A controversial new study by a dating website that encourages infidelity has attempted to discover why it is that people choose to cheat on their partners and what relationships might gain from the act.
Ashley Madison, an online dating site that targets married people, recently quizzed more than 2,800 members, both men and women, who honestly assessed why they are cheating.
According to the results, unsurprisingly the primary driver to stray, was around sex being absent at home – for some respondents for up to and over 10 years.
30 per cent revealed that it’s been 5-10 years since they slept with their partner.
"We’ve heard time and time again from our members that a prominent motivation behind the decision to cheat is an unsatisfying marital sex life," Ashley Madison’s Chief Strategy Officer Paul Keable said.
"Whether that means unenjoyable sex, enjoyable but infrequent or repetitive sex, or no sex at all."
The research results revealed three key findings, according to the experts, with some pointing to how critical role sex plays in personal happiness and growth.
Not enough sex or unsatisfied needs
Many married individuals experience a disconnect between themselves and their spouse when it comes to sexual needs and satisfaction, the study showed.
For example, 55 per cent say their spouse is reluctant to try new things in bed, 52 per cent say there is no passion between them, 50 per cent say there is no variety, and 50 per cent are lacking frequency.
All these things are what Ashley Madison members believe are integral to their sexual fulfilment, but fizzle out over time.
In some cases, sex doesn’t just decrease, it disappears altogether. For members who are no longer having sex with their spouse at all, it’s been a matter of years. Thirty-four percent haven’t slept with their spouse for 1-5 years, 30 per cent haven’t for 5-10 years, and 19 per cent have gone even longer.
Sex therapist Dr. Tammy Nelson, author of When You’re the One Who Cheats, points out that sex toys can be a way to "bridge the pleasure gap".
"For those partners who can’t be together all the time, sex toys combine virtual reality with updated technology to help couples stay sexy and connected. There are many ways today to bridge the pleasure gap while staying excited and adding intrigue to everyday life," Dr Nelson said.
"Sex toys, either alone or with their partner, can be fun, which is why they’re called ‘toys,’ and are not designed to replace a partner, but to enhance pleasure, either alone or with someone else."
Discovering own identity
The second key finding from the report was that many Ashley Madison members used extramarital sex as a gateway to the true self.
For instance, 24 per cent of respondents learned through their affairs that their libido was higher than they knew, and 21 per cent realised what they thought was an aversion to sex in general was actually an aversion to sex with their spouse.
New positions (56%), sexting (40%), and using sex toys (36%) are just a few examples of what members have been able to bring into their sex lives thanks to their infidelity.
Could an affair save a marriage?
Only a very small number of members (10%) pointed to unenjoyable sex at home as being the reason they cheated, pointing to the fact marital sex can still be satisfying as long as it caters to both people involved.
In fact, Ashley Madison members rate their sex life with their spouse at the very beginning of their relationship as the best sex they’ve ever had (7.3/10 compared to 3.8/10 currently).
Sometimes, however, as time goes on and monotony rears its head, that satisfaction is hard to find in just one person. That's where some believe infidelity may act as a marital enhancement, fulfilling the desire for sexual variety and frequency while also making sex at home less of a 'chore' or the lack of sex altogether a little easier to tolerate.
One female member from Canada explains: “Sex was good until things slowed when the kids came. Sex every few weeks kept me happy, but just as I thought things picked up, his neurodegenerative symptoms appeared. By the time I was 38, sex and intimacy dried up save for a handful of times over the years," the 50-year-old member said.
"Loneliness had consumed me by the time I met my affair partner at 47. I can’t describe the pain a lack of intimacy causes, but suffice it to say I missed being held more than sex. My lover’s embrace, love, and affection washed away my loneliness and growing resentment for my husband over sex.
"Without the loneliness and pain, I’m a happier, more patient, and better wife who no longer grieves the loss of my sex life."