The Ashley Madison Scandal – Should The Subscribers Be Named & Shamed?

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‘Life is short.  Have an affair.’

Ashley Madison Shhhhh . . . . . Life is short. Have an affair.

Ashley Madison
Shhhhh . . . . . Life is short. Have an affair.

In the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal where the e-mail addresses of thousands, and some reports say millions of cheaters have been released into the public domain, a big question is should the cheating spouses by outed,  and their details plastered across the media for all to see?

Well of course an easy answer, particularly if you have never been cheated on is “Yes.”  Yes of course knowingly and calculatingly going behind your partners back and signing up for an affair deserves to be dragged into and through the gutter, but is it really that simple?

If you had asked me before my partner had an affair, I would have said:

“Heck yes!!!  And take out an ad in the local paper while you’re about it, and let’s also do a broadcast on radio and TV to boot!”

I also most likely would have said that I’d tell everyone I knew what he’d done to me, and rip up his favourite clothes, and tell all of his work colleagues, and throw paint all over his beloved car.

That said, I never in a million years believed that my then fiancé would cheat on me, so it was all just random thoughts and idle conversation with friends as I watched the news and glanced at tabloid newspapers where yet more relationships and lives were being ripped apart by infidelity on an almost daily basis.

Are You a Girl or a Mouse?

So what did I do when the unbelievable happened and I discovered that my partner was having an affair, and pretty much living with another woman while he was working abroad?  Well, let me sum it up for you as simply as I can.  The first time round, and I say first time because I did the ‘I forgive you’ piece with the first affair and we stayed together (that’s a whole other story), but that first time, I did nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.

Then The Cycle Hits You . . . . .

The Kubler Ross Grief Cycle

The Kubler Ross Grief Cycle – Courtesy of wallpaper222.c0m

Of course I was shocked, and hurt and angry, and went through what I now call with my coaching clients the classic Kubler Ross grief cycle which includes shock, disbelief, denial, anger, depression, and then eventually through to feeling numb, before moving into bargaining and blame, before being able to eventually come out the other side and get acceptance and resolution.

Why Didn’t I Expose Him?

My reasons for saying nothing back then and not rushing out to publicly rip his character to shreds are very different to the reasons I might have now.

Back then, and some of you, particularly if you have good self-esteem and have never been cheated on might find this strange, I saw his infidelity as a reflection on me.  I was ashamed and embarrassed.

How terrible must I be to spend time with for my partner to need to go off ad sleep with some stranger that he’d met at a trade show or in a bar?  How crap must I be in bed for it to be so easy to jump into bed with another woman?  What a deluded fool I must have been to believe that that we were happy and to have not seen this coming?  The self-defeating thoughts were relentless and endless for those first few weeks and even months.

At that time I had very low self-confidence and a chronic lack of self-esteem.  I was also suffering health challenges which changed my physical appearance, so things really were at an all-time low.

So if I had stood up back then and shouted it from the rooftops I felt as though I would really be shouting about my own fears and inadequacies and how rubbish a partner I was.

Wouldn’t You Rather Know?

And then there is the question of wouldn’t you rather know?  Wouldn’t you rather, even if it is a hacker in the media, have someone fill you in on the deception?  I watched an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Life Class recently which featured a session with Dr Phil, and someone posed this very same question as to whether they should tell a friend that they thought their husband was cheating.  Dr Phil’s response was that you should only speak up if you were willing to lose a friend because the chances are they would get back together and then blame you, the snitch for trying to break them up.

Back then I didn’t want to change the life that I had planned for myself.  So if someone had outed my partner they would have taken away the illusion of choice that I felt I had.

In this case the Ashely Madison hackers aren’t your friends so there is no sense of direct personal reprisals.  They are however ripping uninvited into people’s lives, the same lives where the house of cards might be based upon quiet denial.

Real Lives Are At Stake

And don’t get me wrong, I am not making excuses for the cheaters who willingly signed up for the infidelity dating service, far from it, all I am saying is that people’s lives, real lives, are at stake.

