Ashley Madison. Yes, she might not find out. But it’s a talk you need to have with her anyway…I’m not sure what you’ll tell her, but if you’re anything like the men in my office, you are better off going the straight route, and say it all.
So much of the damage when wives find out about extramarital relationships.
If she finds out on her own, she’ll realize something terribly unflattering about you. No, not that you tried to have an affair. That’s a given. She’ll find out that you have nothing remaining of your credibility.
That leaves a woman who has any feeling for you at all despondent.
If you tell her yourself, you keep some integrity. Oh, of course, if you wait until you see your name of the list, like that poor bugger in Brockton, MA, she’ll know you realized the gig was up.
But if you tell her before you honestly know whether your name is there or not, you can, regardless of how painful it is to you, you can talk about yourself, your own disappointments, your own pressures, and anger towards her and your life. You can finally let it all go.
And after the tears and accusations, and threats, and ultimatums, you’ll be two people again, with a decision to make.
Here’s the first place that everyone goes to when they consider fessing up to an actually or “premeditate” affair. They often can’t imagine that their spouse is more mature than they are. They can’t imagine their spouse would actually see any benefit in staying together with a “cheater.”
What I see is that “affairs” don’t break people up: Loneliness does. The affair just sort of confirms what both of them have been feeling for a while: What’s the point?
Break ups happen when the relationship died years ago (typically) and neither one bothered to vocalize it. But both of them know it.
Sometimes they are too sluggish, or use the kids or the mortgage to justify not mentioning that “not only am I not in love with you, I don’t even like you that much…”
Yes, it’s not only possible but if you act with deep integrity, chances are you’ll remember why you married her in the first place. And so will she.
But it’s tricky, and I don’t think it comes naturally to someone who has spent some amount of time keeping their feelings, thoughts, and desires to themselves.
But opening up, and telling the truth is the only path to Staying Together-ville.
Because deep down, the “cheater” feels like he’s been unfair to his wife. He feels like she could have made her own decisions about whether she wanted the marriage if she had known.
He took that option away from her but keeping it a secret.
Now, by telling her, he’s essentially saying: “Do we have any reason to be together still?”
The most troubling part of this entire Ashley Madison thing is that a lot of marriages will end not because the husband’s had an affair, but because he wanted to. He might even have some sexual compulsivity that I’m seeing more and more of these days. In their hyper-aroused state, they actually imagine that 16 thousand women are just hanging around waiting to have sex with a married man. They keep hoping that while they find no evidence of it in everyday life, they keep hoping that the internet is a magical place where sexual dreams come true. Meanwhile, while he’s fantasizing, his wife’s working overtime. Not a great blend.
Some have warned that seeking out and humiliating hypocrites who preach chastity while signing up for sites such as Ashley Madison, is just desserts. Others claim that facing such pressures in public exposure could lead to suicide.
Perhaps the most embarrassing leaks will be the sexual fantasies which, I’ve long learned, relate as closely to desires we want in “real life” as food in a classic American Chinese restaurant resembles what the Chinese eat in China every day. That is, not much.
It turns out that so much of Ashley Madison was more about fantasy than reality. The ability to write to one’s heart content about some ideal romantic, sexual, or sensuous partner, and have these revelries returned. Okay, so they tended to be returned just as your “membership” expired. And they were probably written by someone paid way WAY below the USA’s minimum wage to dream up some counter identity and matching fantasy.
And while it costs money to write down your fantasies in a cyber bottle, and cast them into the virtual ocean, to actually make them public causes people to fear suicidality. Only by asking: “Why?” do we get closer to why people would rather wait it out to see if they’re discovered (despite the emotional costs), and potentially pay others a bribery fee to keep these things secret.
Let me say for the record that I haven’t read any really good books that describe sexual fantasies in the depth that would satisfy a sex therapist. Probably this is because you have to first describe the sexual fantasy, and then analyze it. Books we consider the “good ones” cause us to ignore the analysis, and the “bad ones” bore or disgust the average reader too much to bother even reading the analysis.
For those who have such a passion, I’d suggest Nancy Friday’s collection, but these are hopelessly outdated and “vanilla” by today’s standards. However, they were also constructed in the early days, when most of us were forced to rely on our sexual imaginations, rather than pulling from a recent “YouPorn” clip.
Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice over the winter in Miami, Fl and the rest of the year in Boston and on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. She is a Gottman Certified Couples Therapist, has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and has been a AASECT board-certified sex therapist from 1982-2017. She continues her work in sex therapy.