The leaking of data from Ashley Madison (AM) has generated many news headlines. The fallout also demonstrates some very important lessons for a life lived properly.
What would happen if people put as much effort into their marriages as into researching and then keeping their affairs hidden? Most affairs probably begin when an unhappy spouse meets someone of the opposite sex in a casual manner, such as at work and a friendship begins. As they fulfill mutual emotional needs that are not being met at home, emotions develop. As the bond grows, emotions strengthen and eventually, this emotional connection can express itself physically as well.
But, in the case of Ashley Madison, similar websites, escort services and prostitution the initial goal is to have a physical relationship outside of marriage. What motivates these individuals? As one can read from the stories emerging of individuals whose membership has been revealed, people joined AM for a few reasons.
- They don't seem to care about their marriage vows and have no issue cheating.
- Some were separated at the time they joined AM and don't think that this is cheating.
- Another person mentioned that since their spouse was physically incapable of sexual functioning, they had a mutual understanding.
- Others were divorced and thought that this might be a good way to meet someone.
- Of course, many others denied their involvement with AM.
But, to rephrase the question. What stops someone who wants to be monogamous from putting the same energy they would invest with someone else, into their marriage? I would say that the answer creeps up. Over time there can be such an accumulation of tension and frustration that spouses give up trying to communicate with each other. They feel that trying to communicate is futile. It just doesn't get them anywhere and the repeated failure is very painful.
This is where a professional can be helpful. By setting rules and providing a safe environment in which to talk, couples can walk back from their current impasse and get back on course with mutually beneficial communication and actions. Being able to speak with one another in a positive way is one of the key foundations to the success of any relationship.
Unfortunately, bride and groom often bring baggage with them on their honeymoon; and I don't mean laundry. Our issues interfere with our marriage and destroy the love and closeness that we feel for each other. Each hurt is added to the next until we find it very difficult to hear each other. We can then no longer give our partner what they need or ask for what we need.
Lying begets more deceit. If a relationship was in distress before one of the partners broke the bonds of exclusivity, the effort required to hide the deceit will further separate the spouses. When the truth of the affair surfaces, every falsehood will add pain to the deceived partner. In the meantime, the partner who is cheating will need to justify to themselves what they know is wrong. How much of what they held to be sacred will they give up?
The excuse of Free Thinkers: There will be people who will justify the existence of services such as AM as being useful to free thinkers who choose not to follow society's constraints. If spouses agree that this is what they want, then there could be an argument about this point. However, in most cases, the offended spouse was most certainly not asked! So, this line of thought just sounds self-serving.
Money corrupts: Amanda Biderman, the wife of Noel Biderman, CEO of the parent company that owns AM said that she was surprised when her husband said that he wanted to create the AM website. I wonder how she would have responded before this revelation to the following question, "do you think the world would be a worse place if someone created a website which would enable people to cheat with greater ease?" Would she have worried about the impact such a sight might have on her own marriage?
I don't know how she would have answered then. But, I do wonder if watching the money role in, would motivate many people to lower their standards?
Monogamy: Science seems to be showing that we are a species that is not designed to be monogamous. See the Wall Street Journal article "Be My Valentines: Is Monogamy Natural to Us?"
It turns out that we aren't monogamous or polygamous by nature. As everyone from poets to divorce attorneys can attest, we are by nature a profoundly confused species—somewhere in between.
As to the idea of cheating, the choice is between temptation and values. Yes, people do make mistakes and maybe that goes back to our biology. But, it is one thing to realize you behaved terribly and another for the money makers to justify their business on the basis of enabling a higher goal. The same temptation lies with so many products, from tobacco to the adding of transfat to children's desserts.
As I said above, if both members of a couple believe that the confines of a monogamous relationship are not natural or healthy, then they could argue that affairs are bound to happen or even look outside of their marriage. If, on the other hand you believe that people can resist temptation and instead build up their marriages to be the sacred place where you and your spouse connect as two souls reunite, then monogamy is the healthiest option for both the individual, their spouse and their children.
Life's too short. Focus on what matters.