Chrissie Russell meets some of the 30,000 Irish spouses who use extra-marital dating sites
Eimear (name has been changed)* has it all, a loving husband, two happy and healthy children, a well paid job in office administration and a sizzling sex life — thanks to a stream of illicit affairs.
“Having an affair wasn't a decision I made straight away,” she says. “It was born out of curiosity. After more than a decade of marriage, the passion felt non-existent between my husband and me. Our relationship started out very exciting in the bedroom but soon started fizzling out.
“We have two lovely kids but being parents had taken its toll on our relationship and we both work long, hard hours. We're constantly knackered and had stopped making any real effort with each other. I've only ever had two serious partners and I just started to wonder what else was out there.”
Rather than opt for couples counselling, Eimear went online looking for answers. “I'd read about other people's ‘no strings' arrangements in magazines and in articles on the web which is how I discovered MaritalAffair.com. I signed up and just read other people's profiles at first, which made me realise I wasn't alone with my feelings.”
Soon Eimear started messaging a man from a nearby town who was also on the site. They met up for a drink and went on to a hotel where they slept together. “I felt exhilarated as well as guilty and scared that I was going to bump into someone I knew. He was much more confident than my husband and in turn that made me more confident. We had an amazing time but it was only a shortterm thing. I wasn't interested in a relationship, just the sexual part. Although we still send dirty messages to each other on the site about the first night we met.”
She adds: “It's a set-up that works for me. I just feel bored and miss feeling special. The excitement of having sex with someone for the first time and the way it makes you feel is so good that I think it’s worth doing and it's probably made the relationship with my husband better as I don't feel so down about our sex life — the pressure is off.”
Before judging Eimear consider this ; In the four months since it set up in Ireland last year, 15,000 people have become members of MaritalAffair.ie. Rival site Ashley Madison had 18,000 people sign on in a similar time period in Ireland. Both sites specialise in facilitating affairs for married people and their bustling trade shows there's plenty of infidelity going on in Ireland. Sites such as AshleyMadison and MaritalAffair come in for criticism because they're seen as assisting in the moral decline. But both men at the helm of the organisations are adamant that they are merely responding to a supply-and-demand situation.
“We launched AshleyMadison because research we uncovered suggested that 30% of people going to ‘singles’ dating sites were actually attached,” explains Noel Biderman, president of AshleyMadison. “There is a declining faith that marriages can survive for a lifetime so when an intimacy void creeps in, people are more likely to pursue an action that can fill that void than they were say 50 years ago.”
He adds: “Office affairs come with the risk of losing your job or having to face a rejection in person on a daily basis but a digital affair removes many of those secondary issues and provides for a much larger pool of potential connections. Personally I would rather see affairs take place in a community of like-minded adults than on a singles dating site or in the workplace.”
Paul Graham, founder of MaritalAffair, agrees: “Modern technology has made the process easier but affairs have been going on forever and will continue to do so. I'd prefer it if everyone was happy in their relationship but the reality is that not everyone is and websites like MaritalAffair are a response to the changing demands of people and the types of relationships being requested.”