If you’re married and thinking about stepping outside of your relationship, you may have asked yourself: is Ashley Madison worth it? The dating site catering to married people has attracted more than its fair share of controversy and scandal. Yet its motto “Life is short. Have an affair” has remained at the heart of the dating platform for over 20 years.

Before you make up your mind about whether Ashley Madison is the best dating site for your purposes, it’s a good idea to evaluate the costs and benefits, and understand how Ashley Madison works. 

The Benefits of Ashley Madison

For a person seeking an extramarital affair, Ashley Madison presents a lot of opportunities to get what you want and need. The dating website provides a secure, private outlet for fantasy and reality alike, where married people can meet and conduct themselves discreetly outside of their marriages. 

There are a few key factors that set Ashley Madison apart from other dating sites when it comes to extramarital relationships.

1. It’s Free to Browse Profiles & Explore Fantasy Romances

If you just want to window-shop and browse profiles without actually committing to anything, the Ashley Madison website makes that very easy. It’s free to sign up to join other Ashley Madison users, and to browse profiles on the site. 

The infidelity site costs nothing at all for women, while men have access to the database profiles with no credit card necessary. The registration process takes about 10 minutes, including the time to figure out what username you want and what to include in your bio. Our Ashley Madison review goes into more detail, but there are some key details you must provide to start getting matches: ZIP code, relationship status, date of birth, and other basics. 

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You also have to specify your limits: do you want to keep your affairs to cybersexting, have a fling, find a hookup, or find a long-term relationship outside of your marriage? If you want to keep things on the fantasy level, it’s a lot easier to do that when you set out the expectation from the beginning.

The online dating platform also provides some options for paying members to explore fantasy dates and opportunities from the comfort of their phone or laptop. But if all you want to do is look at potential matches and think about what could be, there’s no charge at all.

2. Greater Privacy Protections Include Photo Blurring & Masking

If you’re going to create a profile on an infidelity website, one of the major concerns will be keeping your spouse from discovering it. Ashley Madison includes several built-in features to help maintain your discretion, which is part of why it’s such a popular option for a married woman or man seeking something more.

The most important features that Ashley Madison provides for the married man or woman on the dating site are the photo blur and masking options. When you upload your photos to your profile, you can choose to blur out identifying details like your face or overlay a mask to prevent your identity from being revealed. You can also put photos behind a digital lock with the Secret Photo Albums option. This option usually hosts raunchy and NSFW photos, but you can reserve it for pictures that reveal your identity, saving them for when you’re confident you can trust the person you’re talking to.

Other privacy features include the panic button, which navigates you away from the online dating platform and onto a generic website, and browser history clearing, to keep your spouse from stumbling across your online activity.

3. All Ashley Madison Users Are Looking for Something More

According to surveys conducted by Ashley Madison itself, most of the users on the website don’t want to leave their spouses. Married women and married men on the site want more than their marriage has to offer, rather than wanting to replace their partner. The site and dating app are both full of people who are frustrated in their long-term relationships, but don’t want to or can’t get out of them.

Screenshot of an Ashley Madison profile
The Ashley Madison profile invites you to describe yourself, your interests, and your desires.

The most common reason that Ashley Madison users cite for joining the site is sexual frustration. Around 42% of Ashley Madison users report wanting to find friendship and non-sexual romance outside of their marriage as well, but 61% of respondents stated they wanted more excitement in their sex lives.

Ashley Madison’s dating experts say that all in all, the online dating site’s members are seeking something more than their relationship can offer. They explain, “One major reason people cheat is because they feel they can be more honest with their cheating partner. Women said the ability to be honest with their cheating partner was the top reason they found cheating ‘easy.’”

4. Avid Life Media Has Upped Its Security Since 2015

It’s no secret that Ashley Madison ran into major issues when the site was hacked in 2015. Avid Life Media, the company that owns Ashley Madison, has since made a lot of updates and changes to the way the site and the Ashley Madison app work to make things more secure.

The major breach occurred thanks to the hacking collective called The Impact Team which has gone after a number of high-profile targets successfully. The Impact Team successfully mined the site for identifying information on its members and threatened to release the data if Ashley Madison didn’t immediately shut down. 

