By Anonymous – www.smh.com.au
As told to Dilvin Yasa
While many of us waited out lockdown with baking and TV binges, many others turned to love and lust online for distraction.
Memberships for online dating sites such as RSVP and Inner Circle surged – and adultery sites such as Ashley Madison were no different.
During 2019, the company attracted an average of 15,500 new members a day, but early in the pandemic this figure jumped to 17,000.
“The reason to join us is there are fractures, often, at home, and those are going to be amplified dramatically,” Paul Keable, Ashley Madison’s chief strategy officer, has explained.
”Never before have we spent so much time with our partners within four walls, examining our life choices.”Credit:Getty Images
“If you’re under quarantine or in a working from home situation with your spouse and not having [the] respite [of] going in to the office and being away from them, people are going to look at this as an outlet, even if it won’t be a physical interaction – at least in the short term.”
A pandemic can also help you take stock of what you have and whether you want to keep it. Three people caught up in affairs reveal how the pandemic has shaped their love lives.
‘Knowing I could get fined was an extra thrill’
Stacy*, a 34-year-old radiographer, signed up to adultery website Ashley Madison just prior to isolation measures coming into effect.
“I’m still at a loss as to how I ended up in this position; it wasn’t really my choice. All I know is when I first met my husband, the sex – both online and in person – was mind-blowing, yet when I moved to Australia in 2016 – I’m originally from the States – all intimacy stopped.
It was almost like now that he had it on tap, he didn’t want it any more. It was heartbreaking.
We got married the same year but the sex never came back. We went on a vacation around the States, where we stayed in endless hotel rooms and had sex once.
I was desperate for his touch and kept asking him, ‘What can I do to make you want to have sex with me? Are you freaky? Is there something crazy you want to try, because I’m open to that?’ But he would turn his back and pretend to sleep.
In the end he said, ‘Maybe it would help if we were more fit?’ This was a real kick in the teeth. He’s super skinny and I’m curvy, but it’s not like I gained any weight in the time we’ve been together. Also, I’m an attractive woman and a very sexual being.
I worked hard on repairing the marriage for another two years before I proposed an open marriage.
I signed up to Ashley Madison a week before Australia went into lockdown, approximately two hours after my husband gave me the green light (yes, he took some convincing).
At a time when everything else seemed bleak, being on there felt exciting and I connected with someone right away.
We met for coffee before I went back to his place and I’ve been seeing him ever since. The sex has been amazing and knowing that I could get fined for driving to his place added another thrill.
He’s not the only guy I’ve been seeing. I’m chatting with a further 15 guys or so and the conversations that I have, all that sexual tension, have provided a nice distraction during a time when everything else – my career, marriage and the world in general – has been going to shit.
I do have some lines I won’t cross. I’ll see married men, but only unhappily married men, and I won’t see men who have young children if it’s their first time doing this.
Travel restrictions definitely made leaving the house tough for everyone but in some ways it also adds to the excitement. That said, I am looking to being wined and dined properly.
My husband must know what’s going on but we have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.
It’s not the marriage I was hoping for but I know I’m not alone. I think a lot of people must now be questioning their relationships. And to that I say, if you’re both home all day long and you’re still not having sex, you probably should ask those questions.”
‘I’m cautious about safety so I’ve hit pause on seeing other women’
Chris*, a 47-year-old IT specialist, has put his affairs on hiatus while pandemic-related risks remain.
“Being married to someone for 15 years does something to a person. The things you once laughed at or found cute or quirky in your partner become the things that grate on your nerves. Add a busy lifestyle and a lack of interest in sex from my wife into the mix.
Our relationship started heading downhill five or six years ago, but it was only a couple of years later that I realised it might be best if I stayed invested in our family unit but started looking to have my needs met elsewhere.
There had been some discussion with mates about what was online through Tinder or dating sites, and I figured, ‘Yeah, it could be a bumpy ride at times but there’s no way I wouldn’t be able to find what I’m looking for.’ I cast the net and waited.
There were a couple of false starts – conversations that didn’t really go anywhere and one woman who had used a really old photo that was quite deceiving – but eventually I got a feel for things and began to put in some time in hotel rooms.
I prefer to have a connection with these ladies rather than just sex; I want to be able to enjoy their company as people but that comes with its own set of pros and cons.
I became involved with the wife of an old friend from school and we had a relationship for a year before I ended things.
You try to set boundaries at the start but relationships become so intimate over time and emotions can take over. I’d been involved with seven or eight women during this period but I put it all on hold during lockdown.
I’ve since met a new woman online who I very much enjoy speaking with and while we can call, text and email, I’m taking isolation very seriously, so meeting her in person will have to wait until the situation is under control.
I’m a father first and foremost and the health and safety of my family comes before anything else.
I’m not surprised there’s been a surge of interest in dating and adultery sites because never before have we all spent so much time with our partners within four walls, examining our life choices.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and constant presence does the opposite. I think so many like me just want to know, ‘Is this patch I’ve been living in all there is to life, or is the grass
really greener on the other side?’ I don’t know what the answer is yet, but I look forward to investigating a little more on the other side.”
‘The pandemic was the reality check I needed’
After an extramarital affair, Gillian*, a 36-year-old graphic designer, recently decided to refocus on her family.
“The first time I cheated on my husband was not long after we got engaged in 2011. I got drunk at
the office Christmas party and slept with a co-worker who’d been flirting with me.
Our wedding day the next year was horrible; I spent the whole day staring into the eyes of this man who loved me with everything he had, knowing I’d done something stupid that would break his heart.
I justified the cheating by telling myself I only did it because I was young, curious and shit-scared about what I was signing up for. In any case, I swore I would never be unfaithful again.
For the first few years, I ticked all the boxes. We bought a house and had a baby, but after our second daughter was born in 2016 I struggled with terrible postnatal depression and my self-esteem plummeted.
Just as my husband began treating me like fragile porcelain – behaviour I quickly grew to resent – a new work colleague showed up at just the right, or wrong, time.
He took me out for lunches and coffees and one thing led to another. He provided a pleasant respite from my everyday role as mother, wife and chief provider. I didn’t feel any guilt this time.
When the lockdown first set in, I wasn’t all that worried. Obviously it made meeting up a little trickier, but we still managed.
Then one morning my youngest woke up with this hacking cough and terror washed over me.
Would I lose my child? Would I lose my family? Why was I even risking what so many others strive to have? My daughter tested negative. I swore I would end the affair, but in the end I wasn’t the one who broke it off; he emailed me to say he’d been seeing someone else and wanted to make a serious go of things.
The last few weeks of lockdown were a real blessing for me and my partner. Without any distractions, we were able to spend quality time together as a family and as a couple.
Our sex life is through the roof and being in his company 24/7 has made me realise how much I like him as a person.
Am I worried things will change now restrictions are easing? Not really; I’ve never subscribed to the theory that a leopard can’t change its spots.”
*Names have been changed.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 14.