Since the Ashley Madison data dump of cheaters or potential cheaters, the debate of the sanctity (or the necessity) of marriage is again raging. It never really went away as marriage and relationships and how to manage them in a self fulfilling manner is a topic that is ever changing, fluid and up for debate.
The surprise is not that so many people cheat, but even people who are seemingly in happy marriages are cheating. Z list reality ‘stars’ aside, many others who seem to be in happy marriages were a member of Ashley Madison. To be clear, just because one is a paying member of Ashley Madison it doesn’t mean that person has cheated on his or her spouse, as with online dating or solicitation services, catfishing is rife and people don’t present themselves as they are.
There are many who sit in gleeful judgment of ‘adulterers’, taking great schadenfreude at the humiliation of others. For those with a moral superiority complex, this is the perfect chance to see what your neighbors are up to in their spare time. The United States is still very puritanical when it comes to religion, marriage, sex and how those three things relate to each other and the data dump serves more as a humiliation than exposing adultery. This is meant to be private business, conducted in the private corners of one’s home (and mind), not meant for public consumption regardless of if their respective spouses is already aware or not.
I personally do not give two hoots on the private lives of others. We should all mind our own backyards in the relationship and marriage department. If we begin to ‘judge’ the relationship and marriage of another, we open ourselves up to further and even harsher judgement and scrutiny. For me specifically, am in no position to render any judgement either way even though I’ve been with my husband for 11 years and married for almost 7. I am just as clueless as the next person when it comes to marriage and relationships.
My marriage has never been easy going. It always required great compromise, in my opinion more from me than he, it is my perspective that I’ve had to cave into his wishes more than the other way around. Though every marriage ‘expert’ says relationships are always about compromise and not keeping score on the compromise, it gets harder as the years go on. As I’ve come into my own as a woman (I met my husband at 25), I am less willing to compromise on many things, things that I wouldn’t have minded as a doe eyed and naive 25 year old but now serve as an affront to my womanhood. The things I that now refuse to compromise on can range from small things that I didn’t like doing but didn’t mind doing before, but now can’t get myself to do it and refuse to do it just based on principle. One person shouldn’t be asked to do that many things in which she doesn’t want to do, even if the thing she is being asked to do is ‘no big deal’. I just can’t anymore. This has caused tension. I ‘changed’, would be the accusation.
And when we had children, to dynamics of our marriage and relationship totally shifted. I had two little people to consider, what kind of example would I be setting for them, especially my daughter. To be a constant pushover just to keep the peace? No way. Marriage is hard work, harder than I like it to be. Especially when one of the parties involved no longer accept the existing dynamic of the marriage and wishes to change it. And then there’s the boredom of it all.
Of all the difficulties that arise in relationships, it’s the slow grinding daily routines, which some days scream ‘boredom’ that is the most difficult to manage. That mixed in with tantruming children, trying to enforce discipline and order with the children, it can easily put one over the edge. There are days I wake up and see dishes in my kitchen sink and a fully loaded dishwasher that I must empty in order to wash said dishes in sink before I can even make my morning cup of tea and breakfast, this alone can drive me over edge, and it’s before 8 AM. My days as a work-at-home mom feels like one long unending slog, filled with chores, work, child care and more chores. The days feel long, endless and pointless. Did I go to college just to do this(?) is a thought that often creeps into my mind. For the menfolk, I suspect the feeling is same, the flip side is they feel they just work to feed the mouths that wait for him at home, the proverbial ball and chain. The wife and children, any time someone opens their mouth is because they need to buy something or they need him to fork cash over. It’s like he’s the ATM machine to his family. Granted, some men enjoy this, usually high earning ones with lots of cash to spare and do not have to work extra shifts to afford that extra item don’t mind being generous with their families. But for most men, their families is a cash pit. Of course when drowning in the unending sea of boredom, there are also moments of great fun and joy, and if the parties have a healthy sense of humor, these endless gnawing bordems shall pass too. After all, such is life.
It takes great strength of character to deal with boredom, to try to sustain yourself when you feel your life is pointless beyond fulfilling the basic functions for others. And these marriages aren’t necessarily unhappy marriages, it’s just how life is. I believe that many who signed up on Ashley Madison is just bored. Bored to death of the daily grind, to try to find something discreet to do to liven up a dull day, month or year without ruining your family. As I mentioned in my previous post about marriage, cheating isn’t what we do. It doesn’t make us better people but cheating is degrading and disrespectful to our family and the life we built together, regardless of how we feel about each other at any given time.
These so called religious marriage counselors that give advice to couples who are religiously observant, instead of endlessly quoting the Bible and the Epistles of St. Paul about the relations between husband and wife, they’d be better off counseling their flock on how to resolve marital boredom, as it is bound to hit the couples when the routine of life settles in.
One advice you hear over and over again for people who have been married a long time is to ‘be each other’s best friend’. This seems deceptively simple but it’s not. If we are as excited to see our spouse everyday in the same manner that we see our best girlfriend about to get together for a girls day out (or a boys golf trip), the marital satisfaction percentages would improve greatly. The ability to enjoy our spouse’s company without any expectations attached like one would a friend would solve many marital woes.
Instead of the tongue wagging, finger pointing and moral superiority response to the data dump from Ashley Madison, the conversation should be why are so many people so bored and dissatisfied with their marriages? The moralistic response would be, ‘get a divorce first then go do what you want’, if getting divorced were as easy as getting married, the divorce rate would be higher than it is now.
I object to the hypocrisy that is heaped on one single bad behavior in a marriage and that is cheating. This is not to minimize infidelity or the disruption or destruction infidelity can bring to a marriage, but there are other equally abusive and destructive behaviors that do not get the same criticism because they do not involve having sex with someone that isn’t your spouse.
There are people who belittle their spouses at everything they do, strip them of all their self-worth and make them a shell of their former selves, how is this not a crime of marriage? There are people who neglect their spouse and families and carry on as though they were still single (minus the infidelity) doing whatever they want whenever they want with total disregard for the needs of the family, how is this acceptable? Marriage, in the best of circumstances, is complicated, emotional and messy. Emotions and feelings become intertwined with actions that serve those feelings. A husband who feels neglected will start hiding out in his garage-man cave more and ignore his young family, begin to ‘work’ longer hours or go out with friends more or perhaps drink more, anything to escape that ball and chain. A wife who feels taken for granted for all the boring goddamn chores she’s got to do everyday without any ounce of appreciation from the husband or children may become snappy and irritable with everyone. Does this mean they don’t love each other anymore? Probably not, but they probably strongly dislike each other. There is no silver bullet to a happy marriage, if there were and if it could be bottled and sold, there will be many millionaires, but running away from a bad situation has never solved the problem.
So for all those people who are inclined to righteous fury at all the cheaters on Ashley Madison, they should first look their own backyard and clean the weeds there and second, instead of heaping self-righteous judgement on others, perhaps start a helpful (unjudgemental) dialogue with friends and family to not fall into the ‘Life is Short. Have an Affair’ trap.