You would have to be living under a rock to have missed the news about the Ashley Madison hack. For those who may in fact dwell in the nether regions (or, you’re so busy you haven’t the time to glance online for news), Ashley Madison is the “infidelity” dating site that was hacked awhile back.
Oh Come (now), All Ye (Un)Faithful… We know that infidelity runs rampant, we know that virtually no one is immune to temptation (acting on it is another matter), we know that many of us turn a blind eye, and now we know a lot more about the breadth and depth of domestic dramas, not to mention divorce, that are likely to occur from this most common albeit embarrassing, hurtful and apparently lucrative phenomenon.
What is stunning — call me crazy (or naive) — is the number of men and women who plan for an affair, rather than finding themselves in the unenviable position of growing close to someone other than their spouse, or engaging in an “indiscretion” that was entirely unplanned and frequently, regretted.
Am I judging?
Honestly, despite the fact that most of my friends are, I’m not. What I am is astounded.
Providing your credit card information and other details?
Then again, I tell myself that nothing people do should surprise me. Few of us are angels, and I’m no exception. Most of us have conflicting needs, bad days, rough periods in our relationships, and a genuine desire to be held, touched and feel esteemed — even temporarily. And that goes beyond sexual satisfaction.
The high-profile members — politicians, entertainers, sports figures?
They surprise me less. With money and power come certain assumptions of being able to bend the rules to one’s advantage. Then again, the nature of their celebrity would make them targets after-the-fact, which seems to me to be a deterrent.
To some degree, the arrangement Ashley Madison provided, or should I say “service,” was (or is) very smart. Had the company not been hacked, most of us would be blissfully unaware of this option for “discreet encounters” of a non-emotional (non “escort”) sort. I can see where this might be “useful” for those desiring the occasional dalliance and wanting to keep their marriages intact.
Do I like this behavior?
But as I said, I’m trying not to judge and I do understand. I recognize that the concept of the same partner for 50 years (or even 20) may be very hard for many to reconcile.
Are you going to skewer me for actually saying so?
This news brief recently divulged that only three zip codes in the U.S. can be excluded from among Ashley Madison’s ranks.
Really? Only three zip codes in the entire country have no one signed up for the potential affair?
Startling, no? And in case you’re wondering, two of those zip codes are in Alaska, and one in New Mexico. Oh. It might be relevant to add that they have a population of less than 300.
As if this isn’t shocking enough without further quantification… there are approximately 43,000 zip codes in these United States. Three out of 43,000 don’t have men or women looking to have an extramarital affair, looking to be the single partner of a man or woman with a little “on the side,” or are curious enough to go through the process of registering.
Do note the options available… I have to say that I am impressed with the extensive list of languages on the site — 30 languages for membership in some 40 countries — not to mention the many endorsements or at least… the amount of press the service received, long before this troublesome hack.
Incidentally, statistics on infidelity vary, and of course are self-reported. When we look at statistics without knowing the details, we also don’t know precisely what comprises “unfaithful” and I dare say even among our closest circles, we will find differences of opinion on that one. My point: We need to take what we read and hear with a grain of salt, but my gut tells me the numbers are higher than anything that is reported.
Those caveats stated, among the stats I find telling are these:
- 21% of men report having cheated in their relationships; 15% of women report cheating
- 56% of men who have been unfaithful in their marriages report they are happy in their marriages
- That same item for women is 34% (happy in their marriages but were unfaithful)
- Those who would step out if they knew they wouldn’t be caught? 74% of the men, 68% of the women
My, my. Quite a nice market for Ashley Madison, especially with that guarantee of discretion! (Oops.)
Listen. Relationships are hard. Marriage is even harder. Monogamy, for some people more than others, extremely challenging.
Circumstances change. We change. Our spouses change. There are all kinds of joys in loving relationships, and all kinds of betrayals. What betrayals have in common is the destruction of trust, and of course the ripple effects on the lives of so many. And beyond the immediate impacts on children and other members of the family, future relationships are also effected, as we are challenged to restore trust with a new partner, and inadvertently make the wrong people pay for actions that took place in a former marriage or relationship.
Certainly, we will all experience good times and bad times differently: as the one who sacrifices in order to give joy, and the one on the receiving end; as the one who hurts another, or the one who has been hurt.
Nope. I can’t even imagine it.
Would I be devastated if I found out that a partner or spouse had been unfaithful to me?
Absolutely. I’ve been there, and with someone I loved and was committed to a few years back.
What comes next depends on numerous factors — the nature and length of our relationship, the presence of children, financial or business entanglements, living situation, reasons for the infidelity, and the number and type of “affairs.”
While I may make distinctions between emotional affairs and physical ones, between “slips” that occur once and leading a double life, and other shades of grey when it comes to intimacy, I understand that many in our society do not.
At least, publicly, they do not.
But that zip code information? Isn’t that a glimpse into the reality of the human animal? Shouldn’t we pay attention to the widespread use of this site? What does this say about our approach to and expectations of marriage?
I find myself admiring those who feel their lives are shattered by these disclosures, yet they soldier on, trying to work through the betrayal. If the relationship is basically sound, perhaps they can do just that.
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