During these past few months of isolation, and as Australia comes to terms with the idea of a second stay-at-home order, relationships have seen many adjustments. Dating app downloads have skyrocketed across all major platforms, sex toy sales have increased exponentially, and on a slightly more concerning note, the number of couples seeking separation advice has spiked.
Perhaps that’s why Ashley Madison, the world’s largest extramarital dating site, has also seen a huge increase to the number of sign-ups. It would seem married couples — the number of which are considering separating is apparently up by over 300% — have begun to look for connections outside of their primary relationships.
Ashley Madison has reported an additional 17,000 new members a day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to an average of 15,500 new members per day from the year 2019. What’s more, the time of day its users are usually most active has also changed from nighttime exchanges to the middle of the day.
The hours between 10.00am and 11.00am and between 12.00pm and 3.00pm have seen a significant increase in messages over recent moths, which would indicate that cheaters have begun to seek connections during work hours, and are potentially using work as a cover for engaging in extramarital conversations.
The site usually sees a spike in activity at the beginning of any new year, after tensions of the holidays, but engagement on the site never slowed down in 2020.
“One of the busiest jumps for us is usually the first week of January. People spend a week or two, more potentially, with their family, potentially their extended family, over the Christmas holiday break. That emphasis on family time amplifies the tension that might exist in those relationships,” says Paul Keable, chief strategy officer at Ashley Madison.
“When people head back to work in that first week of January, we usually see a 10-15% jump, if not more, in our daily signups. In this case right now, when people are working from home, and some people are in multiple-week quarantines, those fractures are going to be exposed. They’re going to deepen. People are going to look for outlets. We think that, with our offering, we can help them.”
It would seem that despite urges to explore a relationship outside of their marriage, most Ashley Madison users have been conducting affairs virtually and in line with social distancing restrictions.
And when it comes to Australia users, it’s users from New South Wales that have been engaging the website the most since mid-April. Users from Albury, Coffs Harbour, and Newcastle make up the top three Australian cities for virtual cheaters, while Canberra and Bunbury come in at number four and five respectively.
“These cyber affairs serve as a release valve for individuals dealing with increased pressures in their marriage and domestic lives,” says Keable.
“With divorce rates reported to have increased in countries that have initiated their reopening, we’re offering an alternative pathway to help people cope and ultimately help couples preserve their marriage once the dust has settled.”