The big story behind the Ashley Madison hack has nothing to do with the fact that 38 million cheaters were just exposed. Here’s why it affects every single one of us…
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Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last week or so, you probably heard of the AshleyMadison.com data breach. One serious enough that I suspect its more than 38 million men and women are feeling just a bit less secure about the future of their current relationship –you know, the one with whom they pledged their fidelity to. With all the focus on the “Oh shit!!!” moment that most of its subscribers must be having these days, it seems to me that the most important subtext of this story has been, well…just a bit underplayed.
Ashley Madison describes itself as a “Married Dating Site” –how’s that for a euphemism. Even more hilarious (and sad) is how they describe themselves at the bottom of their home page:
“Ashley Madison is the most recognized and reputable married dating company. Our Married Dating Services for Married individuals Work. Ashley Madison is the most successful website for finding an affair and cheating partners. Have an Affair today on Ashley Madison. Thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands signup everyday looking for an affair. We are the most famous website for discreet encounters between married individuals. Married Dating has never been easier. With Our affair guarantee package we guarantee you will find the perfect affair partner.” (emphasis mine – editorial mistakes, theirs)
Okay, is it just me? Or does the fact that nearly 40 million people have registered for this site say something about our current society? Keep in mind that there are probably many times this many people actively cheating. It’s just that this site really brings into stark relief what it means to be married for a large percentage of adults in our modern culture.
I’m neither moralizing nor judging here – when I was in my 20’s I thought nothing of bedding down a married woman if she was open to it. And looking back I have to admit to being just as culpable as any of those women. So let’s just call it what is: systematic (and now, facilitated) betrayal of the person you swore allegiance and fidelity to above all others. When betrayal becomes so prevalent and easily achieved (with full discretion no less –until recently anyway) is there any wonder why so many men and women have trouble forming deeply connecting and vulnerable relationships with others.
The funny thing about betrayal is that if you participate in it you almost certainly will suspect others of doing the same. Which means, the moment you step into that arena you have chosen to live an inauthentic life surrounded by inauthentic people looking for inauthentic gains at the expense of others. I don’t care how rich, successful, beautiful, charming or intelligent you are –the moment you cross that line is the one where you have chosen to live a life devoid of any real, meaningful relationships. Some people call this being lonely, I call it Hell.
When You’re Unhappy, More Misery Doesn’t Help
Vice News recently featured an article by an (anonymous, of course) single female who looked for married men on the site (see: What I Learned Dating Married Men on Ashley Madison as a Single Woman). Any man considering using a “Married Dating Site” like Ashley Madison would do well to read this article first. Women don’t have to pay for the site (natch) so they end up being the “hunters” and the men, well… they are the prey.
One of the more telling parts of this article was listing all the excuses her “dates” gave her for participating, including: “I got married too early”, “I’m not appreciated”, I’m stuck in a rut”, “We both settled” etc. ad nauseam.
A lot of people are unhappy in their marriage –we get it. Yet how do otherwise intelligent and (mostly) educated men and women think they are somehow going to find happiness by betraying their partner and their own integrity by having a fling with someone who is doing the exact same thing?
If you are in a relationship / marriage that is not working –put some effort into making it work. And if that is not successful, end it and move on. “Oh wait –that’s too much work and might cost me a bundle in separation costs.” If that is what you are thinking, then you are selling your own integrity and happiness seriously short.
Turning Things Around
I personally don’t have a problem with the fact that sites like Ashley Madison exists. My issue is that so, so many otherwise intelligent adults somehow think it can fill that emptiness they feel inside.
There will never be a shortage of companies that pander to our baser instincts, addictions and fears. As individuals we have something more powerful than any company, politician or primal instincts – the ability to make a choice regardless of our circumstances. And the more each of us consciously exercise that power for the long-term good of ourselves and others, the less influence these will have over us –individually and collectively.
Let’s hope that one day sites like Ashley Madison will only be an interesting footnote in the history and evolution of adult human relationships. But in the meantime, it makes for some very interesting people watching…
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image: provided by Author