Editor’s note: When we asked Brad to review of Ashley Madison to include in our collection of online dating and social media sites, we were not aware of the infidelity niche aspect (In Boston, AshleyMadison.com’s ad campaign promoted the site with the motto: Life is short. Have an affair). Let’s just say it’s not the kind of site that you and your significant other can sit down and browse together. We don’t endorse it and recommend looking at some of the other online matching sites such as our reviews of eHarmony, which I like a lot better. Make your own decision. Thanks for educating us Brad.
Ashley Madison kind of sounds like a porn star name, and this online dating service actually does lean more that direction than many of the others. It specializes in affairs for married or attached people, which has gotten the attention of numerous publications. While plenty of people think this kind of service is unethical, there’s no denying the popularity of such practices. Rest assured, reader, that my first-hand knowledge that follows was done entirely for your benefit. I don’t wish to get in trouble with my “attachment.”
There are over 1.7 million members at Ashley Madison, and almost all of them are there to date outside of the relationship. The service makes it absolutely clear that it exists for just that reason. Still, you will find a few singles looking for relationships with other singles, but who would want to hook up with them, since it’s obvious they can’t follow directions?
Signing up can be extremely quick, since you only have to fill out about ten questions related to your location, physical characteristics, and relationship information. However, you have the option of filling out a more detailed profile that includes descriptions of your interests, your perfect match, and your “intimate interests.” You have the capability to add a profile photo, but you’ll find that the nature of this matching service makes profiles with photos fairly rare. It all adds up to Ashley Madison functioning like the Yahoo Personals of the polyamorous.
Members can get quite specific in their profiles with an interest checklist of over fifty preferences ranging from scented candles to tattoos. Some members also have a “private showcase” that may include photos you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. Other members must be invited to view them.
Ashley Madison offers a lot of help for members who want to make discretion a high priority. Members can turn off their profiles at any time, and they can also set things up so they appear offline even when they are actually online. In case you are about to get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, there is a panic button that will whisk you away to a movie trailer website. Good luck hitting it in time, though, as the button is awfully tiny.
Mischief and discretion come at a premium with Ashley Madison, so expect to pay two or three times the cost of cheaper online dating sites like Date.com or Perfectmatch.com. There is no monthly subscription price; instead members pay for credits, with the cheapest option being 100 credits for $55. That will buy you 5 hours of instant messaging time or 20 emails to new matches. The ultimate package costs $360 and covers six months of unlimited emailing and 750 credits (which equates to more than 37 hours of instant messaging time). Members can also choose to transfer credits to other members.
Other features you’ll find on the site include a tips section, where Ashley Madison offers advice for successful encounters. The online matchmaker seems to have thought of everything a new member could want in the way of help, even providing a “Dictionary of Acronyms & Emoticons” and a chart listing the most popular days and times for members to be on the site.
Ashley Madison also includes some cost-cutting features such as the ability to respond to a paid member’s email for free. There is also the unique option to send a collect instant message.
Be sure to thoroughly understand the consequences that can come from using the Ashley Madison online matching service. It can’t be emphasized enough that this is not just another online personals site. That being said, if some excitement outside of your current relationship doesn’t clash with your values, Ashley Madison can offer you a well-organized center for finding just what you’re looking for.