Katy Lewis was cleaning the office at home one Saturday last month when she noticed a piece of paper screwed up on the floor behind the wicker bin. On it her husband Robert had written the names and numbers of two women.
‘My stomach churned,’ remembers Katy, 38, a legal executive from Manchester. ‘Female intuition told me to be concerned immediately.’
When she logged on to the computer and scrolled through the history of recent internet searches she discovered her husband of five years, a surveyor, had been surfing websites designed for married people hoping to have affairs.
‘I ran to the bathroom to throw up, then I realised it made sense of a lot of things. Robert had been a nightmare to live with for two months since he’d been warned that his was one of countless jobs at risk of redundancy.
Property professionals have been hit hard by the recession. He was irritable, couldn’t sleep, didn’t want sex and would row with me over the slightest thing. He’d also started coming home later from work and though he insisted it was because he was trying to protect his job, I hadn’t been convinced.’
Faced with Katy’s evidence, Robert confessed that he’d had a series of illicit liaisons with married women he’d met on the internet who, like him, had been seeking an ‘escape’ from the economic doom and gloom.
While many a company flounders, infidelity is positively booming because of the recession, yielding massive financial rewards for those who rely on other people’s extra-marital misdemeanours for their income.
Bed-hopping is, after all, pretty much free, save the odd drink to sweeten a lover or the fee for joining a website for would-be cheaters. David Rees is founder and director of marriedandlooking.co.uk, one such site aimed at facilitating affairs among married people.
‘In the past six months, we’ve seen a 25 per cent increase in members versus the previous six months, and it’s certainly being driven by the recession,’ says Rees, an entrepreneur who has been happily married for 15 years.
He launched his website in 2001 and it operates like other dating sites with members posting profiles for others to see.
‘We have almost 10,000 members, all of them married and most of them professional and aged 25 to 50. There are lots of company directors and highflyers on there and men outnumber women by three to one.
‘Research indicates that 40 per cent of the people registered on singles dating websites are actually married, so ironically ours is a much more honest proposition.
‘Members tell us that they want to relieve the stresses caused by worrying about their jobs or businesses. But frequently those stresses are exacerbated at home where they argue with their spouse over finances or the school fees.
So they join our site in search of no-strings sexual encounters with people who are also married and, therefore, have the same to lose. On average most people are members for six months and will have around two encounters during that time. These aren’t serial philanderers, they just want a quick outlet without risking their marriage or getting involved.’
And while Rees admits that his website is ‘contentious’, he seems able to ignore the possible wider implications of infidelity – shattered families and untold heartache. At present, his business-is earning him a small fortune-with membership starting at £15.99 per month.
He says: ‘Infidelity has gone from being a niche market when we first launched eight years ago to verging on mainstream now,’ he adds. ‘I’m not morally disturbed by what I do, it’s a business that’s serving an obvious need which has only got greater due to recession.’
Howard James is marketing director of one of the newest sex-driven matchmaking websites, forgetdinner.co.uk, aimed at those who want to bypass dating and get straight to the bedroom.
‘Although we are aimed at singles, there are almost certainly married people using Forget Dinner to facilitate affairs right now,’ he says. ‘Given the no-strings, fun nature of the site it will be attractive to those trapped in an unhappy marriage who want an uncomplicated sexual liaison.
‘In the three months since the site launched, half a million people have registered and they’re all looking for the same thing – casual encounters without the hearts and flowers. The recession has had a massive impact. So many people are worrying about job security or finding a job and sex is a great way to relieve that stress.’
With the internet making it so easy for people to cheat on their partners, small wonder that software developer Andy Felton is cashing in on infidelity. He developed Your-Spy.co.uk, a computer software programme that monitors your spouse’s email and internet activity once downloaded discreetly onto their computer or laptop.
As suspicious partners seek to be their own super sleuths, more than 300 a week are downloading Your-Spy at £29.99 a time.
‘Research we’ve conducted with almost 600 office workers across the UK reveals that, with concerns over money and job security, people are more likely to engage in illicit affairs right now than ever before,’ says Felton. ‘Facebook is having a real influence on affairs, making it easy to trace old flames and acquaintances and for those in long-term relationships to stray.’
That’s where YourSpy comes in as it lets you see exactly what they’ve been emailing and to whom. If they’re communicating with a lover over the internet then it will record all the evidence you need that an affair is either taking place or in the offing.
Internal communications manager Claire Thurman, 35, from Bishop’s Stortford, in Hertfordshire, is divorcing her husband Nathan, 39, after discovering he was having an affair when he was made redundant from a City bank last autumn.
‘Instead of focusing on finding a new job he was going out for boozy lunches every day with colleagues who’d also been made redundant,’ Claire says. ‘After a month he was still going out every day I started to quiz him. He became very defensive which made me question him further.
So I hired a detective to follow him on one of these lunches in November. That’s when I discovered that the “group of former colleagues” was just one colleague called Charlotte, and the venue was her bedroom.’
He told me I could never have understood how it felt to lose his job in the same way that Charlotte had, which broke my heart.
