I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news that the website of Ashley Madison, infamous for promoting infidelity, has been hacked. The hackers leaked customer’s names, email addresses and financial information.
Beyond the obvious worry about identity theft, I imagined all the people who were having panic attacks worrying that their infidelity was going to be discovered, not only by their spouses, but by employers since it appears that many people used their business email addresses and logged on at work.
Like most people, I was curious to find out more about this “business” that preys upon people’s unhappiness in their marriages. Here’s what I found.
Who’s on Ashley Madison?
The company claims it has more than 40 million customers in 48 countries and 19 languages. In a CNBC interview last May, Noel Biderman, founder and now former CEO, stated the average male customer is 41 years old and the average female is 34. He says, “the first bump in monogamy [is] after a first child…At the other end, we have empty nesters. We have tons of men who love their families, love their partner but look across the table and there’s not that sexual attraction.”
That didn’t surprise me, since studies over the last four decades consistently show that marital satisfaction plunges after the birth of the first child. The reasons: lack of sleep, focus on the child, less time and energy for the relationship, less sex, rebalancing division of labor.
For empty nesters, it’s not uncommon for couples to have insidiously drifted apart emotionally and sexually. When the kids launch and spouses realize their connection has waned, they may turn to a service like Ashley Madison as a way to get their needs met, instead of separating or divorcing.
What’s the Ashley Madison Guarantee?
Ashley Madison boasts: “We GUARANTEE that you will find someone to have an affair with!” That’s a pretty bold statement.
As a Couples Therapist in practice for 25+ years, I can guarantee that after you have that affair, you will be at risk for an unhappy or unauthentic relationship at best and the destruction of your marriage and family at worst.
If your spouse discovers the affair or you confess at some point, your marriage will never again be the same. I liken trust to an egg; once it fractures, you can glue it back together but it will forever have cracks.
On the other hand, if your spouse doesn’t find out, you will have to live with the guilt of having betrayed the person you love, which may put emotional distance between you and your spouse.
Why is monogamy so difficult?
Sex with your spouse in a long-term relationship can’t compare with the thrill and excitement of having sex with an affair partner. Esther Perel, LMFT, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence says, “Family life flourishes in an atmosphere of comfort and consistency. Yet unpredictability, spontaneity, and risk are precisely where eroticism resides.” And therein lies the conundrum. Perel goes on to to give strategies to deal with this. I highly recommend her book.
Is cheating really so harmful?
Not according to Biderman. He states: “Undiscovered cheating is good…When people hide behind breaking trust, they didn’t succeed with monogamy. If my wife cheated, I wouldn’t blame an inanimate object. I would say, ‘What need did I fail to meet that made her go down that path?’ Cheating is like the secret glue that keeps millions of marriages together. I would cheat before I would leave.”
I take issue with Biderman’s statement. How could lying be good for a marriage when its very foundation is based upon trust? More likely, undiscovered cheating is good for his pocketbook.
Then he goes on to justify affairs saying that the aggrieved spouse failed to meet his/her partner’s needs. Yes, I agree both people are responsible for the state of the marriage; however, if one person handles their dissatisfaction by going outside the relationship, that is solely his/her responsibility. There are other ways to handle being unhappy.
Lastly, he states that cheating is the glue that keeps marriages together. Really? My understanding is that the elements of trust, authenticity, effective communication, learning to manage conflict and turning toward your partner are the glue that keeps marriages together.
Our philosophy is “Life is Short. Have a Marriage.” There is nothing more meaningful than building an authentic life and family with a partner who is as devoted as you are.
Image source Ashley Madison