How long does it take a faithful spouse to become a cheater? Apparently, 36 hours.
At least that's what AshleyMadison.com says. The site claims it's the world's largest for married cheaters, promoting itself as a "married dating service for discreet encounters." The site says it has 21 million members worldwide, and it shared an analysis of internal data exclusively with ABC News on the average time it takes from registering on the site to having an affair.
Peak registration time for new members is between 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., according to the site's CEO Noel Biderman. "It's twice as busy in that time period than any other during the day," he said. "Our servers have to be ready. There's a nighttime decision to start an affair in the morning."
“”'There's a nighttime decision to start an affair in the morning'
But that decision isn't likely a spur-of-the-moment one, experts said. "The people who come to Ashley Madison are cheaters," said love and relationship expert Siggy Flicker. "No man or woman cheats if there is a strong foundation and love in the relationship."
“”'No man or woman cheats if there is a strong foundation and love in the relationship'
Two to three hours after signing up on the site, Biderman said, new members typically check back to see what kind of a response their profile has received or if there have been any replies to messages they've sent to others.
Later that same night, after 10 o'clock, is the peak time for mutually interested parties to chat online, said Biderman. The cheater, he said, is typically sneaking out of the matrimonial bed for the "virtual dates," or is out of town. "The servers are humming. People are paying by the minute to chat, and that indicates a relationship is forming."
Early the next morning, the interested parties keep in touch, said Biderman. An average of seven messages are sent between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. among the people who started chatting the night before. Around lunchtime that same day, the first meeting usually takes place. Five out of six times, the woman chooses the location, said Biderman.
And finally, that night, the actual affair begins, sometime between 5 and 8.
But there's likely a good reason for the express lane to infidelity. Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of "The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples" said, "Once you go to that place, you've crossed a line most people aren't going to cross."
“”'Once you go to that place, you've crossed a line most people aren't going to cross'
Biderman acknowledged that what AshleyMadison.com's data don't show are what leads to the decision to cheat. "But once they've made the decision to go down this road, it's almost inevitable," he said. Eighty percent of the people who real-time chatted for more than 20 minutes on Day 1 progressed to the face-to-face meeting on Day 2. The other 20 percent were looking for communication but not looking to meet offline, said Biderman.
The site's members are 40 percent female and 60 percent male. The fact that more men seem to be looking to cheat than women correlates with research from the 2010 National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey, which found that 14.7 percent of women admitted to an extramarital affair compared with 21 percent of men.
Is there a lesson to be learned in all this? Yes, said Biderman: If you want to keep your spouse from straying, make the weekends count. The most popular day of the week for new registration is Monday, when the site sees an average of 35,000 new registrants compared with the average of 25,000 on other days.
“”'If you want to keep your spouse from straying, make the weekends count'
There are similar spikes immediately following holidays, such as Mother's Day and Father's Day, days people attach expectations to and might leave them feeling disappointed in their marriage if those expectations aren't met.
"With every holiday or special occasion, there's expectations, and when people are disappointed, they may go somewhere else for love and attention," Flicker said. "But it's the people who are the weakest, the ones with unrealistic expectations, that run for the door first."
But Schwartz said we underestimate how important sexuality is to a relationship. Of the two women she knows who have had affairs through AshelyMadison.com, both were at a dead-end sexually in their marriages, but neither wanted to leave their husbands. One went on the site with her husband's blessing.
And, according to Biderman, the "vast, vast majority" are using the site as a "marriage preservation device."
It's a notion Flicker called "baloney." She said, "They're the ones who were never told that life isn't a rose garden. Not everything is always going to be fabulous. There are going to be bumps in the road, and you have to work on them together."