Infidelity dating site Ashley Madison has reached 60 million members, according to the latest report verified by Ernst and Young. About 14,500 new members joined every day in 2018, and for every active paid male account there were 1.11 active female accounts created, the report states.
Paul Keable, Ashley Madison’s chief strategy officer, told INSIDER reaching this milestone is a testament to the power of the community the company has built.
“[It’s] a community we’re incredibly proud of,” he said. “Currently more than 20,000 members join a day which illustrates the massive demand that exists for an online married-dating destination like ours.”
He said the fact membership numbers continue to grow is proof that “monogamy is not in our DNA.”
“People have realized that marriage might not be the fairy tale they were sold, but divorce doesn’t necessarily make sense to them either,” he said. “It’s costly, but more importantly, it doesn’t solve their problem.”
Something missing from the marriage doesn’t mean you’ve fallen out of love, he said, so people turn to a discrete way to have affairs.
It’s what Ashley Madison’s president and chief technology officer Ruben Buell calls “outsourcing your sex life.”
One male member of Ashley Madison, John*, told INSIDER he has been using the site for around 18 months. He’s married, and initially joined because he was “intrigued to see what it was all about.”
“It feels really nice flirting and getting to know a lady,” he said. “I love the temptation and I get feelings that are missing in my marriage.”
He usually sets up dates in a discrete location, and if it goes well they make it a regular thing, meeting once every couple of weeks. He said he keeps details about his children private, and never talks about his wife or marital problems.
He said although the guilt tends to creep up on him when he returns home from a date, he doesn’t feel it when he’s actually with someone.
“It’s fun, tempting and makes me feel alive again,” he said. “It gives me the excitement of wondering if someone will reply .. [And] if we meet, will we connect and where might it lead?”
He added that he would highly recommend Ashley Madison, and only sees himself deleting it if he meets someone and falls in love.
“We would agree together that we would both stop using the service,” he said.
Another member, Keith*, uses Ashley Madison rather differently. He is 53 and has been signed up for several months. He is separated from his wife, but not divorced yet, and he set up his profile to find companionship.
“The tag line after my name I put down was ‘friends before lovers,'” he told INSIDER. “I’ve been using it to date one person at a time. I’m sure people use it the other way and I’m sure people use dating sites the other way too, but I just want friendship and companionship and closeness.”
He said it was the discretion factor that attracted him to Ashley Madison over other dating sites, because he didn’t want to digitally run into any of his friends or acquaintances while he’s going through his separation. With Ashley Madison, certain information on your profile and pictures are only visible to people when you want them to see them.
“It’s not secret per se but it’s not public,” he said. “It’s certainly private dating. That was a big deal for me at least.”
Keith has been dating one woman now for a few months, but he hasn’t told any of his friends yet because he’s worried they’ll be judgmental. If things do get serious, and he introduces his partner to the other people in his life, they have a plan.
“We say we met at a cyber café,” he said. “We both jokingly call it that, and I think we both kind of wish we hadn’t met in the cyber café but it’s an inside joke we have.”
Keith said it was hard for him to take the first step into discrete internet dating, but he’s glad he did.
“Being married is important, but if you’re married and lonely that’s not good either,” he said.
Keable told INSIDER members often say the connections they make via Ashley Madison allow them to return to their marriages “happier.”
“The idea that you have to have every single need met by one person is wildly unrealistic yet it is the very expectation we place on modern marriage,” he said. “Relationships are complex. We make it our mission every day to understand and reveal the true nature of infidelity — a subject still steeped in misconception.”
He added that he thinks Ashley Madison is the most “honest online dating service out there,” because members have to be upfront from the start to get the most out of it.
“They aren’t looking for a fairy tale anymore — they already tried that and it didn’t work,” he said.
“They come to us to be honest with themselves and the people they meet about what it is they want that is currently missing. And from that point of honesty, real connections can take place — and both people get what they need.”
*Names changed for anonymity.