Ashley Madison has been in the news a lot lately after hackers aimed their efforts at the infidelity-driven “dating” website and leaked millions of users’ names. Spouses became suspicious of their husbands and wives, millions of Ashley Madison users were put to shame, and the Josh Duggar scandal deepened. I even read about three suicides reportedly linked to the controversy.
I first heard about this website 5 years ago when I worked at the newspaper. At first, I thought it was a joke. A terrible idea at best. Maybe one of those sites someone creates in their sheer boredom only to have it taken down hours later because it’s so dumb.
But no. It’s as real as can be.
I wrote a blog about the site shortly after I heard about it. Five years later, my feelings haven’t changed.
Below is my original blog, posted on July 28, 2010.
Fellow reporter, Jason, recently heard about a website, AshleyMadison.com, through a press release he received at work. The site has a banner boasting, “Life is short. Have an affair.” I felt sick to my stomach reading about it.
Ashley Madison is a dating site for married people. It guarantees a “successful” affair within three months of joining for the low price of $249. They promise no one will know, but have a refund policy just in case.
The company started in 2001 and has more than 6.5 million members across the U.S., Canada and the UK.
“In today’s world, life and relationships have become increasingly complicated and boring,” the site says.
It’s not that people don’t care about their partners, it says, just that they “want more” out of them. One woman says having an affair can send a “wake up call” to your partner so he or she will try harder to please you. That’ll teach ’em.
Really? I can think of another way, like communication. Happy relationships aren’t built on selfishness anyway; they aim to love and serve your partner unconditionally. Couples doing that won’t be bored and definitely won’t lose the spark.
But wait, the site isn’t a bad thing. It actually suggests that couples “seek counseling” if they have problems. How thoughtful.
In the FAQ section, it says, “Ashley Madison does not encourage anyone to stray or have an affair, despite our trademark, ‘Life is short, have an affair.’”
I laughed out loud. “Despite what we say, that’s not what we think.”
Ashley Madison claims its role is to “keep clients from taking unnecessary risks and being subject to exposure while they explore the feelings that got them to various websites related to cheating.”
Why get in trouble when you can pay $250 for a discreet cheat? The site wants to make a client’s experience “a positive one” and says it doesn’t make a person more likely to cheat any more than “increasing the availability of glassware contributes to alcoholism.”
Yet, members are required to correspond with other members a certain number of times each month and must provide profile pictures for the first three months of their membership since people with photos are more likely to be contacted.
The president of Ashley Madison, Noel Biderman, says his site will “increase the likelihood of a successful affair.”
What I don’t get is why people think this type of thing will make them happy, that it’s the answer to a dull marriage. Yes, let’s break the marriage covenant by cheating on our spouses, and everything will be better, life is fulfilling again.
How do people stoop so low to disrespect, dishonor and humiliate their lifelong partners, whether they know about the affair or not? And for what — some temporary, self-centered pleasure on the side?
Why not go away for the weekend and leave the kids with a relative? Cook Thai together and laugh when you mess up? Analyze a stupid movie? Take dance lessons? Fly kites and pretend you’re 10 again?
The same day Jason told me about Ashley Madison, I was listening to the radio on the way to work. The hosts were talking about cheating and brought up one guy who told his wife about dinner with his female co-worker so she wouldn’t suspect him cheating, even though he was.
How dumb, one host said; why not hide it?
I’ve got a better idea: Why not cheat in the first place?
Jason is a single guy with a girlfriend, and I’ve been married for three months. We shook our heads at the site and briefly contemplated not even posting this blog in case we encourage potential Ashley Madison members.
How sad that we even have to think that way, and how disappointing and shameful that so many people think this is OK. The site can guarantee nothing but broken relationships and unhappiness. No affair is a success.