Friday, August 21, 2015


Today I let myself get sucked into the Ashley Madison hacking scandal. I clicked on a link that led me straight to a list of people in my area who were subscribers of the cheating site for married people. I tried to stop reading, but I couldn't make myself.

I really didn't know how I'd feel if I ran across someone I knew on the list.

It didn't take long to find out, for I saw name after name that was familiar to me.

How did I feel?

  • I felt sick that cheating on one's spouse is as simple as signing up on a website. 

  • I felt sick about the sheer number of people on the list, and the pain and betrayal represented.

  • I felt sick that I was potentially seeing this highly personal information before the spouses and children did.

  • And I felt sick that I had let my curiosity lead me down a path where I didn't belong. 

It's easy to say that those on the site literally SIGNED UP FOR this kind of scrutiny and judgment by giving their names, emails, and credit card numbers to a website with the tagline is "Life is Short. Have an Affair," but instead of focusing on their behavior, I felt convicted by mine.

I felt complicit in the pain that unsuspecting spouses are experiencing right now, or will be in the next few days. There is much discussion of karma, and about those who stray getting what they deserve. I understand that. As a straight-laced rule follower, the thought appeals to me. I am a seeker of LIGHT and TRUTH and believe that secrets that remain hidden do nothing but fester and rot. Because of this, I think good will come out of the scandal.

What doesn't appeal to me is the pain of the wronged spouses being compounded by the fact that this has aired in a public forum where friends and neighbors whom you bump into in the produce aisle can peer inside your marriage. Gracious. Life is hard enough as it is.

Here's a blog post that touched me today as I thought of the families who are or will be dealing with fall-out from the Ashley Madison scandal. There is not a one-size-fits-all response to infidelity, and I don't claim to have any advice, but I wanted to say if today has been a particularly, epically, publicly, brutal one for you, I am so sorry.

And as for my need to scour the list for names I knew, THIS is what was playing on a loop in my mind as I did it. I just wish I'd listened more closely:

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."


Anonymous said...

Great post Anna, the salaciousness of the discussion and lack of compassion for anyone involved (including spouses, friends and family) around this makes me really uncomfortable, these are real people's lives and there will no doubt be some terrible consequences for many people.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Beautifully said Anna. Prayers for all those families.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. Never a good idea to comment on other people's marriages and actions related to that marriage. Karma scares me.

Jeane` said...

A post filled to the brim with wise words. Thank you

Anonymous said...

My now ex-husband had an affair with his co-worker fifteen years ago. I suspected for about six months before I found proof, and at that point it was a tremendous relief just to finally understand what was happening. I needed facts, even if they were ugly ones. And, though I understand that there's a public and social aspect to the end of a marriage, I refused to bear shame for something HE did. In hindsight, this was a correction to a mistake, as clearly he was not the right guy for me. I hope those who've been placed on a new path as a result of being outed can accept and adapt with grace. That's all any of us can do!!

Japolina said...

I did not look at the list because I was afraid that I might know someone on it! did you?
I actually blogged about this yesterday. Bottom line, nothing on the internet is private. Ugh.

Here is the link

Anonymous said...

The pain is immense. I knew an account had been created, at a sister site, years ago. I thought I had worked through that but I find myself feeling like I'm right back there again. Is there more to it? Things I don't know? Can I trust what he says? Do I dare? Do I dare not? What becomes of our family if I can't let this go and how is it that I end up the bad guy in this? I'm just sick all the time and we have two adult children as well, what if they stumble across this, as you did, what then? I am sick.

Anonymous said...

Judge not lest you be judged.

Ashley Madison is sleazy, no doubt, but I find it FAR sleazier when a company like Apple uses a subcontractor in China that overworks its people to the point that they start committing suicide by the dozen. Or when major clothing labels (pick one -- they're all the same in this regard) use child labor in third world countries while paying next to nothing. They're following the rules, in the sense that there's no rule in China that you can't work someone to death or use children in factories in Bangladesh. But is it right? Is it OK? Is it moral? These are very rich companies that COULD pay workers more and treat them with respect, but they choose not to.

By comparison to the tremendous ills visited on people by large US companies (I could go on for hours), Ashley Madison is merely a slimy little nuisance.

I don't judge you for wearing clothes made by the hands of poor children (in all honesty, it's painfully difficult to find an alternative) so I challenge you not to judge the actions of your neighbors in the AM affair, especially since, in a few cases (admittedly very few) they didn't actually sign up! There's names of people on AM that were the victims of identity theft.

Anonymous said...

I had a sanctimonious moment when I saw the headlines about Josh Duggar and the word "hypocrite" in them. He ain't practicing what he preaches. Yet, deep down I know that it's egregious abuse of privacy and just money-making click bait to publish that info. There's no need to shame families and the cheated-upon spouses in this way. Even the cheaters...It's hard to stick up for them. I hope that we're in the 21st century and a scarlet letter-type punishment doesn't apply.

One crazed mommy said...

Oh - that whole scandal has just blown my mind!!! 37 million people...I just can't comprehend. I haven't looked - I'd be scared to see people I know, and I don't want to. I am happy with the knowledge that I am not on there, and that is enough for me - anyone else whose families are affected, my heart and prayers go out to them. For those found on the site - all I can do is pray for them to change their ways...unfortunately I don't have a lot of sympathy for those who participated. For those who were the victims of identity theft, as the post above stated, my heart goes out to them too...but my guess is that the majority of them were there on purpose, and I don't feel sorry in the least for anyone who was outed, regardless of the way it was done. I don't judge them - it's not my place...but I feel no sympathy. That I leave strictly for the families...

