Friday, October 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Ashley Madison information leaks

August, 2015 

(This was written in response to an online article about all the people who have committed suicide after it leaked that they were involved in the "cheating website" Ashley Madison. I can't find the article now but I'll update this post later if I find it. My points remain the same.) 

So. Infidelity is a complex thing that's much more nuanced than "s/he is a cheater". I may have unique insight given that I do a lot of marriage counseling post-affair and as such I get access to deep reflection on how and why infidelity occurs. And I'll say that it's almost always complicated. 

Both personally and professionally, I tend to not be judgmental of people who have affairs, because most of the time, happy people don't cheat. Most of the time, infidelity occurs as a symptom of a gap in connection or as the result of an unattended wound in a relationship. It rarely is *just* because somebody wanted to have sex with someone else or because they are a callous person who intends to harm their spouse/partner. And if it were simply about wanting to have sex with someone else, I would still not be terribly judgmental because I also think we do people a disservice by culturally enforcing the idea that monogamy is a one-size-fits-all recipe for a happy life. For some people it's simply not, but they try it anyway, and then fail because it does not suit them or they do not actually want to live that way.

All of that is to say, generally speaking (**although I'll admit to some smug satisfaction with people like Josh Duggar being outed because it's just icing on the hypocritical cake that is his faux-religious life**) I think the outing of the AM users is much more negative and damaging than it could ever be "just" or "right". Living in alignment with one's publicly stated values is important, as is honoring the commitments one has made, but so is privacy and the right to self-determine one's life without such public shaming.

The moralizing around this leak is gross to me. Basically everyone has something in their past or present that they'd prefer not get out, something that paints them in an unflattering light, or about which they are not proud. I would venture a guess that nearly all of the people who are tsk tsking and finger-wagging from their high moral ground live in a glass house and probably shouldn't be throwing stones. Shaming people for shit we ourselves do or have done or might do someday is a shallow source of satisfaction.

The idea that people have committed suicide over this information leak is also troubling and sad. I hope that for most of the outed AM users, this will be an opportunity to more wholly live their truths and own up to whatever they haven't been owning up to, whether that be about sex or love or connection or power or whatever. Hopefully at least some of the marriages will end up stronger, and the ones that don't will end as amicably and painlessly and shame-free as possible.

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