Despite all this extra-marital activity, surprisingly there’s a decrease in the number of people filing for divorce. But lawyer Paul Thorn of Wake Smith & Tofields in Sheffield warns that we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by these latest figures.
He says: ‘The true extent of recession infidelity will only become clear once the economy picks up, when divorce rates may soar with people citing all sorts of affairs as reasons for their marriages breaking down.’
At which point the divorce lawyers will join the merry band already cashing in on the highly lucrative business that is Infidelity Inc.
Now with covid 19 drama continues on the biggest extra marital social network in the UK Illicit Encounters
LIKE many women Kim Scott is proud of her husband’s career achievements – and well she might be.
After all Adam is chief executive of a hugely successful internet business, a job that affords the couple and their 10-year-old daughter a very comfortable lifestyle.
Yet mixed in with Kim’s pride is a reluctance to discuss Adam’s job in too much detail. Small wonder, given that the business he heads up is called Illicit Encounters, one of a mushrooming breed of tawdry websites for married people wanting to cheat.
“I’d never heard about this sort of website until Adam was headhunted for the role of chief executive three years ago having previously held senior positions in the music and digital media industries,” says Kim, 42, a corporate events manager. The couple live near Whitechapel in London. “Although I wasn’t entirely surprised that they exist, inevitably it threw up lots of questions about human morals and why people would choose to cheat.”
Illicit Encounters was conceived at a dinner party in 2002, the brainchild of computing boss Stephen Lines who has since taken a back seat to Adam. Lines reportedly came up with the idea after he and his wife hosted a dinner and one friend, after too much wine, confessed that the same illness that had kept her husband away from the party that evening had also put paid to their sex life.
She confided she was desperate to get sexual thrills elsewhere without compromising her marriage. It gave Lines the idea to overhaul his ailing mainstream dating website and turn it into a cash cow by facilitating affairs instead.
The website was launched in 2003 and with more than 300,000 members is now the UK’s largest extramarital dating site, spawning a raft of copycat and equally tawdry websites for married people wanting to cheat. They operate in the same way as singles internet dating sites – members pay a hefty sign-on fee, usually in excess of £100 for a two-month period, create profiles for themselves and then connect with other members.
Kim Scott says her husband’s involvement with this industry hasn’t altered her views on infidelity. “We’ve been together for 18 years and married for 12 and I don’t think I could forgive an affair,” she says. “When you marry you form a union with that person and you don’t cheat. I can’t deny though that Adam’s job has opened my eyes to the reasons why people have affairs and it has made me more understanding of some of the triggers.
There are many members on the website who have a disabled or terminally ill partner and they love them dearly but miss a sexual relationship.” What, then, is it like being married to a man who makes a mint from infidelity? It’s difficult to imagine it being a topic Kim waxes lyrical about at dinner parties or within earshot of her daughter.
“Close friends and family know about Adam’s job but if we’re at a drinks party and somebody asks what my husband does I simply say he is CEO of a social networking site. Our daughter is too young to be wondering about the intricacies of adult life. All she knows is that her dad has a great job in the internet.
When she’s old enough we’ll have to find a way to explain what Adam does in a way that doesn’t undermine the morals we’ve taught her. “I detach myself from Adam’s job. It’s business and I don’t feel guilty that his career combined with mine affords us a nice lifestyle.”
Adam’s website carries a warning on its home page: “Not everyone is suited to having an affair,” it reads. “They are not an alternative to working on or ending a marriage. Not all affairs have a positive effect on a marriage – some can be very damaging.”
Denise Knowles is a counsellor with Relate, the marriage guidance experts, and says people should resist the temptation of such websites. “Having a fling with another married person isn’t going to work like a plaster on your marriage,” she says. “My experience of them in my counselling room is that anyone who has used such a website has done so because there is already a crack in the marriage.
It’s that crack they should be focusing on repairing rather than thinking that joining a cheating website is going to solve the problem.” Amelia Smith’s husband Simon, 46, set up rival company loveisthebug.com in 2006, offering basic accessibility for free in the same way that social networking sites like Facebook do.
Though the couple insist they feel no guilt or embarrassment about the site, neither was willing to be photographed for this article. “Affairs have been going on for over 2,000 years,” says a defiant Amelia, 43, a housewife who lives in Guildford, Surrey, with software designer Simon and their nine-year-old daughter.
Neither has committed or been on the receiving end of adultery. “Adultery wouldn’t stop if our website didn’t exist, it just makes it more accessible. It’s a business, it makes us money and who are we to judge the actions of others?”
Despite being defensive of her husband’s website, Amelia admits it doesn’t sit well with her own morals. “I don’t talk openly about what Simon does, especially as you never know what problems people have in their own marriages.
“ People’s reactions ar emixed. Some are slightly open-mouthed but that soon turns to intrigue and a vague sense of bemusement. There are those we deliberately don’t tell such as the parents of our daughter’s friends. I wouldn’t want them or her school to know because I’m certain there would be some who would disapprove.
But cheating happens and it makes some people happy so we’re just capitalising on that.”
All in all illicit encounters is certainly a highly lucrative business for the founders. Currently membership ranges from £140-£200
Quite the racket!