No Remorse: Sexual Infidelity Is Not Clearly Linked with Relationship Satisfaction or Well-Being in Ashley Madison Users

Arch Sex Behav. 2023 Aug;52(6):2561-2573. doi: 10.1007/s10508-023-02573-y. Epub 2023 Apr 3.

Abstract

Past research on extradyadic relationship experiences (including infidelity) often suffers from restricted sampling and retrospective accounts, which may have given researchers a distorted image of what it is like for people to have affairs. In this research, we shed light on the experiences people have during their affairs with a sample of registered users on Ashley Madison, a website geared toward facilitating infidelity. Our participants completed questionnaires about their primary (e.g., spousal) relationships, as well as personality traits, motivations to seek affairs, and outcomes. Findings from this study challenge widely held notions about infidelity experiences. Analyses revealed that participants were highly satisfied with their affairs and expressed little moral regret. A small subset of participants reported having consensually open relationships with their partners, who knew about their activity on Ashley Madison. In contrast to previous findings, we did not observe low relationship quality (i.e., satisfaction, love, commitment) to be a major driver of affairs and the affairs did not predict decreases in these relationship quality variables over time. That is, among a sample of individuals who proactively sought affairs, their affairs were not primarily motivated by poor dyadic/marital relationships, their affairs did not seem to have a strong negative impact on their relationships, and personal ethics did not play a strong role in people's feelings about their affairs.

Keywords: Affairs; Ashley Madison; Infidelity; Romantic relationships; Sexual dissatisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Extramarital Relations
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Marriage*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners*