Love isn’t dead, but every so often we read something that makes us think it might be comatose.
As the Internet dating world has exploded, with more than 40 million Americans having profiles on at least one of the key dating personal Websites, there is another kind of dating site that has popped up that just makes our blood boil.
Now, there are Websites that cater to married people who are seeking to have affairs with others. These sites guarantee anonymity and discretion and they create a feeding ground for people who have no problem with infidelity. What’s worse is that the founder of the most popular site — the Ashley Madison site with 13 million members around the world — is trying to defend the practice of having extramarital affairs as an aid to couples who are having marital problems.
To those of us who make a profession out of helping people solve their relationship issues, it’s like Charlie Sheen telling kids that drugs are good for you. So, if you have a moment, please allow us to dispel some of these inane arguments before they begin to take root and make some people believe that having an affair is just the shot in the arm their marriage needs.
Noel Biderman, the former lawyer and sports agent who founded Ashley Madison, has been making the interview rounds to promote his site. In one interview, he stated that non-monogamy has always been a part of traditional marriage, dating back to polygamists from the African tribes to the early Mormons. This is a false comparison, because that style of non-monogamy was consensual. Women who married men with multiple wives in those cultures knew they were marrying a man with multiple wives. They had full disclosure. An affair is an act of deception, which involves a married partner in a non-consensual act. They did not have a choice in their partner having another romantic partner — it happened without their knowledge of permission. So, that argument is a crock of ca-ca.
In another interview, he tried to indicate that infidelity is good for marriage, because it’s all about sex. His contention is that someone who wants to have an affair because he or she is dissatisfied with their sex life would be selfish to forego the affair and just get a divorce. His idea is that marriages are often also about raising children and life partnerships, and sex is just one dimension. So, why get a divorce over the sex issue alone? Just have an affair and keep the family together.
There are so many things wrong with that argument, we barely know where to begin. First of all, an affair creates a breach of trust, which many families never survive. And if you don’t think an affair will never be revealed, ask Tiger Woods or Arnold Schwarzenegger how that concept worked out for them. Further, if the sex life is unfulfilling, that creates tension that children will see, making them unhappy, too. Moreover, there is another option other than having an affair or getting a divorce. It’s called working with your partner on increasing the quality of your marital sex life. I understand there are even counselors out there who can help them with that. We know a couple who seem pretty good at that, too.
The last argument he makes on the benefits of affairs is that they are actually good for a marriage because they can bring couples together. His viewpoint is that the affair acts like a wakeup call for a couple in crisis, and gives them the ability to come together to fix what’s wrong with their marriage.
What’s wrong with that marriage is that the trust has been broken, and repairing that trust now becomes the focal point of the work they have to do, not their sex life. In fact, many marital sex lives have a hard time recovering from an affair because the image of infidelity is very difficult for partners to overcome. It’s not that it can’t be done, but a couple that chooses instead to work honestly on fixing their sex life has far less work to do than a couple who must work on trust issues before sex can ever even happen again.
Our advice to married men and women who are contemplating an affair is to stop, take a breath, and examine what it would take to fix what’s wrong with your marriage first. If you can make it work, you should. If you try hard, but just can’t make it work, you should separate. But don’t sacrifice your integrity for a fling that will ultimately change your life for the worse.