The Joke of Ashley Madison

April 1st, 2011

“He that jokes, confesses.”  -Italian Proverb

Indiscretion is no longer discreet. Gone are the days of clandestine meetings, sideways glances across an office or illicit gestures in a dark parking lot.  Now you can get those same thrills and more in your email box for only a $49 joining fee.  It seems too ridiculous to be true, but this is point we’ve reached- a multi-million dollar cash cow of a business that easily enables us to meet our perfect affair partner online. So lucrative is the venture that the corporate slogan: “Life is short- have an affair” has been pasted on billboards and is running in television advertising worldwide. Yet, promoting the most hurtful betrayals that many people will face in their lifetime as the fun, spice of life is not always as easy as it looks. The company has fought unsuccessfully for the right to plaster the slogan on citywide transportation in its hometown of Toronto; even after they offered money to subsidize rider fares. Their offer was vetoed by five of the six members of the transportation committee, but not before the leader was found to have cheated on his longtime partner several times, ruining his run for mayor.   Likewise, the NFL turned down an advertising bid during the coveted Super Bowl hours.

This same ambivalence about the morality of their participation in the site’s offerings runs through many of the approximately 8 million members’ profiles, which use fake names and hides photos behind a password protected firewall.  However, some are brazen, including photos on their pages and are largely unafraid of discovery.  They feel justified and few users don’t report any feelings of guilt about their participation. The affair seekers aren’t leaving their partners, who become entities, mostly reduced to pronouns in the course of their business on the site. Many members refer to themselves as honest, except for what they are engaging in at this moment.

“This is just a fact of life. Monogamy is not in our DNA,” says founder Neil Biederman. Although he is married himself and says he would be devastated if he found his wife was employing his service,  she has no qualms about the moral ramifications of her husband’s occupation.  For her, “It is just a business…” Biederman believes that the popularity of his site, and by and large the nature and driving force behind affairs, is sex; more specifically about not getting the sex that they want from their partners.

Yet, a recent undercover Redbook report discovered a much deeper, and in some ways ironic, truth about much of what is being sought on Ashley Madison. The site, which is to ostensibly facilitate no-strings-attached affairs, contains many men who are trying to forge real emotional bonds. One might even say they were all looking to fall in love. While there are the classic men looking just for physical hook ups,  more men are looking for a way to rekindle their best selves;  usually the memories of their pasts- winning games and having a future that was open and unburdened.  They long to have the flame of curiosity that comes with new affections interrupt their long-term relationships that have traded a spark for complacent predictability.

The joke in the success of Ashley Madison is that whether the cheating partner is discovered or not, they bear the same consequences. When we choose to save our best selves for interests outside of our primary relationship commitments, the places that need the same nurturing in the relationship wither and die. Without intending to, we starve our relationship of the heart that it needs to find in order to grow and develop.

The thrill that comes from new-biology-driven-falling-for-someone is equally matched by the loneliness and alienation that is left to the primary relationship. Just as you don’t have to enumerate your bad thoughts for others to know you are having them,  indiscretions create ripples and chasms in relationships that might never be recognized by its proper name. In hindsight most people who are betrayed in their long-term relationship always own up to having known, had they allowed themselves to see it.

The most sure way to Ashley-Madison-proof your relationship is to be dedicated to learning to love. Deciding to invest the time, energy and passion that you would bring to a new relationship into your own may be just the spark it was missing all along.

12 Responses to “The Joke of Ashley Madison”

  1. Elle Says:

    Bravo to you for giving words to the often silent side of the debate — the betrayed partners. Betrayal by a spouse or partner is the most traumatic betrayal many of us will ever experience. It creates devastating feelings of inadequacy, fear, self-loathing, rage, and, in many cases, post-trauma.

    Of course, that’s not the face of Ashley Madison and its ilk (Craigslist hookups, etc.). Pain doesn’t sell — entitlement does. Ashley Madison doesn’t want to ‘advertise’ the other betrayals – like finding out the unaware spouses have a life-long STD, thanks to our partner’s cavalier attitude toward our safety. Or that another child is now involved. Or that everyone knew but us.

    Bizarrely, most men who engage in affairs don’t want to lose their marriages. They want to have their cake and Enid (or Kelly or Susan or…), too. They generally are seeking their best selves but in a funhouse mirror. How can anyone feel truly happy with themselves when their MO is lies and deception, no matter how carefully explained away as “my wife doesn’t understand me” or equally cliche (and frequently untrue) blame-shifting. You’re absolutely right. When the “heart” of a relationship is removed or deprived of oxygen, the relationship can only die.

    Sure, Neil Biderman is a businessman. The same way a pimp is.

  2. Tinamarie Says:

    Love this! And love the joke that’s on the founder! :)

  3. Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life Says:

    Most men don’t know how to be husbands, so naturally their marriages start running downwards. So their solution is to find a new woman rather than improve things.

    Only 3% of affairs turn into marriages, so if they want long term love from this, they are going about it the wrong way.

  4. Danielle Says:

    Unfortunately, the founder’s laughing his way to the bank!!

  5. Elle Says:

    Unfortunately, I think the founder is laughing all the way to the bank! He’s making a fortune out of others’ misfortune…

  6. Dave Says:

    Some of us have more than enough energy to show our spouses the attention the enjoy (keeping them blissfully unaware) and for our Ashley-found illicit lovers –who enjoy having the connection from another human being again. As a long-time user, you’d be surprised how many unhappy marriages there are out there. With that said, you are 100% correct when it comes to preventing most the situations I run into: Women _and_ men (especially men) need to be very candid with their spouses about their whether or not they’re being sexually satisfied. It’s one thing to be a partner raising your kids, it’s another to also still be a spouse/lover –and that’s where a lot of men mess up and I, and people like me (coming from the opposite direction… sometimes), pick up the pieces. I say sometimes because some of us are satyr/nymph types too.

  7. Toys for sex guy John Lawless Says:

    I don’t understand why people who want to have an affair just can’t man up and tell their partner they want a divorce. If there is a problem with your relationship then fix it. If it is not able to be fixed the get divorced. You might say well they are afraid of losing custody, or they may lose half of all they own. As if that is a justifiable excuse. I would reply that if the person doesn’t think they are going to lose that stuff if the other person finds out then they have their heads in the sand. As I look around me it seems we have really become a me society. They only thing that counts is me, my wants, my needs. It’s pretty sad. Caring for the feeling of others or the well being of others seems to be a forgotten ability. My heart goes out to the unknowing spouses.

  8. Zandari Says:

    I think AshleyMadison was created by divorce lawyers. Cha-ching! Can you imagine sexualizing deceit? How sick! Our society has dropped to the lowest low. I’m disgusted.

  9. eric Says:

    The founder believes that more than one person exists for every other on a biological level. Its unfortunate that betrayal takes such a precidence, as it is the betrayal and loss of trust that ends so many relationships. Yet, he has a point. We are not naturally monogamous creatures. The problem lies in the deception and betrayal, yet can we realistically expect to be the only interest in our partners lives? Maybe we need to revisit our visions and expectations of exclusivity. Its biology folks, and how we deal it can be devastatingly painful or brutally honest.

  10. Leslie Bohall Says:

    One of my all time special quotes appears extremely fitting here “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.”–Jim Rohn

  11. living Says:

    May I simply just say what a comfort to uncover someone who truly understands what they are discussing on the internet. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to sight and make it understandable.

  12. best tents Says:

    Food for thought.

Leave a Reply