"Honey, I have to join Ashley Madison.”
So began the pitch I gave my wife to let me join the marrieds-looking-for-affairs website, AshleyMadison.com. It would be part of my research into women who cheat, why infidelity is increasing, and what can be done to possibly affair-proof a marriage. I proposed to “cheat” on her for a few weeks, to talk to and attempt to seduce as many women as possible, and get a real-world understanding of why women want to stay married but also need some illicit action on the side.
Of course, on my end, there’d be nothing more than conversation. She looked at me straight-faced, unflinching. I searched her eyes for any telltale sign of the Charles-I’m-going-to-punch-you-in-the-face-right-after-I-castrate-you look; nothing. After a long pause, I got her only thought: “No, I get it,” she said emphatically. “It’s a great story. But it’s kinda like asking the newly-vegetarian fox to guard the henhouse, isn’t it?”
I thought about it, and unfortunately her statement wasn’t too far from the truth. If you back me up a few years—sans wife, kids, dogs, published books on relationships and 1,400,000+ fans following my relationship advice on Facebook—I was a chronic womanizer. This is a past she knows about but never experienced personally.
To make matters worse, I wasn’t some weak pick-up artist using idiotic dating boot camp approaches that reeked of negativity and douchebaggery on vulnerable women in order to break them down and manipulate them into sex. No, I was far more despicable than that. Back then, I wasn't just looking to get women into bed. I worked hard to become the embodiment of seduction—to quickly read the spoken and unspoken clues of what a woman was looking for in a man and then give her the perception I was that guy—in effect, to become so alluring that she would willingly give herself over, thinking that having sex was her idea. After all, it’s much easier to convince people of things they think they have thought of themselves. It was quite a rush, and as the wake of emotional destruction would later exemplify, seducing women became my drug of choice.
“No, Babe, that’s not even close,” I told her, not fully considering the implications of the coming situations. “That was years ago. And you know that I love you. There’s nothing to fear.”
After another pregnant pause, she consented with a few words of sage advice: “Don’t fuck up.”
According to The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, nearly 50 percent of married women and 60 percent of married men will have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. When you consider that these statistics are nearly double what they were a short 10 years ago, clearly this is beyond an issue; it is now commonplace. But it’s far from a surprise; it was predicted.
Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote the best-seller Future Shock in 1970, and with matter-of-fact conviction he wrote of “trial” or “temporary marriages”—young people’s first marriages, lasting three months to three years—and of “serial marriages” that would take place after the dissolution of the “trial marriage” at specific turning points in people’s lives.
So, does this mean marriage has “jumped the shark” and become obsolete? Hardly. Marriage is not the issue. Commitment and loyalty (or the lack thereof) are at the crux of this. After all, marriage is a legal and/or spiritual binding of two people. But if commitment isn’t there and loyalty becomes a matter of subjectivity or convenience, the marriage is already nonexistent. Cheating then becomes a symptom of a secretly failed marriage.
But is it really so black and white, with no grey and no room for mistakes, missteps, or moments of weakness? Do people who cheat want to leave their current marriage, or are they just playing? Or are they secretly trying to get caught so they’ll have an excuse to get out? I needed answers to these questions (and many others), so I headed where any high-tech junkie looking to cheat on his wife would go: online.