The Ashley Madison affair
Re-thinking our relationships and the practice of monogamy
By Frank Kermit
Ashley Madison, a website that caters to individuals in seemingly monogamous relationships and who are looking for a discreet affair, has been hacked. This means that the discretion and secrecy promised to its membership has been compromised, with full personal information of customers now made publicly available for anyone to download them.
The aftereffects, according to various media sources, include suicide of those exposed (at least two thus far attributed directly to the hack), cheating partners confessing their indiscretions to prepare partners for the fallout, a number of people targeted for extortion who are blackmailed into either paying up or having their information further exposed to family and friends, credit card cancellations to avoid illegal identity thefts, a growing number of lawsuits against the website and a big reward offered by the company that owns Ashley Madison to help catch the hackers responsible for the revelation.
What is not so publicized is that not everyone uncovered in this scandal is a person in a monogamous relationship attempting to have a secret affair. Single men and women looking for casual sex with other singles do join this kind of site. Also overlooked are couples that agree to have some kind of non-monogamous relationship and find it easier to discover other open-minded individuals through a site like Ashley Madison rather than attempt to find discreet partners through other means.
What is not so publicized is that not everyone uncovered in this scandal is a person in a monogamous relationship attempting to have a secret affair.
I wonder how some of the couples affected by this will cope. Affairs unto themselves do not necessarily end relationships. It is how a couple copes with the broken trust and how they examine the lack of fulfilling emotional needs that will determine whether or not their relationship will survive this challenging issue. In moments of crisis, we may find new opportunities to reach a level of honesty with ourselves and our partners that could put an end to behaviours of betrayal and potentially help rebuild our relationships on more solid foundations. Maybe it is time for some individuals to accept that monogamy is simply not something they are capable of or interested in pretending to exemplify anymore or to recognize that they have taken their partner for granted and fostered extreme neglect that pushed them away. Perhaps what could be the most desirable outcome of this entire situation is that, with the right guidance, singles and couples struggling with fidelity may finally learn to be honest with others about their sexual needs and questioning whether they may or may not have neglected their partner’s needs, which led in part to their current predicament.
Surely the one thing most people can agree on in the aftermath of this revelation is that, if so many people publicly identify as monogamous but aren’t actually practicing monogamy, then maybe we all need to re-think our relationships and expectations as a society regarding monogamy. One sure thing that my practice of coaching has proven time and time again is that people and relationships are much more complex than the sensationalism mass media would rather you focus on. More to the point, monogamy is not for everyone, and neither is a non-monogamous relationship. However, people can make either relationship structure work with the right partner. It takes being honest with themselves first and learning to communicate their needs to their partners.
One sure thing that my practice of coaching has proven time and time again is that people and relationships are much more complex than the sensationalism mass media would rather you focus on.
While some in the public are praising the hacker group who committed this act in the name of some moral calling, I cannot help but wonder what their next target will be. Their motivation is based on what they find immoral, which means anyone doing anything that is counter to their personal code of ethics could be targeted. Will abortion clinics be next? Perhaps it will be hospital records, to reveal patient medical conditions because of some righteous stance on what diseases are more culpable to have than others, or government offices willing to file marriages (same-sex, inter-faith, inter-race, age-gap) that they disapprove of. Could we see a shaming campaign against sexually active adults who are members of regular dating websites? Perhaps disrupting legal proceedings will be next because some hackers out there feel that divorce proceedings are contrary to their code of ethics. Evidentially, the hacker groups are powerful enough to carry about these threats. Something to think about if you happen to be amusing yourself with the effects of watching people’s lives unfold in the wake of the hacking of Ashley Madison.
Frank Kermit, MA, is a relationship-and-dating coach, certified trauma counsellor and certified hypnotherapist. He is an author, speaker, matchmaker and relationship columnist and appears regularly on Dr. Laurie Betito’s Passion on CJAD 800 AM, and other media. Learn more about what Frank can do for you at franktalks.com