The emails began with a trickle but quickly resulted in a flood: missive after missive from women who veered away from traditional societal constraints to open up their relationships to include others.
I’m not sure why I was so surprised by the volume of responses I received to my call-out for this story; according to a survey by Ashley Madison (a dating site for people who are married or in relationships), 26 per bbwcupid-ondersteuning cent of married women – a cross section of site members and non-members – claim to be in an open relationship. Curiously, more females (56 per cent) within the survey reported feeling fulfilled with their open monogamy agreements compared with their male counterparts (36 per cent).
‘It was either we get divorced or we start sleeping with other people’
Open relationships (where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other) and polyamory (a desire to have intimate, loving relationships with multiple people) are on the rise globally, confirms Bruce Alexander, founder of dating app PolyFinda. “Having more than one partner isn’t as taboo as it was as little as five years ago, plus we’re finding the younger generation is far more fluid and accepting of lifestyle choices that aren’t in line with the traditional model we were all sold,” he explains.
“It was either we get divorced or we start sleeping with other people”
Kelly*, a 58-year-old business owner, has been married for more than 20 years. Three years ago, she met her boyfriend through Ashley Madison.
It isn’t that we don’t care for each other – he’s a kind man who takes care of our family – but he’s 15 years older than me, and I just don’t feel sexually attracted to him. Let me put it this way: you can love someone as an integral part of your family unit, but that doesn’t mean you love him as a partner. As a result, I spent many years of our marriage gaining weight, losing confidence and feeling undesirable.
Although I’d long believed I’d lost interest in sex, that all changed just over seven years ago when my friend’s husband hit on me at a party. Not exactly the best situation to be in but it made me realise what I was missing. I was intrigued by the feelings of arousal I was having and decided I would clean myself up. I worked hard to lose weight, began paying attention to my hair and nails, and started wearing sexy clothing again. Then, when I knew I was ready, I approached my husband and said, ‘We can do one of two things: we can live separate lives under the one roof and sleep with other people, or we can get a divorce.’ He ultimately agreed that as long as I was discreet and set perimeters that he would look the other way.
Straight away, I set up a profile on Ashley Madison. Initially, things were casual and I agreed to my husband’s conditions that I never bring any of the men back to our house, but just under three years ago I met a guy who’s since become my boyfriend and he’s at my house every week when my husband’s away. He’s married, too, so we have to be rigid with our plans; he comes to my house for sex every Wednesday and occasionally we’ll see each other for lunch on weekends if we can get away. My husband knows I have a boyfriend, but we just don’t talk about it.
There are pros and cons to living life this way. On the plus side, I’m getting a lot of sex, so I’m happy. I’m almost 60 and back to wearing bikinis because I take so much care to be toned and look good. When you’re happy, you tend to put more effort into everything you do, so, as a result, my business has also really taken off. The downside? I’m in love with my boyfriend, but I know that outside of our dates I can never have more than that. He’s a dedicated family man who’ll never leave his wife and that hurts. In a way, I can understand. Despite what I’m doing, my responsibility is to my family, too, and only once they’re taken care of do I take care of myself.”