Earlier this week it was announced that AshleyMadison.com, an online dating service for people seeking extramarital affairs, was hacked, and the personal data of 37 million users could be exposed. I am following the developments in this story with interest because, for a year, I was one of those users.
Since the hack, I’ve observed the Internet’s reaction, the accusations that the women who use the site deserve to be caught because they are whores and homewreckers. This description could not be more different from me or my three girlfriends who were active on the site at the same time I was. I’m writing this to let people know we’re not the sexpots and husband-stealers we’re depicted as. We are all regular women who were in unsatisfying relationships and were lonely.
How It Started
In the spring of 2011, I saw an ad online for Ashley Madison and was curious. What kind of person would go on that site? Would I know anyone on there? I was blown away that a website existed where married people could contact each other for—I won’t say sex, because there are so many people on there who don’t want sex with anyone—companionship.
I first went on the site with my husband to check it out. We thought it was hilarious. We searched for people in our zip code to see if we knew anyone there. Later, when I was in the beginning stages of divorce, I went back and made a profile.
Within 24 hours of putting my profile up without a picture, I got 200 emails from men in my area wanting to talk to me. That says to me there’s a big problem. It says there are a lot of men in marriages that are not satisfying.
Why I Did It
The year I was on the site was a mess. I was in a marriage that was ending. I was overwhelmed at work. I was getting zero attention at home. I was looking to spark a fire in my boring, boring life. Yes, I had two kids, a decent job and a lot of friends, but I admit it: I wanted attention. And I was in no position to go on Match.com or any other dating site because I was technically still married. I was in this blurry area between being married and divorced, so I technically wasn’t single in the eyes of the guys on a more conventional dating site—I needed something more discreet.
I was dishonest, but my marriage was ending, so I wasn’t cheating on my husband. Was what I did wrong? Of course it was wrong. I’m not condoning my behavior, but these men were on the site for the taking.
Who I Met
The first thing everyone says when they start talking on Ashley Madison is, “I don’t want to change my situation or yours.” No one was planning on leaving their spouse. And there are a boatload of single men on Ashley Madison either looking for a “Friends with Benefits” arrangement or a married woman. Not everyone on Ashley Madison is married and looking to have a torrid sexual affair with another married person. I’m not saying those people aren’t on there, but I wasn’t one of them, and I didn’t get together with any of them.
The men I met on Ashley Madison were more honest than men I met on Match.
The people I met on the site were much classier than those I met on Match. I know this sounds crazy, but they were more honest. On regular dating sites, it’s all catfishing: Pictures are old, no one is the height or age they say they are. On Ashley Madison, men who said they were 6 feet tall actually were. People who wanted a no-strings-attached affair or a serious relationship said so up-front. There was no bullshit.
I wasn’t looking for one-night stands. I wasn’t looking to take anyone’s husband. I wanted attention. And I got it.
I met a man who had three daughters and lived in a beautiful shoreline town. He met me at the beach with wine and cheese and candles. All he wanted to do was compliment me and talk about his kids. I never even kissed him. Like me, he was lonely. He wanted someone to talk to.
I met a single guy with whom I had a FWB relationship and who I’m still friends with to this day.
Then there was the man who told me he loved me, gave me a very expensive piece of jewelry and told me he was going to leave his wife for me. He was never going to leave his wife, and I never wanted him to. I dated him for seven months.
I even met a divorce lawyer who offered to represent me in my divorce. I told him that might be a conflict of interest.
I’m not worried about being exposed in the hacking. These men never knew where I lived, never knew my kids’ names. They never came to my house. I never gave Ashley Madison any personally identifiable information or credit card numbers. My profile photo was a picture of my leg. The minute you’d find out you were compatible with someone, you took your conversation to text or email. No one wanted to talk on the site or spend any more time on there than they had to. Every guy I met had a secret Gmail or Yahoo account.
Who I Am
There are a lot of misconceptions people have about women on Ashley Madison. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me and three other women I know (one divorced, one married, one single) who were on the site and still are.
1. I’m a mom.
I have two beautiful sons, and all my friends have kids too. And we’re good moms. We are on the PTA. We run fundraisers for our kids’ sports and schools. We stay up all night doing homework. When we went out with the men we met, we made sure our kids were with their fathers and well taken care of.
Look around the next time you’re at a school event. The woman next to you with a tray of cupcakes could very well be on Ashley Madison. The dad texting at the birthday party? He could easily be on Ashley Madison.
2. I’m not a gold digger.
I work in finance and make a good salary. Another friend who was on there is a physician, and one works in HR for a big company. None of us needed or wanted money.
3. I didn’t do it for sex.
Most of my friends said the sex was good, sure, but what we wanted was what we weren’t getting at home: attention. The men on Ashley Madison court you, they want to ravish you. I wasn’t getting that from my husband. Who is after 18 years of marriage and two kids?
The dad texting at the birthday party? He could easily be on Ashley Madison.
4. I didn’t want to steal anyone’s husband.
And the men I met didn’t want new wives. Sure, there are people on the site who want new husbands, or are just in it for the sex or for money, but none of the women I knew on the site wanted those things. We wanted fun, carefree relationships, with good sex.
5. I didn’t have sleazy sex in hotels.
I expected there to be a lot more sleaze and filth and desperation on the site. But it wasn’t like that for me. We went out to dinner, to the movies—we looked like any other dating couple. The ads make it look like it’s going to be 50 Shades or a prostitute experience. But I never pursued those things. It was all so normal it was scary. I have friends whose Ashley Madison relationships looked like old marriages—hanging out with friends, constant bickering.
Where I Am Now
I’m in a happy committed relationship with someone I met through friends. I don’t ever want to cheat on this person. If he cheated on me, I’d be devastated. If my kids found out that I have been on the site, it would destroy me.
I’m scared every day of the karma that could come for me. I can’t reconcile what I did with the person I am now. There’s no excuse. I’m not writing this to say, “Hey, I’m a good person,” or to justify what I did. I did not think for one minute when I talked to or met up with or had sex with married men that it was right. I’m not looking for people to understand what I did. I know my behavior was reckless. I would never go back on that site. But I would never judge someone who did. I know what it feels like to be lonely. I met some great guys on the site, people I’m still friends with.
What I Learned
I’ve learned it doesn’t take much for a man to stray. And I’ve learned to cherish what I have. Most men were on Ashley Madison because they claimed they didn’t feel appreciated. Appreciate your husband or partner, and let them know how much every damn day. I think knowing this makes me a better partner than I was when I was married.
I also learned more about what men are looking for, and it’s not just hot sex or women with hot bodies.
I learned what men are looking for. It’s not just hot sex or women with hot bodies.
And I’ve learned that nothing’s sacred, unfortunately. I’ve become jaded. There are just far too many men on that site.
I’m not saying that going on Ashley Madison is the answer for anyone who wants attention. But it was for me for that one year. I know you’re judging me—I judge me too. But the site got me through one of the worst years of my life. I signed up, I got what I needed, and I moved on. Meeting a guy on Ashley Madison is a lot more open and honest, real and respectful, than meeting someone out at the bar who has taken his ring off. I have no regrets.
I’m writing this to let people know that marriage and fidelity and cheating are a lot more complicated than they think. I want people to know that a lot of women on the site are normal people. Not everybody on there is out to wreck homes and steal husbands. We could be anybody. We could be you.
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