Moms feeling under appreciated by their families this Mother's Day turned to an unlikely source to console them—a dating site, according to the company with the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair.”
"A significant percentage of these women [from Mothers Day] are looking for an emotional connection," said Noel Biderman, president and founder of controversial matchmaker site www.AshleyMadison.com. "If you sign up for a service like this, and a day later you have six people interested in you, that is a revalidation of a time when your partner paid attention to you in that way. I genuinely believe this is what a large percentage of these women are seeking."
According to the site, 52,684 moms nationwide signed up Monday -- the day after Mother's Day -- to take advantage of its one-day offer for free messages. This was a 321% increase in traffic initiated by female members, and a huge boost from the average 3,000 women who sign up for the site daily, Biderman said. While the same deal was offered last Mother's Day, this was a 60% increase from last year's numbers. The top three cities for message activity were San Antonio, Texas, Phoenix, Ariz., and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Biderman said women in relationships, especially mothers, expected the holiday to bring extra love and attention. Those who were disappointed in the lack of attention they received took advantage of the deal being offered.
"Holidays are litmus tests," he said. "If that is the day you're expecting to be treated well and you are left feeling empty that may be the impetus for starting an affair … We are trying to turn the miserable outcomes into a positive thing."
According to Biderman, the allure of a service like Ashley Madison is that it eliminates what he calls "digital lipstick," and allows them to discreetly engage in relationships privately, without text or e-mail. He said the moms messaging this past Monday were on average, 36-years-old, and 68% were stay-at-home moms.
But were those taking advantage of the one-day deal really malcontent moms, or maybe just people looking to play make believe in an online fantasy dating world? It could be either, according to New York City-based attorney Randi L. Karmel.
Even though the site does enlist single men and women, Karmel said there is no way to tell if a person really is married or not.
"You never know what you get when you meet people online," she said. "I think people are attracted to the allure of it. People are very much drawn to it on a psychological level. It also condones their behavior, because it is two-fold. The other person is 'cheating,' as well."
She also warned that those who use any online dating service to cheat on their spouse are often bound to be caught. She said leaving an online footprint is foolish for any married person looking to have an affair.
"You get caught on these sites because family computers are family computers," Karmel said. "Clearly Mother's Day was not good for most of these women, and this was a place they are able to get the psychological gratification. It is emotionally cheating in the privacy of your home."
But even if an unhappy mom was caught cheating, it couldn’t affect the monetary award she’d receive in a potential divorce settlement, according to Karmel. She said in a divorce proceeding, adultery is irrelevant to whether someone will pay maintenance or alimony.
"Even if someone screwed up the marriage and cheated, it still doesn't mean they wouldn't be able to get money," Karmel said. "You don't financially punish someone for cheating."
The only instance where adultery could alter alimony and child-support awards would be if he or she claimed they were not able to work because they were at home taking care of their children, and it came to light that they were out having affairs or using a site like Ashley Madison to cheat.
"Then a judge may order them to go get a job," Karmel said. "But there is no provision in the law that says 'if you cheat you won't get the money [from a divorce settlement] you would have otherwise.'"
Biderman said about 30% of the women on the site are single, compared to about 10% of men enlisted. He said he is fairly positive that those listed as "single" are telling the truth.
"Its one of those platforms where you tend to be honest," he said. "There is already dishonesty on the home front, so people tend to come here and be honest. There are a lot of people out there happy to be with an otherwise taken person."