Thrift Store Mama said...

I've been thinking about this. I felt sick to my stomach thinking of all the betrayal it represents. But. But marriages are so complex and the person who is seeking an affair is committing the lesser of two evils if they have stuck faithfully in a marriage with someone who withholds attention and affection, or nags and criticizes all the time, or whatever. They've asked their spouse for counseling and the spouse won't go. They've made their feelings clear and the spouse won't compromise. Sometimes, SOMETIMES (not all the time) I feel so sorry for people who have affairs. Otherwise good people who feel desperate. I'm worried about the spouses who go and look and see their spouse's name there and sigh resignedly. I don't mind associating my name with this comment because I have no shame to hide. It is heartbreaking thinking about all the hurt this will cause - the betrayal and the publication of that betrayal.

Thanks for letting me vent - I haven't wanted to say anything on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

You are off topic. How do you extrapolate one from the other? I believe you may be guilty of said sleaziness. Keep your own judgmental lecturing to yourself. Better yet, pray for your own sins. We all have them. But you coming down on her post really makes me think (read between the lines) you're defending those who signed up for that site.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I looked primarily to make sure my spouse wasn't on there...and doing so I saw so many familiar names. The underlying theme was that they were all really good fathers, friendly, the wives sweet and I felt sick to my stomach all of last night for them. Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors. Maybe they show a different face to the world, maybe they have demons, maybe there is a marital agreement. Maybe the spouses were complicit (as one had both names). I certainly will not relay any of the info I saw to anyone. It's not gossip fodder. But I am still reeling from the number of names I know---about 7.

What did I take home from this? Everything...Everything...we do on the computer is public information.

The marriage counselor and possibly divorce attorney business will be booming. Ugh. I feel for them.

I was one who initially was 'great--karma--I'm glad those b@stards are getting what they deserve'...but seeing names I know and putting a personal face on it I have the opposite feeling now. Just sick and sad. J

Peg said...

So this one has hit a bit close to home with a parent on both of two of our boys' teams. Have known them for years and really like his wife. Last night at a scrimmage was so uncomfortable. Everyone on the team knows and many moms were talking about it. I tried to keep out of it. It's their marriage and we really should not know any of this. Yes, he is an ass but there is no proof he acted upon anything and it's between them. I'm guessing half of the moms talking have husbands that have looked at porn on the internet, etc. and they don't know. People were taking about having him dismissed from a position within our club, etc. That seems a bit extreme and again it's really none of our business.

I agree with you though I feel kinda complicit to the scandal by looking at the list briefly. I guess all I can control now is how I deal with what I know. I hope others on our team feel the same way and just butt out.

Anonymous said...

Jesus was the ultimate rule-breaker. So was Martin Luther King and everyone who ever did any good for the world. It's very important to break rules -- obviously not ones like one's marriage promises -- but big ones, ones that count for good, though it has to be done selectively, thoughtfully and with care. Rule breaking is an imperative. It's a sign that we're really truly grown up.

Anonymous said...

I have not been on your blog recently due to time, but today was having an exceptionally difficult day and needed to be reminded I need to be grateful for what I do have in my life. Your story, Jack's story, has always struck close to me and I pray for your family regularly. I have always had a good life, have been a good mom with a solid job being able to provide for our family. My kids have been healthy, they both enjoy school, are surrounded by friends and love nothing more than being out on a field playing a sport that they love. My husband and I have always tried to show our children the good in the world, and work with them to give back their time to others and teach them right from wrong. The last seven weeks have been the most painful of my life. I opened an email from my husband where he told me he had been using the Ashley Madison website for seven years. SEVEN. The only reason in the end he even told me was because he figured I would find out from someone else. When I heard the scandal broke I never even thought to look. We are/ were that family that someone would say "no way this is happening to them." I am left, numb, frozen and in denial. There is nowhere to turn, and really no one who truly understands. I walk around my neighborhood, take my children to their events and wonder who knows. Who really knows. Who is brave enough to say something to me. So far, no one. Not a soul. One of the comments was from a lady who said mom's on her children's team were talking about someone they had found on the list. That is me. How awful and empty it is to know that people are aware, but no one is brave enough to confront. I have talked to two friends, who are removed from my daily life. Both who were shocked and said they would be there for me. That was three weeks ago. Have gotten one text, and one email. I know people don't know what to say, and it is so hard. I am longing for the life that I had just a few short weeks ago, or at least thought I had. I ask myself was I better off living in the world where I was not aware, or in a place where I now have to confront it. How to go on really. Everything that I knew is changed forever. It is probably the hardest knowing that I was not even told out of remorse, but more in fear. Fear that others would say something. What he didn't know is he could have gotten away with it, without a problem because no one was brave enough to confront me, and I was WAY too naive to think anyone I knew, especially my spouse would be involved in something so terrible. My ask to anyone reading this blog, and maybe these comments, if you are going to talk about someone's spouse cheating on them through this website please talk to the person who has been hurt. Tell them you know. Ask them if there is anything that you can do. Be there to give them a hug, a shoulder to cry on and know that they are probably in one of the darkest places that they have ever been. #heartbreaking.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Anonymous 2:43 I am so sorry you are going through this. Such betrayal and loneliness right when you need support. Thank you for sharing your comment, so I can better understand what you and other friends are going through.