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Sexual Healing

A global report on the marital pleasure gap and benefits of outsourcing intimacy.

Background

Over the past couple of years, sexless marriages (a.k.a. dead bedrooms) have been especially abundant – and these droughts last longer than just a few days or weeks at a time1. This poses a serious problem between spouses, with sex being a very important component to marital intimacy and fulfillment. While there’s more to a relationship than sex, it’s still an integral part of the long term commitment between romantic partners. When it’s threatened or disappears for long periods of time, something’s got to give.

Ashley Madison is the world’s leading married dating site2, and therefore the ultimate source of supplementary sex for many people experiencing dead bedrooms. More often than not, the lack of sex is what leads to an affair – especially for women. But why is that? Why is sex so hard to come by at home, and what about it is so critical that its absence leads to extramarital affairs? To explore this, Ashley Madison surveyed more than 2,800 of its members globally about the importance of sex, what they’ve learned from their affairs, and if their marriage will go the distance despite the sexual shortcomings.

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Finding #1: Marriage breeds familiarity and can stifle variety, excitement, and novelty

It’s not uncommon to joke about a couple’s honeymoon phase being over or to playfully allude to the seven-year itch creeping in, but behind the playfulness there is plain truth. Over time, people naturally evolve – usually individually rather than in tandem with their partner – and the routine nature that can creep into a marriage with time poses an issue with one’s ever-changing desires, namely sexual ones. Ultimately monogamy becomes synonymous with monotony. 

There is a significant disconnect when it comes to sexual needs and satisfaction within a marriage. While the intimate part of a marriage may start out perfectly fine, eventually sex can become more of a boring chore (at least for one partner) and eventually a rarity within a marriage. For example, 55% of Ashley Madison members say there is a reluctance to try new things in bed, 52% do not experience passion with their spouse, 50% are missing sexual variety, and 50% are missing sexual frequency.

For those who are no longer having sex with their spouse at all, it’s been a matter of years. Thirty-four percent say they haven’t slept with their spouse for 1-5 years, 30% haven’t for 5-10 years, and 19% have gone even longer. This is the leading factor as to why Ashley Madison members decided to cheat (30%), with the need for frequency and to experiment (24%) and the need for variation (22%) coming up behind.

What is one thing you wish your spouse understood about your sexual needs/desires?

  • 36% That I need frequent sex

  • 28% That I need sexual variety

  • 26% That they need to pay more attention to my desires in order for me to enjoy having sex with them

  • 10% That always catering to their needs isn’t enjoyable for me

“I’m not sure at what point it takes effect, but it seems to be a common trend that sex takes a backseat in marriage. Life, kids, careers, and everything else runs you down and gets in the way. In my marriage, I’m much more driven sexually than my husband, and when we have the time to actually have sex, he’s not meeting my needs. That leaves me wanting more and finding it elsewhere. I would rather live a sexually fulfilled life than be miserable and full of resentment.”

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Member

Female, 30s, USA 🇺🇸

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Finding #2: Affairs don’t bring out the new you, they bring out the real you

It’s clear that sex is vital to many people, but it can also be eye-opening – especially within an affair. Twenty-four percent of Ashley Madison members learned through their infidelity that they have a higher libido than they originally thought. Additionally, 21% realized they never stopped enjoying sex, they just stopped enjoying sex with their spouse. Twenty-one percent learned how sexually adventurous they really are, and 18% were introduced to fantasies they never knew they had until they met someone they could explore them with.

Who do you consider the most adventurous in the bedroom?

  • 57% Me

  • 40% My affair partner(s)

  • 3% My Spouse

What are some new sexual behaviors/habits you’ve adopted since having affairs?

  • 56% Trying new positions

  • 40% Sexting/sending nudes

  • 36% Using sex toys

  • 27% Enhanced grooming/hygiene

  • 25% Exploring multi-partner sex

  • 22% Masturbating/self-pleasure

  • 20% Watching porn

  • 17% Filming each other

  • 16% BDSM

  • 15% Roleplay

“Luckily, there are new technological breakthroughs in sex toys happening every day. Teledildonics, remote sex and intimacy devices, multisensory and immersive toys, these devices are all capable of creating intense pleasure and orgasmic control. 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. 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.”

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Dr. Tammy Nelson

PhD and author of When You’re the One Who Cheats

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Finding #3: Marriages aren’t a lost cause and can actually benefit from the integration of outside partners

Only 10% of Ashley Madison members started cheating because they no longer enjoyed sex with their spouse. In fact, 30% believe they can actually replicate the sex they have outside of their marriage with their spouse to the same level of satisfaction. That said, extramarital affairs may actually act as a marital enhancement – and maybe not just for sex.

Infidelity can fulfill the strong desire for sexual frequency, variety, and exploration and simultaneously make maintenance sex at home less of a chore, or make the complete absence a little less frustrating. This is borne out in our members’ reporting that while many are no longer physical at home, many others are still having sex with their spouse on a monthly (27%) or even weekly (26%) basis. On top of that, 74% are engaging in longer-term affairs on the side.

Rate your sex life out of 10

  • 7.3 / 10 With your spouse, at the beginning of your relationship

  • 6.6 / 10 With your affair partner(s) now

  • 3.8 / 10 With your spouse now

“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. 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.”

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Member

Female, 50s, Canada 🇨🇦

Sources:

Based on a global survey of 2,835 Ashley Madison members from March 26, 2021 to April 8, 2021

  1. Are ‘dead bedrooms’ sucking the life out of relationships?

  2. Based on the number of sign-ups to AshleyMadison.com since 2002

Join millions of members and explore the possibilities today.