Should the cheater have thought of that before they pulled out their credit card and pulled down their pants?  Yeah, sure, of course they should, and, sex does weird things to people.  Many a senseless crime has been committed over those intoxicating hormones that seem to pervade the brain and organs like no other.

And in amongst the calculating cheaters, there will also be some wet behind the ears opportunists who thought in for a penny in for a pound, I’ve got nothing to lose so I’ll just give it a go.

The Truth Will Out

I would say that in my experience, and I have since gone on to spend almost the past 2 decades working as an agony aunt and relationship coach, that the truth will out.

Often, deep down the cheated upon party knows that something is up, and that things aren’t right.  They often know in their heart of hearts that there has been a change in the dynamic of their relationship.

I even believe that my partner’s erratic and almost cruel behaviour was to push me into finding out and discovering what was going on.  So for some on the Ashley Madison list even if they’re not pushed they might still decide to come clean.

Denial - Are you denying that that you live in it?

Denial – Are you denying that that you live in it?

I Was Living In Denial

When it happened to me I at first almost chose not to notice because I didn’t want to be single.  I didn’t want anything coming along to mess up the ‘we, together, us’ life plans that I had mapped out in my mind.  It was just when his erratic and often blaming behaviour became too much to bear that I blurted out that big yet tiny question:

“Have you met someone else?” 

But I chose the time for that to happen.  I chose the time when my psyche said: “Enough is enough.”  Prior to that I somehow didn’t have the strength to cope with what was to come.

And once I had uttered those words, everything that I had suspected unravelled from there, but on some level the timing was right even though I couldn’t see it at the time, and with hindsight, my partner having an affair is one of the best things that ever happened to because I found the courage to listen to myself and finally take action, and that courage was the catalyst for so many other things.

And would some of the Ashley Madison cheaters have gotten away with it and lived to cheat another day?  Yes, of course.

Are some of those relationships that now potentially hang in the balance made up of unconscious co-conspirators in keeping the status quo of their relationship?  Yes, I believe that some of them most likely are.

We've all most likely had our 'D'OH' moments

We’ve all most likely had our ‘D’OH’ moments

Is There Anyone That Hasn’t Been Stupid?

I believe that everyone makes stupid decisions and sometimes really big mistakes.  I’m not religious however I can hear the ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ line rolling around in my head.  Would we all be jumping for joy if someone was threatening to plaster our mistakes all over tomorrow’s daily news?  I think not.

There can also be so many unforeseen consequences of a partner having an affair.  For me, despite the pain, shame, upset, feelings of betrayal, depression, and life upheaval, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me and with hindsight it all came crashing down at just the perfect time.  It was the catalyst that I need to really take charge of and change and transform my life.

Is it a wake up call to sit up, pay attention, and make some decisions?

Is it a wake up call to sit up, pay attention, and make some decisions?

Is It A Wake Up Call To Reevaluate? 

Some of the Ashley Madison site members will get away unscathed and un-outed (that’s not really a word, I just made it out but you get my gist), but it may just be the wakeup call that they need to reevaluate their relationship and decide whether or not they want to fully commit to their spouse and get back in the game.

For others, they might be hastened into making a decision to come clean and potentially end their relationship sooner rather than later.

For me, living a lie was like a slow form of torture, so despite the upset there was a weird sense of relief that it was finally all out in the open.

So today, with self-confidence and self-esteem intact, would I advocate naming and shaming the cheaters?  No, probably not.

I still say that people should be left to sort out their own messes, and, if it is time for the truth to out, it will.  And what I mean by that is, if it wasn’t the Ashely Madison hackers, it might just have easily been a case of being spotted out and about or captured in a social media photo when you should have been elsewhere.

Given that I am a fallible human, I for one would be thinking twice about casting that first stone.

Marilyn Devonish




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About the Author:

Marilyn Devonish has been described as the UK equivalent of Oprah Winfrey, Marianne Williamson, Anthony Robbins, a dash of Doreen Virtue, and the trio from Charmed all rolled into one. I (Marilyn Devonish) have admit that was too big of a statement for me to own, but I equally admit that I do like the sound of it and it did make me smile. Marilyn Devonish - Herself since Year 2000.

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