TORONTO, Sept. 29, 2020 /CNW/ - It's no surprise that COVID-19 has been grueling on married couples, especially those with families all living under the same roof. Reports of increased divorce filings, as a result of government-mandated lockdowns, began in March 2020. Shortly after the lockdowns began, Ashley Madison, the world's leading married dating site1, began to see an uptick in signups, signifying a heightened interest in extramarital affairs. The vast majority of Ashley Madison members, who were surveyed, have said that having affairs keeps them married. So, in an effort to understand the motivations behind choosing infidelity over divorce during a pandemic and how marriage will be impacted in the future, the company is releasing a detailed report entitled, Love Beyond Lockdown. The findings outlined in the report point to a controversial, albeit necessary truth: Marriage is ultimately a pragmatic arrangement that offers inherent value despite a primary partner often failing to consistently provide all the necessary love, support, and desire.
"Historically, we know our members aren't interested in exiting their marriage, and we've found that the same can be said even now when tensions are higher than normal and divorces seem plentiful," says Paul Keable, Chief Strategy Officer for Ashley Madison. "We conducted this research to learn more about what an affair – whether virtual or in-person – during a pandemic means to the people having one, and to show that marriages can actually survive in this kind of environment."
While exploring a breadth of additional topics, such as sex, domestic pressures, lockdown habits and attitudes, and safety precautions, the research reveals five key findings about navigating marriage and infidelity during a global pandemic.
Finding #1: Lack of sexual initiation is the primary complaint of married individuals during lockdown, thus many aren't having sex and have become less attracted to their spouse
When asked to share their biggest pet peeves while stuck at home with their spouse, 58% of members say their spouse has not initiated any sort of sexual intimacy during lockdown. Unsurprisingly then, 75% of cheaters are having less sex than usual or no sex at all with their spouse and 41% have become less attracted to them.
For 53% of members, lockdown has been the most time they've ever spent with their primary partner, and not having their sexual needs met at home is the reason 64% have been having affairs during the pandemic. Additionally, 76% have essentially given up on trying to revive their sex life with their spouse, and 74% are unlikely to stop having physical affairs once the pandemic has passed.
Finding #2: People don't look to their partner in times of uncertainty and stress, they look outside their partner.
During lockdown, married people report feelings of boredom (49%), isolation and loneliness (30%), frustration and anger (29%), worry and fear (24%), and anxiety and overwhelm (24%). In spite of this, 95% of members were still interested in finding and maintaining outside relationships near the beginning of lockdown, and cheaters have come to learn that having an affair during a pandemic is something to look forward to (34%), a great distraction (23%), and means they have someone in a similar situation they can talk to (14%).
Finding #3: The pandemic has not decreased the desire or ability to cheat; in fact, it has fueled it.
Thanks to modern technology, lockdown has not put an end to affairs. Though most cheating has gone virtual, many married daters are still meeting their affair partner in person. However, they have introduced new precautions. From now until there is a cure or vaccine for the novel coronavirus, 65% of cheaters are likely to be more selective with who they go on in-person dates with, and 56% are likely to get creative with socially-distanced date ideas. During these dates, 41% of cheaters regularly use hand sanitizer, 36% avoid crowds, and 11% stick to outdoor dates only. Where there's a will, there's a way!
Finding #4: With the bulk of time now spent at home, married people having affairs deem their infidelity an integral form of self-care and a way for them to stay married.
Despite the increase in divorce filings as a result of the lockdown, ending their marriage is the last thing on members' minds. In fact, 92% of members disagree with or aren't even considering the statement "I will file for divorce following social distancing," and their infidelity is to thank for that.
Cheating during lockdown has made 47% of members feel sexual, 45% excited, and 44% desired – but the benefits run deeper than just feeling sexy. Thirty-two percent of members feel appreciated, 30% feel relaxed, 28% feel confident, and 19% feel acknowledged. While many Ashley Madison members cheat primarily for sex, they reap the additional personally therapeutic benefits, which are especially helpful in this unique lockdown situation and can make them more patient and tolerant of their situation at home.
Finding #5: Decreased socialization is calling into question the role of the primary partner as the sole confidant, friend, lover, and source of peace.
The pandemic has changed the way we interact with others and has made us diligent about who we socialize with. The practice of selective socialization, or bubbles, may help married people realize they can't depend on their spouse for everything and think about who can fulfill which of their needs. There is not one single person who can offer fulfilment in every aspect of life – not even a spouse. Sometimes spouse, confidant, friend, and lover are not synonymous. More often, marriage equates mainly to co-parenting and financial stability. Thus, the pandemic may pave the way for new conversations about a more fluid monogamy.
More married individuals are realizing what most married daters have already come to learn – your "one and only" isn't always the one or the only when it comes to your needs, and the structure of marriage may evolve to become more emotionally and physically fulfilling in the future.
For even more information, member statistics, and expert takes, read the full Love Beyond Lockdown report HERE.
This data was extrapolated from six member surveys:
Survey 1: "Affairs in Isolation" comprised of 1,470 Ashley Madison member respondents from March 17-20, 2020
Survey 2: "Pet Peeves" comprised of 2,047 Ashley Madison member respondents from April 7-9, 2020
Survey 3: "Habits" comprised of 2,085 Ashley Madison member respondents from April 22-24, 2020
Survey 4: "Post-Isolation" comprised of 1,861 Ashley Madison member respondents From May 28-June 5, 2020
Survey 5: "Specifics of Cheating During Lockdown" comprised of 2,258 Ashley Madison member respondents from July 24-28, 2020
Survey 6: "Self-Care" comprised of 2,249 Ashley Madison member respondents from August 10-12, 2020
AshleyMadison.com is the global leader for married dating with more than 65 million member accounts globally since 2002.
1 Based on the number of signups to Ashley Madison since 2002
SOURCE ruby Life Inc.
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