Of course, Ashley Madison did not shut down, and the site withstood the storm that came along with the release of identifying details of millions of users. While the impact included a multimillion-dollar settlement to victims of the leak, the Ashley Madison hack resulted in a strong crackdown on site security.

Ashley Madison instituted two-factor verification, PCI compliance, and fully encrypted browsing, along with other features to secure accounts on the dating website. While hacking is an arms race between hackers and their targets, Ashley Madison is a very secure site, with a host of tools and features to keep information under lock and key.

5. The Blog Offers Tips for Married Dating

Conducting an extramarital affair can be tricky, so one of the major benefits to joining Ashley Madison compared with joining other dating platforms is the expert advice offered on its blog. The blog includes articles with tips and tricks to keep potential matches discreet and maintain a secret relationship outside of your marriage.

It also provides safety tips for topics like how to date within a marriage while social distancing, mental health advice, and insights for people who are stressed and frustrated in their relationships and seeking an outlet in an affair. The goal of the blog is to help cheating spouses who are already on the site understand their situation and keep damage from their extramarital relationship to a minimum, among other topics. 

The Costs of Ashley Madison

The best things in life may be free, but established men and experienced women know that discretion takes money. The price of being an Ashley Madison user isn’t just based on money, and it’s important to weigh those costs before taking the plunge. 

6. The Dating Site Literally Costs Money

Of course, the primary cost of Ashley Madison is what you pay to use the site’s benefits and features. Every female user can send and receive messages, and has access to other core functions of the site. But for men, the costs can stack up pretty quickly.

Unlike other affair-friendly sites like Adult Friend Finder, Ashley Madison doesn’t charge on a subscription model. Instead, users buy Ashley Madison credits to use on different functions. Premium features for male profiles include:

  • send and reply to messages
  • send a virtual gift
  • receive Priority Man status

The good news is that Ashley Madison uses discreet billing identification for your credit card purchases. But the default setting automatically refills your credits when you hit the minimum. If you want to avoid that, you have to change that feature manually in your Ashley Madison account settings. 

It’s possible to rack up a big charge on the dating website, but that isn’t the only cost to consider when thinking about Ashley Madison.

7. It Is Always Risky to Seek an Affair Online

Every extramarital affair comes with the risk of being caught, and your infidelity can be discovered in many ways. Your personal information like email addresses or phone numbers or other details can be leaked by another hacking group, or your spouse’s friend may stumble across your profile and figure out it’s you.

While the affair site takes care to make it as difficult as possible for Ashley Madison users to get caught, there’s no way to prevent every method of detection permanently. And of course, if you’re caught, there are consequences for your personal and family life, and potentially for your professional reputation and career as well.

8. You’ll Need to Juggle Some Secrets & Suspicious Minds

It takes a lot of work to step outside of your marriage, even if you only do so virtually. Just by the nature of an extramarital relationship, you’ll have to manage secrets, juggle your family life with your activities outside of the marriage, and of course, keep your spouse from discovering your other life. 

Photo of a man taking off his ring
If you aren’t careful, your partner may find out about your affairs.

In addition, your situation automatically makes it hard to trust the people you encounter on any dating site. Paranoia, fear of being caught, means that many people who seek to start an affair constantly worry their partner will “catfish” them. Ashley Madison does everything it can to prevent any fake profile from getting through the signup process, but it’s impossible to catch all of them right away.

Not knowing whether you’re talking to a real woman or man, or a fake account designed to trap you can make conducting your affair much more difficult. And once you find a real person and you know they’re genuine, you will have to worry about being caught through some other means. 

9. Even Online Relationships Take Work to Maintain

If your goal is to escape the work of your marriage through an extramarital affair, it can be a shock to find your outside relationship causes you frustration too. Extramarital relationships are not a long-term solution to an unhappy marriage or a bad relationship, and in some cases can highlight just how bad things are even more intensely.

While the escape and fantasy of an affair can be a powerful draw, you have to put work into any relationship, even a fling. When the relationship doesn’t live up to the daydreams you’ve entertained, or the real person you’re talking to isn’t pure fantasy material, you may find yourself wondering if using Ashley Madison for an affair is worth the trouble.

In the long term, your affair may help you learn about yourself and the ways you’re hurting your relationships, but only if you do the work.

