It was only a few months ago, I remember doing my daily ritual of scanning CNN articles to stay abreast of current news, when I stumbled across a headline that read something along the lines of, “Ashley Madison hack ruined my life”. There was consistent coverage in the summer months to follow related to this hack, the site, and its consequences.
My initial response to the Ashley Madison website was disgust. Even as a child, I for some reason, held ideal views of love and marriage and thought it was a sacred and precious gift. Although infidelity has penetrated into the households of many couples and families, it was always private, done in secret—I couldn’t believe that a website was created to help publicly facilitate what society views in shame. Then again, I guess it was only a matter of time before technology also disrupted this space, and in lieu disrupt the relationships involved.
I dug a little deeper to discover what was going on, searching for why the site was created in the first place, who the founder is, why the site was hacked, combed through the barrage of comments, and watched a biological anthropologist’s examination of human behavior and why people are on the Ashley Madison site.
Although my initial reaction was, “I can’t believe this site exists” and was rooting for the hackers and their success, I realized their good intentions led to additional complicated issues in addition to already existing broken relationships—i.e., hate crime, cyber security, online scam, and even suicides. There are lots of different perspectives out there, some as “light” as making humor out of the incident as hosts of an award show, to some more reflective misconceptions about the hack.
However, I had a different reaction to what had already been discussed concerning this issue, one that took me some time to think about and with some hesitancy, am writing about now.
It was estimated that about 37 million people were identified in the hack, ranging from the average Joe, CEOs, politicians, and sadly, even pastors. I shook my head when reading this statistic, but at that moment, a haunting epiphany struck me—I, too, am on that list.
No, I did not literally sign up for the Ashley Madison site after only being married for less than two years, and I have no intention to do so. I am deeply in love with my wife, I am completely, holistically satisfied in our marriage—emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. Yet, despite this complete and rich love, the intimacy that she and I share, the trust, comfort, security, and passion, there exists in me thoughts that jeopardize and can put all of these amazing things at risk. There are temptations that ever so slightly brew and I don’t know where it comes from, yet I know that it’s not something that I want to entertain. I realized, instead of judging those who were users on the Ashley Madison site, I knew if anybody were to hack my thoughts, I, too, would be extremely guilty of infidelity, of the possibility that I too can be a user of the Ashley Madison service.
It was this realization that confused and troubled me for the past couple of months. Before marriage, I never understood how even in the small circle of people I knew, men would cheat on their wives, wives would leave their husbands. I could not understand how two individuals who were so deeply in love, to go as far as to commit to love each other for the rest of their lives, could do something as egregious as cheating, and ultimately cause an immense amount of hurt and pain to someone whom they claimed to love till death do us part. And now that I am married, ironically I can now see how this tragedy may come to fruition in my life, I can see how I too am susceptible to the ugly grips of a broken love.
Small steps lead to greater victories
What I fortunately learned early on is that the people who resort to using sites like Ashley Madison or who secretly have affairs with other people is not something that happens overnight. As some writers have already mentioned, it is the small hurts and pains that go unaddressed, the unfulfilled, discontent heart that was never shared between the two individuals, that ultimately lead to deeper hurts and pains that eventually will lead people to find comfort, love, and or respect, elsewhere.
I’m truly grateful that I was able to realize this early on, identifying in my self when I was hurt by my wife, and felt a thin layer of callousness covering my heart. I knew I immediately had to bring this before her, instead of covering it in pride or whatever other reason I could think of, and in doing so, being able to not let the hardness penetrate any deeper and resolve the issue immediately. I knew it was something as small as an argument that makes me not want to sleep next to her that evening, can ultimately lead me to not sleep with her forever. Some may think that this is unnecessary, it may be overbearing to talk about and reveal such seemingly petty disagreements, however, I find it more foolish to not talk about these things to risk the possibility of having a much more difficult conversation of, “Where were you last night?”
My heart goes out to all the individuals affected by the Ashley Madison site and hack. My heart goes out more to the millions of people not on the site who struggle with broken relationships. And my heart goes out to those who may be beginning their amazing journey of marriage, especially the ones in their honeymoon phase who feel like their love will last forever.
My hope is that we can realize how it’s the little things that ultimately lead to the much bigger disasters, or to victories. It is either the little hurts and scars that continue to build up that may lead to an outburst of anger or rebellion. It is the little lusts, the glances, the entertaining of certain thoughts and images that lead to infidelity, rape, and other sexual offenses.
But it is also the little steps of communicating, reaching out, starting early, that can lead to open, vibrant, and trusting relationships. It is the small battles we choose to face, instead of mindlessly giving into whatever our minds and bodies crave. It is these small victories, that will lead us not to have to use sites like Ashley Madison, that will not create a desire for hackers demanding justice, and for the rest of society having to deal with issues like hate crime, cyber security, and most importantly, broken relationships and taken lives. I wonder, how much better off this world will be if only we learned how to love one another with more depth and greater trust.
To my beloved wife, I hope you never have to hack my mind and heart because I will do my utmost best to guard it, to love you truly till death do us part. I hope you can join me in this battle, for honesty, for purity, and to continue our fun, exciting, comforting, journey of marriage. I want to enjoy every process with you.