A few days ago my boyfriend and I were talking about the site Ashley Madison. Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s basically a site to help cheaters cheat. Its slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Last July the names of 37.6 million people were leaked from the site in a hack. This hack caused so much chaos—including several suicides from people who had profiles on the site. My boyfriend and I assumed that due to this, the site would have been shut down. But after doing a quick Google search we saw that Ashley Madison was still up and running. We were astonished by this – and wondering how it could still be up and running.
This made me really curious about what the appeal for a site like this would be. Why were there millions of people still listed on it? So I told my boyfriend that I wanted to create a fake profile to snoop around and get a better idea of what this site was about.
I filled out my fake profile on Ashley Madison and got to the page about what I was looking for. The words “attached female seeking men” made me totally cringe. I was filling this page out as a sort of experiment, but I knew in my gut that there were plenty of people out there doing this seriously.
I filtered the results to show only men from my region of where I am living. I figured there would be just a couple of pages for people in this area—boy, was I wrong! There was page after page filled with men with the majority listing themselves as being in an attached relationship. Their profiles displayed their preferences in women, and what they were looking for from this affair. I couldn’t stomach doing this for more than 15 minutes.
I went and told Christoph the results of what I found. We both looked at each other wondering the same question: how many of these people were being honest? In The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy it is estimated that 60% of married men and 55% of married women engage in an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. This is an alarming number to me! I am sure a fair amount of those people at some point are honest to their spouse about their affair. But, I would also guess that a decent amount of those people want to keep their cheating a secret.
This is my biggest problem with cheating on someone. Most people do it behind the back of their loved one—sneaking around pretending to be at the gym or at a meeting—without being honest. I don’t think cheating on someone is a mistake; I think it is an intentional act shrouded in lies. But, before you mark me as someone who is judgmental or dismissive of cheaters, I want you to know I’m definitely not. I’ve had polyamorous friends; I know people who are in open relationships. But, I don’t tolerate cheaters. Not a single bit. I’ve been cheated on and it was sayonara to that guy the minute I found out!
Look, I understand long term love is not easy. Love waxes and wanes like the moon does. There are times when you doubt your relationship. There are also periods where intimacy may dip. Sometimes there may be times where it seems you are arguing over everything from finances to who will wash the dishes. But, these bumps in the road don’t give you the right to go out and start cheating on someone. You can’t look for the easy way out so you can have you cake and eat it too. This is not monogamy; this is not love.
There are a whole range of reasons of why people cheat. But, the bottom line is that cheating isn’t something that develops overnight—it’s something that develops months or years before. Sometimes the person becomes bored of the monotony of a long term relationship. Maybe the person felt their needs weren’t being met—whether that be emotional or physical ones. However, these excuses give no reason to cheat. When issues arise, that is the time when a couple needs to delve into them and figure out why they are happening. When couples speak about their relationship from a truly honest standpoint it gives them a chance to work out the issues before something happens that cannot be repaired—like cheating.
Cheating is the easy way out. But, real love takes a lot of work, commitment and patience. That is why I believe if you really want to cheat on your partner, then you need to be able to tell them that. I told my boyfriend if he ever wanted to cheat on me I’d want him to first talk to me about it. He told me he would want me to tell him the same. To me, this shows how strong our bond is because we know we can be open and honest with each other about anything. I’m not worried about my boyfriend cheating on me though, because we already have such a deep connection and understanding of true love. We know we can tell each other anything, so there is no reason for us to go out and cheat on each other.
As an aspiring marriage and family counselor I can truly say from my heart that I hope more people adopt this sort of attitude in the future. If we could be open and honest about our relationships, then we could move away from the lies and deception of what cheating is all about. We need to start being more realistic about what we want from our relationships. I know there are people out there who just aren’t supposed to be with one person their whole life. I also know from my belief in myself that there are people who only want to be with one person for their entire life. There is no right or wrong in relationships or what love is supposed to be. It’s a matter of finding the right person for us and being honest about what we want and expect.