Ashley Madison offers a discreet online service for anyone considering dating outside of their existing relationship. Those wishing to use the site's messaging system (the only way to communicate) must purchase credits to do so. Access is free for women.
The Basics... Married or Single?
There are basically two types of people on Ashley Madison; those who are married or in a long-term relationship (attached), and those who are single, but for whatever reason want to date someone who’s involved with someone else.
Women can use the site for free, whilst men who wish to communicate either via the onsite email or instant chat must purchase credits to do so.
The credit system means that men only pay for those services that they use - there are no recurring monthly fees. However men will be re-billed once they spend their existing credits, unless they choose to cancel the service beforehand.
Being one of the most well-known extra-marital sites, Ashley Madison is a viable choice for attached people wishing to date outside of their main relationship -- they offer a range of privacy options, allowing people to connect with one-another in relative anonymity.
Setting-up a Profile
Joining the site and setting up a picture profile is free for both men and women. There are five main sections to the profile, however if you are in a rush, it’s possible to skip some of the less important questions.
You can say on your profile whether you are attached or not and the type of relationship you are looking for, and whether you are seeking a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship.
Don't forget your preferences
The "Intimate Desires" and "Perfect Match" sections let you express your personal sexual preferences, and the type of person you are seeking. I would advise completing these sections as it allows others to see why you are there.
Under "Profile Options" there’s a setting which lets you opt-out of market research. What does this mean exactly? Well if you take a look at the Terms and Conditions, it tells you that if you opt-into market research (the start-up setting) you may receive messages, gifts, chat requests and so on which are part of a "market research program" rather than being from real users.
Market research is not identified as such, so you won’t be able to tell the difference from normal messages or contacts.
Adding a photo to your profile will greatly enhance its appeal and may increase your chances of finding a date. On a lot of dating websites profiles without photos tend to be ignored. However, not surprisingly, many people are cautious about adding photos that may reveal their presence on the site. Most members avoid this problem as follows:
- Upload a photo in which your face is hidden, or
- Create a private photo showcase
The site forbids uploading of images containing nudity or sexual content; however you are allowed to include body-shot photos providing they are not too explicit. This is a good option for those who don’t want to reveal their identity.
In addition, if you want to add a pass-code to your photos, simply put the photos into a private showcase (private album). You can then decide which members can see your pictures. When other people view your profile, they can easily request your pass code. You will then be able to grant or deny them access to your pictures as you choose.
There aren’t any matchmaking tools on Ashley Madison as such. What they do have is quick search (located at the top of every page), which allows you to find compatible people anywhere from 20 to 500 miles away. By compatible, I mean it will show you people who "most closely" match the preferences as stated on your profile.
If the quick search isn’t enough, just click the "advanced search" button and you’ll see a list of other options that will allow you to refine your matches further. One handy setting here is the "Status / Login" which allows you to filter-out people who haven’t been active recently.
Communicating with other members is straightforward and self-explanatory. The site provides a basic email system, as well as an instant messenger for talking directly with members who are online (see "fantasy date").
There’s also an option to create a list of your favorites. However one thing to keep in mind is that anyone you add to your favorites list will receive a notification email. This is not really ideal if you want to keep your admirer a secret.
Women can always communicate for free. This includes email, instant messaging, sending flirts and so on. Men can only communicate if they’ve purchased credits. However, on the plus side the credit system does mean you only pay for what you use.
Once you’ve been in contact with someone, you have the ability to add feedback to their profile. The feedback is anonymous, but it is useful as it gives you some idea of that person’s reputation and their activity level on the site.
Ashley Madison offers something called "Fantasy Date". It’s basically a simple chat tool that allows you to communicate one-on-one with a chosen date partner. One nice twist is that it lets you set different back-drops to set the mood for your date - there’s a yacht, a coffee lounge, or a bedroom to choose from (you get the idea).
The chat system allows you to display a photo or part of a photo, which will be visible to your "date". There’s also an option to add a mask. For those who are really shy, a cartoon-like avatar can be used. Fantasy date is explained in more detail in their onsite video tutorial.
Upgrades & Credits
For men, there are three credit packages on offer, ranging from the starter 100 credits, up to something called "Affair Guarantee". Credits are "spent" on activities such as emailing or fantasy dates (see above). In addition, men must also pay what’s called an "account activation" fee. This is a one-time fee which will enable your account for the first time.
Those wishing to cancel their account permanently will find there's also a one-time cancellation fee required to remove the account. Those who opt for the permanent cancellation (instead of the regular free cancellation) will have their history removed from the site. That means messages delivered to other members' inboxes. Women must also pay the cancellation fee if they wish to have their entire activity on the site erased.
Whether you agree with the ethics of Ashley Madison or not, one thing is clear. They've established that there is a strong demand for extra-marital dating for a variety of reasons.
According to available figures, there are around 406,000 active on the site, with a few thousand more joining each month.
Not surprisingly, Ashley Madison has had a lot of criticism from various organizations from pro-marriage groups to religious bodies. But ultimately, this negative publicity only seems to have enhanced people’s awareness of the site and those like it.
If you've thought it through and have decided you want to date outside of marriage or a long-term relationship for whatever reason, Ashley Madison does let you do that in a relatively safe and controlled way.
While women can use most things for free, men should keep in mind that the credit system can work out expensive, especially if you’re using the messenger frequently.
By Tara Miller