A man slowly awakens with a dreamy, contented smile on his face. He picks up a lacy pair of panties that unfurls like a massive flag on a steamship, and he turns in a panic to see just who is lying next to him in bed. Finding an overweight, bedraggled woman, he leaps out of bed, grabs his clothes and charges down the stair to make his escape. Then, he sees it: a wedding photo of this repulsive woman and himself. This was not a drunken one-night stand. This is his wife. The realization deflates him, and the commercial fades out with the tag lines: “Life is short. Have an affair.”
The commercial was supposed to be funny, but as a married woman, I found it deeply offensive. The Ashley Madison Agency is the name of a company that connects married people who are looking to have an affair. The company president, Noel Biderman, admits that there is no woman named Ashley Madison. He simply chose the two most popular women’s names for marketing appeal.
His company website boasts over two and a half million registered members. Most are men. He offers an “Affair Guarantee” Program for $249 that states you will receive a full refund if, within three months of complying with the program requirements, you do not “find someone.” He and his Ashley Madison Agency have been featured on television, radio and print, as he pushes the notion that monogamy is a myth. Articles on the website attempt to convince readers that infidelity is natural while spouting statistics about how many men and women cheat. Published comments from alleged members claim that his service has either saved their marriages (by allowing them to fulfill their sexual needs outside the marriage) or helped them to find their true loves.
I’ve always been hard on “the other woman” because I’m pretty territorial as a wife. But in an attempt to be fair and objective, I put my feelings aside to consider if there could be situations when I would agree that marital affairs might be beneficial to a marriage. So far, I can’t come up with any. Religious reasons aside, affairs are morally wrong because by its very definition, marriage is a commitment to forsake all others. Not to mention that a very important someone gets hurt.
So, people have tossed out a few scenarios to consider. What if one spouse was unable to fulfill the other person’s physical needs due to a health problem and the affair was only a physical arrangement (which is what Ashley Madison purports to do despite what its published comments from readers report)? Nope. There are many ways to provide for sexual needs that don’t involve a third party. What if the spouses agree to allow the other to have affairs? That type of arrangement is called “an open marriage,” and that is completely different topic, morally and editorially (see the BellaOnline.com marriage forum for a thread on this subject.)
If you decide that an affair will improve your life, at least be clear about the fact that an affair will not improve your marriage. To improve your marriage, work on improving your emotional and physical relationship with your spouse. Cheating does not make marriage better. On the site, people claim, “Well, my affair satisfied needs that weren’t being met within my marriage so it allowed me to stay married. I would have divorced if not for my affair!” Many men claim that they love their wives and are happy being married with the exception of the lack of sex. They turn to marital affairs because they want outside sex without having to leave their marriages. They want to stay married for financial reasons, their children, their social image or status or even because they still love their mates. Other men who are chronic cheaters do so to fulfill emotional as well as physical needs. The truth is if you need to go outside of your marriage for your emotional and/or physical needs, there are underlying problems that need to be resolved. You need to resolve them. The affair is not a fix.
The site comments from women reveal that many of them are not looking for convenient sexual arrangements. They aren't looking for an "affair" but for a serious relationship. And many claim they found their special someone. He just happened to be married to another woman. The comments give desperate women everywhere the same hope held by mistresses throughout history: He'll leave her for you in the end. And we all know, from marriage and divorce statistics, that rarely happens.
Unless you and your spouse have worked out some type of agreement, your marriage should be the priority. That means focusing your attention on your spouse and no one else. Sexual relations exclusively with your committed partner.
The statistical truths about marriage and affairs
While the stats on the Ashley Madison Agency website state that 22 percent of men have cheated at least once during their married lives, consider this: this means that 78 percent of men have not. As for wives, only 14 percent have strayed while 86 percent have remained faithful. His stats show me that there is a lot more monogamy going on than infidelity! More than 90 percent of people surveyed do not approve of marital affairs. People want faithful relationships!
There’s no reason to decry a business like the Ashley Madison Agency because if people want to cheat, they will cheat with or without a dating service. If you’ve been considering an affair, please think twice. An affair might bring quick thrills but eventually returns untold regret and sorrow.