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Sort out your affairs, Ashley Madison 

Why do people have affairs – it's all about SEX right? Well apparently not... By Chris Goswami

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Adultery has been around for as long as people have been getting married. What is new however is the use of technology to monetise infidelity.

Ashley Madison have been in the news repeatedly this summer. Its website and strapline “life is short – have an affair” is intended to help married people arrange adulterous affairs. It has 39 million members worldwide. Seventy per cent of these are men, which is not surprising since the company has been accused of creating false profiles of alluring women in order to attract customers.

No holds barred on sales and marketing

In July, the security of Ashley Madison’s customer database was breached and the company was informed that their client information would be made public unless they ceased to operate. Then, in late August Gigabytes of supposedly secure customer data was dumped on to “the dark web” but it didn’t take long for this to appear on the regular web.

Unfortunately the hackers are now hurting more people than Ashley Madison. Relate has stated that they have been contacted by many people affected by the publicising of the client database. Worse, over 1,000 of the addresses belong to people in Saudi Arabia where adultery is punishable by death; but worst of all we are now hearing of suicides linked to the leak of customer information.

CEO Noel Biderman is as unashamed as he is unconventional putting out statements about people appointing themselves as moral judge and jury over his company.

But it is interesting that other investors of Ashley Madison remain anonymous. So they don’t believe people have the right to talk to them about moral behaviour but at the same time they don’t have the conviction to be identified with their own business. Trish McDermott who helped found the (regular) dating site Match.com, accused Ashley Madison of being a “business built on the back of broken hearts, ruined marriages, and damaged families”.

But why do people have affairs – it’s all about sex right?

This may seem a silly question but it’s not all about sex and instant gratification.

There is a very watchable Ted Talk on this topic by Esther Perel who has spent 10 years working with couples affected by adultery. Perel describes infidelity as “the ultimate betrayal as well as an expression of longing and loss”.

Specifically she says that often when people have an affair:

  • They are not so much turning away from their partner as from the person they themselves have become
  • They are not so much looking for another person as another self
  • They are looking at their own futures and asking “is this all there is?”
  • Their desire for attention and importance is often greater than their desire for sex

I find that interesting and moreover it fits well with information you can uncover if you look closely into Ashley Madison eg:

  • Peak days for people joining Ashley Madison tend to be New Year, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s / Father’s Day …. Probably asking the question “is this all there is?
  • There is a glut of applications at watershed ages. Eg 39-year olds are four times more likely to log on than 38-year olds, …. Presumably struck by the fear of entering the dreaded middle age.

On the positive side Perel talks about recovery from infidelity and how with understanding and discussion (and presumably some forgiveness), marriages can be strengthened in “a new order”. She also tellingly states that “If people who embark on an affair were to put 1/10 of the energy, imagination and boldness of the affair into their existing relationship, they would probably never have an affair”. Interesting!

“Sleeping together is the perfect way of saying…” what exactly?

I recall a sermon by Brian Buehler, Pastor of Pacific Community church, Canada. He was quoting a line from an episode of Friends. Ross and Rachel, previously married but now “just friends” are about to part finally when they come up with the idea of one last fling and the line: “sleeping together is the perfect way of saying goodbye”….

As Brain Buehler points out, this is untrue, in fact it’s the other way around. Sleeping together is the perfect way of saying… I will always be here when you wake up. Sleeping together is the perfect way of saying until death separates us … I will not leave you. In fact sleeping together is the perfect way of saying “I will never say goodbye”. 

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Chris Goswami is Director of Marketing & Communications at Openwave Mobility and is studying and training for ordained ministry in the Baptist Church. He blogs at www.7minutes.net where this article first appeared. It is republished with permission.

Baptist Times, 26/08/2015
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