Five years ago, a couple walked into my office with a crisis – the husband’s infidelity. This was not unusual for me as a family therapist. What was a first in my practice, was that “Ashley Madison” was the other woman! Since then, Ashley Madison has generated 37 million “other women” – 31 million men and 5.5 million women. These 37 million men and women have been caught in the website which advertises itself – Life is Short, Have an Affair!
Accompanied by this slogan, there is a photo of a beaming woman – healthy, fresh, beckoning. The subtext, of course, reads, it’s harmless, you deserve it! No one gets hurt and it’s just a little adult fun. It’s a guilt-free ride, a non-emotional romp. What’s wrong with that?!
What is omitted is that life operates with cause and effect. The lack of impulse control and the “magical” thinking that goes into believing you will never get caught is childish. And, most essential – there is no such thing as an infidelity where people do get hurt. Noted sex therapist, Esther Perel, in one of her wonderful Ted Talks, states that any infidelity is indicative of a fissure in the relationship. An affair points out: one, that your marriage may in fact be over; two, that there is trouble; or, three, that you yourself are in emotional turmoil. Whatever the reason, Ms. Perel states that an affair is an opportunity to make a positive change.
To return to my couple of five years ago, their marriage is now going strong. Both partners made changes and started to put each other first. We worked together on relational issues with intention – through listening and hearing exercises and creating a place of safe vulnerability. The couple both did their individual work, as well. So when we were discussing the relationship, there was little blaming and victimization.. They now have a very successful ongoing relationship and are happier as individuals.
Ashley Madison is simply a symptom of a larger need. Instead of browsing the web, try any one of the following suggestions:
1) Reframe your marriage. In order to keep things moving, sometimes we have to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t. Instead of focusing on the negatives, write yourself a list of positives and focus on what your partner does right rather than what he or she does not do. Share the list of positives with your partner.
2) Take a walk. Simply, getting outside together can clear the air.
3) Post something wonderful about your partner on social media. This will surely bring a smile to his or her face.
4) Praise your partner. Find something to appreciate in the other.
5) Take time to cool off – give yourself a time out. When you feel yourself getting angry, accusatory, and blaming, walk away. Do something positive for yourself so that you can re-address what was bothering you in a calm way.
6) This is your life. Don’t dream about the what-ifs, unless you really want to dissolve your marriage. Concentrate on creating happy moments with the person you’re with.
7) Help your partner realize their own personal dreams.
8) Most important, HAVE SOME FUN TOGETHER. Try something new. If both of you have the intention of making your marriage work, it will.