Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Are 8 Million Married People On Ashleymadison.com?

If Carl Jung,the psychoanalyst and founder of Jungian Psychology, were still alive,I think he would say the shadow self is alive and well in 2011. This week, I thumbed through the April,2011 issue of the mainstream women's magazine,Redbook. I noticed a story the magazine teased about on the cover about America's cheating web-site, Ashleymadison.com They sent a reporter,Lisa Taddeo, to do an undercover(no pun intended) investigation into who uses such a web-site and why. I thought her findings highlight some interesting trends,and merit some discussion about what it means for intimacy,sexuality,marriage,family and our own soul journey through life.

The web-site's slogan is,"Life is short. Have an affair." Does that sound like have an icecream or a chocolate bar to you? Can you spot the superficiality and narcissism in that? Taddeo found that 8 MILLION married people are using the site to attempt to reach a stranger for cybersex,e-mail photos and correspondence,and sometimes meeting up for uncommited sex. Two-thirds,or,roughly 6 million, of their members are men,and the rest are women.The average member,Taddeo found, is a 44-year old bored man who is married with children.She found most of the men that contacted her reduced their partner's significance to the level of a pronoun,SHE.Noone actually used the word cheating,but favored calling it "seeking pleasure outside the relationship".See the denial?(I'm really a great guy,it's just that I'm missing a soul.)

The researcher found one of the men that responded to her listing was a married father that was a friend of her family's. Most of the men seemed hungry to reminisce about their past with an interested listener who would let them tell their stories. They wanted conversation more than sex frequently.Most liked the excitement of an in-box with something in it from someone secret,and the seratonin rush from that.Some weren't even married yet,and were cheating on a fiance.Many wanted to create a false sense of intimacy by e-mailing brief life summaries,as if they really knew each other.All of them told her they felt they were so stealthy that their wives didn't suspect a thing.See the hurtful self-absorption?

As I read her report, I kept wondering what Gail Sheehy,the author of Passages,and several more recent books on how we manage the transitions in adult life,would say about these findings.Men in their 40's can have a 'male menopause',or a period of mid-life reevaluation.They can wonder,"Is this all there is?" Getting on Ashleymadison.com,and trolling for sexual activity may be a less successful way to attempt to find a deeper meaning and life purpose as one approaches mid-life.Or a way to deal about feelings about aging. Sad,isn't it? There are absolutely better,richer, and more real ways to increase life's meaning in our 40's and beyond,including changing one's career,pursuing a dream,helping others,developing a talent,strengthening your faith,deepening your sensitivity and compassion as a partner and a parent.None of those strategies are as easy,instant,or passive.They require work,authenticity,and an awareness that your choices impact every life you touch.

So, beyond the initial "ICK!" factor,I found Taddeo's observations undercover give us insight into modern love,and the threat that instant,secret cybersex poses to real,authentic intimacy and successful resolutions to the predictable crises of mid-life.This would be a good discussion to have with your partner about the Ashleymadison.com phenomenon,and what you each feel about what such a breach could mean to your trust,intimacy,and the sacredness of what you mean to each other.If I could reframe their motto,"Life is short. Don't blow it, and mess up a wonderful relationship by letting your shadow self or ego call the shots. Or you might live meaninglessly everafter."

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