In July, hackers announced they had accessed customer data from the Ashley Madison website, and on August 18 they exposed 40 million usernames and emails registered with the website. The exposure rocked the Internet by laying bare spouses who were cheating, or were at least interested in cheating.
Ashley Madison is an online dating site for married people looking for affairs. Their motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Since the leak, celebrities, politicians, and married spouses around the world have found themselves in the uncomfortable situation of needing to issue apologies, excuses, and denials. At least two suicides have been directly linked to the leak, and the number of Ashley Madison-driven divorces is likely to skyrocket in the coming weeks.
Married spouses everywhere are now wondering whether they should check to see if their partner was on Ashley Madison, and many already have. If you are considering checking to see if your partner was a member, here are five questions to ask yourself:
1. Do you really want to know?
Marriages are based on trust – there is no question about it. But they are also based on a delicate balance of freedom and commitment. Before you dive into the Ashley Madison database, ask yourself if you really want to know if your partner ever checked out the site. The results could have a massive impact on your life, so it’s worth thinking this through.
2. What will you do?
If you check the Ashley Madison database and discover your married love’s name on there, what will you do? If you have faced infidelity in your marriage before, you may have previously given an ultimatum to end your marriage that you will now need to execute. If you have doubted your spouse’s fidelity for a while but haven’t brought it up yet, are you prepared to open the can of worms?
3. How will your partner react?
In a committed relationship, you should have an idea of how your partner will react to confrontation. More volatile partners will likely get defensive and angry. They may accuse you of spying on them and find a way to turn the tables on you if you aren’t prepared. Other married spouses may deny any wrongdoing and then just refuse to discuss it further. Think through how your partner might react if you find information about Ashley Madison linked to them and prepare accordingly.
4. What are you willing to believe?
The most common response to exposed partners on Ashley Madison is that they were “just curious” and never took any action on the site. Given that almost everyone is using this as an excuse, and given that we can all understand natural curiosity to a certain degree, how likely are you to believe your partner if this is the excuse?
5. What’s next for you?
Even if you don’t find your spouse on the Ashley Madison list, the fact is that this scandal is raising the issue of infidelity for marriages everywhere. Whatever the results of your search, it may be time to sit down with your partner and determine the expectations and boundaries in your marriage. What are you willing to accept as a couple? How should you approach each other when one of you fears the other is cheating? This is an important conversation for every marriage.