- Ashley Madison — a dating site designed to help people have affairs — reported a 10% decrease in membership sign-ups, which they say is likely caused by the coronavirus pandemic, now spreading rapidly in the US.
- But existing users like Nikki, a 39-year-old woman in the US who has been a member of Ashley Madison for eight months, say they are not letting quarantine stand in the way of their “fun.”
- Nikki told Insider she’s maintaining at least seven virtual affairs at a time while she’s quarantining with her husband of 12 years.
- “It’s such a s—-y time for everybody, and most married people are isolated or quarantined together,” Nikki said. “It’s even more stressful in your marriage to be around your spouse that much, that often, that long, and it makes you want to reach out to somebody even more, even though it’s riskier than ever.”
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When Nikki first joined Ashley Madison — a dating site designed for people to have affairs — in September 2019, she said it was like creating an exciting double life.
The 39-year-old entrepreneur in the US was emotionally satisfied with her marriage of 10 years but didn’t feel sexually fulfilled. Not wanting to go to couples counseling with her husband, break up her marriage, or possibly uproot their five-year-old daughter, Nikki instead began having affairs.
For eight months, she would see dates every time she traveled for work, going on extravagant rendezvous, having intense sexual relationships, and maintaining contact with a “bench” of seven to 10 men at a time.
“Nothing has really changed in our marriage, it’s literally just the definition of having your cake and eating it too,” Nikki said, confirming that, as far as she knows, her husband does not know about her affairs.
But since the beginning of March, everything has shifted. Since coronavirus quarantines were brought in across the United States, users like Nikki are having to find creative ways to maintain their extramarital affairs while stuck 24/7 under the same roof as their spouses.
“It’s been stressful for everybody because it’s not like you just lost interest in someone, it’s that you’re unavailable to see them because the world has changed,” Nikki said.
The site has seen a 10% decrease in membership sign-ups since the beginning of March, according to Ashley Madison CSO Paul Keable. He attributes this to the increased anxiety about the novel coronavirus.
But Nikki and other existing users say they are not letting COVID-19 get in the way of their “fun.”
Nikki used to hook up on business trips. Now she’s using her social media addiction as a cover for hours-long sexting sessions.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nikki used her status as a business owner to travel and see people as she pleased. Because she worked from home and her husband worked in an office, Nikki was able to talk to affairs partners whenever she wanted.
But quarantine orders across the country means her husband is now also working from home, and they are living with their young daughter, making it more difficult to schedule times for phone sex and completely impossible to see people in person.
However, though it’s more difficult to find the time to chat with people, the 39-year-old entrepreneur is not letting COVID-19 stifle her sex life.
Rather than clearing her “bench” of seven men, she has instead shifted her affairs to be completely digital. Instead of hotel room meetings and fancy dinners, she’s now opting for day-long sexting sessions and late-night video sex.
“Now, I can’t travel at all and I either have to stay up late at night to talk on video or wait for occasions like today where he has to go into the office and I have some alone time,” Nikki said. “It’s way too risky to even consider taking on a new partner or even going outside of your house to be intimate with anybody right now.”
To keep up with ‘this level of deception,’ Nikki saves most of her affairs until late at night
Because Nikki is a self-described extrovert, her husband doesn’t bat an eye at her constant phone use. Nor does he question her staying up late downstairs, where she engages in phone sex.
In terms of her lovers: it was more organized before, when Nikki was arranging specific dates with people. Now, she might be sexting or having phone sex with any, or multiple, on a given day.
She said her key to avoiding suspicion has been making sure she doesn’t slack on family responsibilities or drastically change her behavior during the quarantine. Their daughter has been staying with her grandmother some days in the week, so Nikki does have plenty of alone time.
“I feel like if you’re going to be at this level of deception, you have to be prepared to cover your tracks and be believable, or you will get caught and your life will be ruined,” Nikki said.
These affairs have become more of an emotional outlet now
Nikki said her affairs serve a more important purpose now than ever. Rather than being entirely physical, these new online relationships now serve the role of emotional support for many people stuck quarantining with spouses they are unsatisfied with.
“It’s such a s—-y time for everybody, and most married people are isolated or quarantined together,” Nikki said. “It’s even more stressful in your marriage to be around your spouse that much, that often, that long, and it makes you want to reach out to somebody even more, even though it’s riskier than ever.”
Nikki said she doesn’t plan on stopping her extramarital activities anytime soon, regardless of how long the pandemic may stretch on for.
“I like to be in communication with people,” Nikki said. “The whole idea is for me to be fulfilled, for me to have the level of pleasure that I believe is appropriate for me and for me to be fulfilled.”
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