Her statement to me was an eye-opener, and in polling 250+ women in the days that followed, I reached an important understanding. When an adulterous man is found out, there are many, many women that can get past the sex act itself. But the real problem is where his effort has been going. As his wife sits idle, being supportive, holding down her half of the relationship, house, kids, etc., a cheating man will put boat loads of effort into seducing the other woman: four-star restaurants and hotels, gifts, laughter, spontaneity, passion, sex. From there, it's a sad realization for his wife that translates to "I'm not worth the effort." This is a fatal blow to her self-esteem and self-worth, and terminal to the relationship. My wife and I got past it, but I had to relent to the fact that I hadn't done those things for her recently… and it wasn't purposeful, it was a mirror into my own accidental complacently (and I'm supposed to be an expert!!!). It's not that I take her for granted. But in acting like a cheater, I had fallen into my own trap. Accidentally? Perhaps, but does it matter? Isn't the end result the same?
With all my experience and expertise, I keep learning.
Contemplating all of my experiences with the women of Ashley Madison—chat sessions and in-person dates—several things became painfully clear. First, there isn't one "type" of woman looking to cheat online. Some were looking to have sex, period. Others were looking to subsidize their current relationship with a human connection… and if it led to sex, even better. But all were clear that they were not leaving their current relationship. These weren't monkeys getting a grip on the next branch before letting go of the first. They just wanted to feel what they used to feel from the man in their life.
The most common complaint was a lack of passion and effort by the man in their current relationship. It makes sense. When a man begins dating a woman, he puts in tons of effort; he woos her. Once she's "his," he stops putting in that effort, but she still longs for it. She wants to be desired, seduced, and connected with on a regular basis. So many men seem to be missing the boat. They start strong, having a decent sense of how to capture a woman at the beginning, but upon entering a relationship they are unprepared for the long haul and investment a successful relationship demands past the dating phase. The situation starts to reek of complacency and satisfaction in mediocrity.
Should the women of Ashley Madison leave their current relationships before starting a new one? Yes… but the sad truth is that these women weren't looking to start a new relationship. I got the distinct impression that they were filling their needs outside their relationships until such time that he noticed he was disconnected, it became unbearable, or it ended on its own. And until then, they were willing to settle for a half-marriage with a side of passion.
I still feel that cheating is the wrong thing to do… but this is the grey area I didn't see before.
To the men thinking of getting married: being married isn't like dating. Marriage doesn't take "work" per se, but it does require concerted effort and investment in each other, and in you. If you aren't into it, don't do it, as you will be setting yourself up for failure—perhaps finding your wife on Ashley Madison. Or worse, out with a guy like I used to be, enjoying passion because you stopped bringing it.
Men in established relationships and marriage need to remember that women are women first and foremost… and wives and mothers second. If a man stops bringing passion and effort to his relationship and stops treating her as a desired woman, he shouldn't be surprised when she feels forced to fill her needs elsewhere.