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Ashley Madison Legit?

Yes, Ashley Madison is a legit dating site, launched in 2001 for the purposes of helping married people find affair partners. It’s owned by Avid Life Media, and the Ashley Madison site is one of the most popular options for married people around the world. 

With an Ashley Madison free account, you can browse potential matches in your area, and female users can contact anyone they want with no restrictions. The situation is more complicated for men, and not every feature on the site is free for everyone, but Ashley Madison is a legitimate dating site.

Is Ashley Madison the Only Dating Site for Affairs?

No, Ashley Madison isn’t the only option for married men and women looking for discreet affairs outside of their marriages. Our experts rank the site as the best dating site for affairs, but there are several other options for people who want more than their relationship can provide.

Flirt.com is a casual hookup site where singles and people in relationships can express their desires freely. The whole point of the dating site is to facilitate flirting, and members send approximately 100 million messages each month.

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  • Millions of active daters seek sex with a stranger
  • Over 100 million messages exchanged a month
  • Women actually outnumber men on the hookup website

Victoria Milan, Gleeden, and FindNewPassion are all dating platforms that we’ve examined in detail, and while they don’t have quite the same level of popularity or standards as Ashley Madison, each one offers unique features and benefits. Different privacy settings, demographics, and other aspects make them potentially a better fit for some married people. Other cheating sites exist as well, but Ashley Madison reviews consistently rank it at the top for good reason. 

Who Was Responsible for the Ashley Madison Hack?

A group of hackers using the tagline The Impact Team, a subsidiary of Anonymous, were responsible for the Ashley Madison hack in 2015. The group breached the site and managed to capture the personal information of millions of members, including email addresses, phone numbers, and credit card details.

Since that hack, Avid Life Media and Ashley Madison have worked together to avoid a repeat of the leak by implementing full encryption, two-factor verification, and other features. Some of these security measures also keep fake profiles to a minimum as an added benefit. 

Are All Ashley Madison Users Cheaters?

No, in fact, single men and women are far from rare on the Ashley Madison site. While the site is specifically for enabling affairs, singles who are interested in a hookup with a married person, or who want something more, are welcome to join as well.

The site specifies that any singles on the platform must be OK with dating a married person, but for many single men and women, this is a feature rather than a caveat. There are many younger women seeking established men for mutually beneficial relationships and Ashley Madison is one of the prime platforms for that kind of relationship.

What Are Some Red Flags of a Fake Profile?

Some fake profiles are sophisticated, but most of the fakes you’ll find on any dating website betray themselves in different ways. Many fake accounts use stock photos or no photos at all, and the scammer will often try to get you off the platform and onto international messaging services like WhatsApp or Yahoo as quickly as possible.

Fake profiles also tend to be too good to be true, and the users avoid being seen in person. Endless excuses for no video or voice chat, or to not meet in person, or to delay meeting in person, can be major hallmarks of a fake profile. And of course, asking for money is another red flag. 

Do Other Online Dating Sites Keep Identities Secret?

Privacy is an important concern in the dating scene, particularly for individuals seeking discreet affairs. Fortunately, the Ashley Madison site isn’t the only one keeping real-life identities separate from online personas. Adult Friend Finder is an anonymous hookup site where single and not-so-single people can mingle without raising red flags in their real lives.

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Adult Friend Finder has been in the matchmaking game longer than Ashley Madison has, and its database has continually grown year after year. The AFF network is known worldwide for holding nothing back and fostering a judgment-free zone for flirting, sexting, and hooking up. Regardless of your relationship status or sexual orientation, you will be welcome to explore sexual activities on AFF.

Yes, Ashley Madison is Worth a Try

While Ashley Madison membership comes with some steep costs, reviews of the site indicate that Ashley Madison works when it comes to bringing together married people for extramarital affairs. The site uses top-of-the-line security and discretion features to help you keep things under wraps, and provides opportunities for a wide variety of indiscretions, whether you want to keep things in the realm of fantasy or hook up with someone as soon as possible.

Is Ashley Madison worth it? Our online dating experts agree that for spouses looking to cheat, it can be an avenue to short-term gratification in an anonymous space, and some people are willing to take the risk for the sake of a new romance. If you’re curious, it’s certainly worth a look.

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