship types”, whether that’s singles wanting to delve into polyamory or couples wanting to open up their relationships to involve other people – and everything in between.

According to a survey carried out by Ashley Madison at the beginning of the year, one in four of its female members are on the site because they are in an open relationship, compared to just 13 percent of its male members.

The same survey found that 30 percent of the company’s “Gen Z” members (those born before 1997) want an open relationship, while another 30 percent said they want a polyamorous relationship. The remaining 40 percent still desire a monogamous relationship.

Christoph went on to say that he believes this data shows “we’re at a crossroads of a very fundamental, if not revolutionary, change”.

“Change that will make people happier,” he added.

The Berlin-based director noted another fact he finds interesting: the website’s number one European market is the UK.

Sixteen years since its launch in this country, Ashley Madison now has around three million British members. Last year, UK membership increased 12 percent compared to in 2021.

The country thus has, on average, more annual sign-ups than any other country in Europe, ahead of Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Out of 50 countries, the UK is fourth in the world when it comes to the number of annual sign-ups. This seems surprisingly high for a nation where attitudes towards sex didn’t change until decades after the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Christoph believes Britons are more sexually liberal than one might expect, but many are afraid to show it. When European members of Ashley Madison were asked if society would benefit from being more tolerant towards non-monogamous lifestyles, more Germans, Italians, and Spaniards said “yes” compared to Brits.

“My hypothesis is that it’s still not as socially acceptable and as easy to openly speak about the things that people are actually already doing behind closed doors,” Christoph said.

“Because we know that, all over the globe, pretty much everyone is looking for the same thing and has the same kind of needs and desires.”

Britain, for example, maybe the nation of the stiff upper lip and the “keep calm and carry on”, but Christoph noted that “there aren’t really that many cultural and regional differences” between countries.

“The cultural differences that may exist are in terms of what is socially acceptable at a certain time and in a certain society,” he said. “In the end, people are not that different.”

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