When Love Isn't Enough

For Karen, it started out easily enough. Though she said she loves her husband, she was frustrated about his lack of interest in their sex life, which caused them to argue constantly. A weekend away without the kids left her disappointed.

"The first night he was tired. Second night he was tired. Third night he was tired," she said.

It was then that Karen made up her mind and hit an online search engine to fulfill her desires.

"I said, 'OK, I'm gonna get a lover because it truly hurt my feelings to know that we were away for three nights and he wasn't interested in sex.' It really hurt my feelings," Karen said. "[I] went on the Internet — married women looking for affair — and Googled it."

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The names of the women profiled in this story have been changed at their requests.

For Deeana, the affair began when her husband seemed to lose interest after about a dozen years of marriage.

"He's a wonderful guy. And, I love him. He's just boring," she said. "He gives more of the attention to my son rather than to me."

Deeana and Karen both found themselves in marriages that left them feeling undesired, unloved and unattractive. And both women secretly began cheating on their spouses.

Online Affairs

Deeana and Karen have another thing in common: they both used the Internet to start their extramarital affairs.

"I was shocked to see how many unhappy marriages are out there. And it's sad, in a way," Deeana said. "But it is what it is. And before the Internet, people just struggled through their marriages."

Web sites, like the wildly successful Ashley Madison, cater specifically to married people. And while it's impossible to know exactly how many cheating spouses exist online, Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman said his site has 3.5 million members, 70 percent of whom are male.

Biderman said he expects the number to increase dramatically, saying it "is just the beginning."

"We believe that what we're really doing is cannibalizing an existing human behavior and condition," he said. "We could end up having 20 or 30 million members."

A Social Taboo

But just because cheating has gone hi-tech doesn't mean it's any less taboo in society's eyes.

"Cheating is — it's still very much taboo. You know, times really haven't changed that fact. What has happened today is that cheating is much more common, I think, than it was in the past only because there are so many more vehicles for cheating," clinical psychologist Seth Meyers said.

Biderman finds the idea that cheating isn't socially acceptable intriguing.

"I think it's interesting that if you poll most people they still call it taboo or immoral to cheat," Biderman said. "But if you step back for a second and put people under a different condition and say, 'Now if you can cheat with no repercussions,' then a lot of people confess to wanting to do that or being open to doing that."

And sometimes the affair ends up in a long-term relationship. Both Karen and Deeana said they are happily involved in long-term affairs with men they met online.

"It has improved my marriage. I feel good about myself. I don't feel overweight. I don't feel unattractive. I feel like there's somebody out there that's very definitely interested in me sexually, and I don't argue about sex anymore," Karen said.

But experts warn that an affair, no matter how it makes you feel, is no fix for a broken marriage.

"She may feel at this time that this is working now, but in the long run it really will not work," Meyers said.