real life

'I've been on Ashley Madison for 5 years. Here's what I know about married men who cheat.'

As told to Polly Taylor

My first reaction was disgust. 

I was flicking through the newspaper and splashed across the page, amid the doom and gloom, were the words: 'Life is short. Have an affair.'

It was an advert for 'cheating' website, Ashley Madison. This was in 2015 and it was the first time I'd ever heard of it. 

Watch: Emotional v.s. Physical Affairs. Post continues below. 

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The idea that people would sign up and actively seek an affair seemed so cold and calculated to me. 

You might think that makes me a hypocrite given that in my then-15 year marriage, I'd already had two affairs. 

While my husband was a wonderful man, there had been something missing from my marriage for some time, leading me to seek affection, love and sex elsewhere.

But to me, that was different. Meeting someone 'organically' and embarking on a love affair had a level of innocence to it. I hadn't sought it out and there were genuine feelings involved; I hadn't been someone's dirty little secret. 


So yes, I was disgusted. But the more I read about the website, the more curious I became. 

It seemed many of the women using it were sophisticated and intelligent. Like me, they were looking for something that was missing from their marriage. 

Intrigued, I created a private email address and signed up. 

I wasn't sure about it at first. Some men were sleazy all over me like flies, desperate to send dick pics. 

The vast majority were just lonely, everyday blokes.

I started to get quite bullish about what I wanted. I started to go for coffees with the men I thought might actually give me what I wanted. 

Then I met "Melbourne" — that was what I called him because that was where he'd relocated from, due to his wife's job. He was now working in the city I lived in and the attraction when we met up was instant. 

Right from the start, he was very clear about one thing: he loved his wife. 

"I wouldn't be doing this if she was sexually active," he told me. 

This was a common thread with every man I got to know from the site: their wives have simply stopped giving them sex, or at the very least, become utterly complacent. 

These men were missing cuddles, affection, compliments and... sex. They were so bereft of it that they were enchanted by the merest hint of a willing woman and a warm bed. 

Surely sex is a fundamental part of a marriage? Some women — many women — don't seem to think so. 


They'll take that week-long trip to Italy, though. They'll accept the new car and the jewellery, no problem. See their kids put through private school at their husband's expense? You bet.

But so often it's sex that falls by the wayside. 

Things with 'Melbourne' got really intense, really quickly. He was cool, educated and exciting. Our first year was all that I could ask for.

The second year he was promoted at work and became far less available and engaged with me. We stumbled through with few highs and many lows. 

He also declared his love to me and the moment feelings became involved, he shut himself off. 

This is another common theme - men want to keep these affairs tightly controlled. The moment they feel vulnerable like they might be opening themselves up to something more than sex, they go cold. 

They're cool and methodical about it benching anyone who is too much to handle emotionally. 

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'Melbourne', I realised, couldn't meet my needs. I called it off after three years. 

The next man I met from the website was in a similar predicament. He was married with two daughters who he adored. But his wife had become complacent, and he was looking for sex. 


He reminded me so much of one of my organic affairs, a New Zealand-born builder. He had me hooked instantly. 

At first we saw each other lots, meeting for drinks and having sex in hotels. But as time wore on, he became less and less available. Soon our 'love affair' had been whittled down to a 45 minute tryst, every few weeks. 

It felt so transactional. He didn't seem to understand that I was looking for a genuine connection.

"If this is how you want it, why don't you just see an escort?" I asked him.

"I don't want to pay for it," he said simply. 

Another lesson learned. Most men want sex only. But they do not want to part with their cash, not when they can find it for a free on a website designed specifically to facilitate their indiscretions. 

I was no longer willing, however. I didn't want to be someone's side piece that they can pick up and put down. 

I started to realise just how ruthless it is online. The organic affairs I'd had, had been far more fulfilling. 

I've spent the last five years on Ashley Madison chasing the rush of those first two 'real life' affairs, looking for that deep connection and all-encompassing intensity.

I'm yet to find it, but I'm not ready to stop looking.

Feature Image: Getty