A dating website for cheats uses, "Life is short – have an affair" as its slogan.
The site is specially set up for people to have anonymous flings. And cheating husbands and wives are checking it out.
Nearly 13,000 New Zealanders have already visited Ashleymadison.com and more than 1500 signed up since April 21, when it launched here.
The US-based site claims nearly six million members worldwide. Responses have ranged from thankyou notes from its adulterous clients to threats of violence from opponents.
Founder Noel Biderman refuses to acknowledge his site might be damaging healthy relationships.
"This is a service for people who are already in unhappy relationships – people who are content don't even notice our TV ads or radio commercials," says the US-based businessman.
Biderman says using the site is safer than casual encounters because both parties can be prepared for their affair, including methods to ensure discretion.
"That kind of information is not usually broadcast but on Ashleymadison it is... from our perspective using Ashleymadison is a much better option than having a risky office romance or pretending to be single when you are not."
But New Zealand sex therapist Robyn Salisbury says affairs are potentially hazardous. "All human beings, even those in committed relationships, are open to temptation, and [Biderman] is feeding into that," she said.
"For couples in trouble, it just creates further problems. My advice is that if a relationship is in trouble, couples need to seek professional help." Salisbury said in her work, the term "first do no harm" is very important – and using a website to jump into an affair has all sorts of inherent risks.
The Palmerston North therapist's warning is also backed by a surprising source – Rod Jackson, who owns Auckland Swingers venue Club Sparty with his wife Sharon.
"If [a couple] are doing it together, and swinging, then it is all open and nobody is getting hurt," Jackson said.
"The harm comes from when you've got a guy who is running around with a woman half his age behind his wife's back taking resources – money, time and emotional support – away from his family. That causes damage.
"This [Ashleymadison] site is overtly saying if you want to cheat on your partner this is the way to do it, and that's dangerous."
Such warnings have not deterred Kiwis checking out the website.
Since its launch in New Zealand two weeks ago the site has had more than 111,000 hits.
Meanwhile the number of divorces has dropped to a 20-year low. The Family Court granted 8700 marriage dissolution orders in 2009, the lowest number since 8600 in 1989. One third of New Zealanders who married in 1984 had divorced before their 25th wedding, anniversary.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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