Everything else we do has shifted online — why not infidelity? Since the inception of chat rooms, the internet has long served as a fertile ground for cheaters. Last year, a YouGov poll found that some 17 percent of users across all dating apps were there to cheat on their current partners. Now, it’s only getting worse. Couples who haven’t already called it quits may be sabotaging their relationships anyway, according to University of Tennessee-Knoxville psychologists Kristina Coop Gordon and Erica A. Mitchell, whose co-authored editorial, “Infidelity in the Time of COVID‐19,” was published in the journal Family Process earlier this month. Approximately 25 percent of all marriages experience infidelity, according to their paper, but now more than ever before, couples are engaging in extramarital affairs through dating apps, where they can browse for hookups safely and subtly, they found. “Individuals who are dissatisfied in their current relationship are more likely to explore alternative options and the increased stress from the pandemic may be contributing to more negative perceptions for individuals of both their partner and their relationship,” they wrote. The findings are backed up by infidelity website AshleyMadison.com, which reported an uptick in new accounts created at an average rate of 17,000 per day since COVID-19 descended on the US. That’s compared to a daily new user rate of 15,500 during the same time period last year. The trend in pandemic philandering has even yielded some hyperspecific custom porn requests from cam girls, such as Allie Eve Knox. “Personalized porn is really on the rise,” she recently told The Post. “People have been through PornHub for two months now. They’re running out of content and now they want people to talk to them, ask them how their day was and talk to them specifically. My wallet says that, too.” The authors also cited data from the Kinsey Institute, which found that about 13 percent of people currently in a relationship have reached out to an ex-lover during the pandemic. “Research has consistently found increases in stress to be associated with decreases in both sexual and relationship satisfaction,” they wrote. Where in the best of times, some couples may work things out, Gordon and Mitchell also warned that breakups and divorce may be more likely to occur as a result of the extraordinary psychological toll of the pandemic. The fact that couples can’t escape each other doesn’t help diffuse the situation, either, and marriage counselors can be difficult to access due to financial setbacks or social distancing measures. “The pandemic has limited couples’ access to resources and social support, which may make it more difficult for them to cope with this significant stressor,” they said. “Further, the practices supported by research and recommended for couples during affair recovery may be more difficult to achieve during this time of social isolation.”
Business is booming for Ashley Madison. A report published last week shows Ashley Madison, a matchmaking website for cheating spouses, is doing so well right now because prospective customers’ relationships are not, or spouses are at least looking for something else to spice up their lives. Because people are stuck at home with their spouses during the coronavirus-prompted lockdowns and other restrictions, some are seeking “an outlet” from their daily relationship stress, a company official said. “Now with self-isolation a major factor in our lives, virtual affairs are being utilized to fill the gap,” said Paul Keable, chief strategy officer for Ashley Madison, in an interview with InStyle. The company has been actively posting tweets and sharing blog posts boasting tips for a successful romance. As recently as Monday morning, it was offering advice for “keeping things sexy” as people are stuck indoors as part of the stay-at-home orders issued throughout the country. Keable, told Venture Beat in late March the company is benefitting from the “fractures” in couples’ relationships that are likely being “amplified dramatically” as spouses are stuck at home together. “So, if you’re under quarantine or in working from home situations with your spouse and not having [the] respite [of] going into the office and being away, 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,” Keable told the outlet, which then provided a transcript of the interview. “But having someone to talk to who’s having similar feelings is going to be a relief, and it’s potentially going to be of value to a lot of people who are experiencing that.” The company, known, in part, for its motto, “Life is short. Have an affair,” is boasting 17,000 new members per day during COVID-19 pandemic, which is a spike from the 15,500 daily customer additions in 2019, according to the report. “We often hear from our members that they love their spouses, they love their families and the situation they’re in, but there’s something missing,” Keable told the outlet. “We’re traditionally told to either suck it up and live without the thing that you want or get a divorce and give up everything you want in search of just one thing. We’re creating a third path for people.” Ashley Madison received roughly 5.6 million new clients in 2019, to make 65 million members, Keable said. Such success did not seem possible just years ago, when it was hacked in July 2015. Hackers infiltrated Ashley Madison’s website and downloaded private information belonging to its estimated 37 million customers. The details — including names, emails, home addresses, financial data and message history — were later posted publicly online. Canadian police later claimed the hacking led triggered extortion crimes and was suspected to have prompted at least two suicides. Ashley Madison’s US users later sued the website claiming negligence, breach of contract and privacy violations. They argued it failed to take reasonable steps to protect the security of its users, including those who paid a special fee to have their information deleted.