Ashley Madison and the Modernization of Marriage

Ashley Madison is a well known website where married people join to meet others for discreet, sexual encounters.  A group called The Impact Team recently hacked into the website and threatened to release customer names, financial transactions, and the private sexual fantasies of its 37 million members unless the site closes down.  While the invasion and exposure of confidential and financial information are the main issues at the root of this hack, the fact that 37 million people are members of Ashley Madison shouldn’t go unnoticed.   To put that number into perspective, that’s the entire population of California.  That’s a lot of unhappy people who need of sexual healing outside of their marriage.

So why don’t these people just get divorced instead of having an affair?  Staying for the kids is a common reason if children are involved.  It’s always great for kids to see two bickering parents who dislike each other under the same roof, right?  For some, the financial stability of staying married outweighs the costs of divorce.  It’s not possible to afford that nice house on a single salary unless you’re a thriving professional, and if you’re a housewife who hasn’t worked in the years you’ve been married, there will be downgrading to a one or two bedroom apartment after all is said and done, even after the payout.  There are many other aspects to why people stay unhappily married, but sometimes there’s the simple fact that some people just don’t want to be alone.  As the saying goes, misery loves company.

The American Psychological Association lists the divorce rate in the United States at 40 to 50 percent as of 2015.  Consecutive marriages have an even higher rate of divorce (67 – 73%).  Women are statistically the initiators of separation; wives file 66-90% of divorce proceedings.  Also, these numbers don’t reflect how many couples cohabitate without being married and eventually split up.

Men rarely initiate divorce because they know the financial costs — alimony, the division of assets acquired before the marriage, and child support (which has to be paid whether the couple was married or not) if there were any offspring.  Johnnie Taylor said it best, it’s cheaper to keep her.

But divorce isn’t taboo as it once was, making it easier for people to split without any social repercussions.  There was a time, merely two generations ago, where being a divorced woman was the equivalent of being the town leper.  Nowadays, the terms Starter Husband and Starter Wife are thrown around in our haughty culture.  It’s almost a rite of passage to be married and divorced regardless of the emotional and financial losses a person has endured.  Many women have stated they’d prefer a man who’s been married at least once to prove that he has the ability to commit.

The fact that 37 million people are members of a website that promotes having an affair isn’t surprising when looking at how marriage has been devalued in our society.  Celebrities and pop culture icons go through companions and spouses like a change of clothes and having an affair has been glorified in countless films, TV shows and music.  Social media has made it much easier to explore our fantasies and interests and connect with others who share the same.  Websites like Ashley Madison made it simpler for people to hook up and fulfill those fantasies.

I’ve encountered women who’ve sought not only to fulfill their sexual needs outside of their marriages or relationships, but who’ve also wanted to escape the mundane routine of living with someone who doesn’t satisfy their emotional requirements on a regular basis, if at all.

But the question remains, why do people cheat on their significant other instead of leaving them and getting what they really want?  I believe that human beings are more apt to take risks when there’s a safety net.  If someone can cheat and cover their tracks well, knowing they have a safe place to return to despite the dismal circumstances, they’re more apt to take the treacherous dive into the waters of infidelity.

In that respect, the 37 million members of Ashley Madison isn’t a surprising number because there’s an unknown number of people who are having affairs, or seek to have them, without the help of a website.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are just as high, if not higher.

One could argue that cheating altogether is immoral and deceiving, but I think it’s just as immoral to compromise an individual’s information (both financial and personal) under the guise of exposing their so-called immorality or deceit without their consent.  It goes back to the He who is guilty of sin cast the first stone argument.  No one is without fault and we all make decisions based on the situation and options we perceive to have at that time.  I’m sure if we did some digging on the person(s) behind The Impact Team, we wouldn’t find a flawless record of moral standing, so they have no right to tell another party to step down from their platform.

What are your thoughts on marriage, coupling, and cheating?  Should you remain unfulfilled in a sour relationship for the sake of commitment and vows, or should you do what satisfies you?

-MM

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