Salon’s “I’m the Woman You Met on Ashley Madison: how the rush of infidelity led to affairs online”

  

Salon’s Betty Andrews confessional about being an Ashley Madison girl may be disregarded as a disguised public documenting of her infidelity, her exploits, the Ashley Madison world, and the failure of monogamy for those who are wired for insatiable sensation-seeking, but I believe it is more a testament to a new style for an old theme—so many themes, actually: cake and eat it, self-sabatoging, avoidance, brazen dishonesty and crass conformity, to name just a few.

In reflecting on my proclivity for infidelity, I can only describe it as a kind of sensation seeking — the addictive quality of falling for someone new — and a propensity for self-destruction — reinforcing pathological defense mechanisms. Sure, there’s the sex. And that part is great, sometimes even amazing. But for me, it’s not about a secret kink, an insatiable sexual appetite. or not getting enough attention at home. It’s the novelty of someone else. The intensity. The escape. The possibility. The falling …

I used to call those serial daters, the thrill-seekers aka commitment-phobes. But add in the desire to have it all–the comfort and safety of marriage peppered with the spice of the new–and you have a dream life, right? Or you have someone who likes complications that appeal to the brains who love teasers, puzzles and risk, juggling all those balls to keep them in the air–husband, kids, lover(s), job, secrets, etc.. And ultimately to be alone, not so much without a partner or choices due to burned bridges, though that is a risk, but more so due to dancing yourself into a corner.

My insatiable appetite, not just for the sex, but for the whole confusing mix of physical and emotional feelings, persists. Maybe it’s the escape from real life. The exploration of something new. The thrill of falling for someone else. But ironically, there’s also a very isolating quality to infidelity. There is no one to talk to about it all, to reflect on my actions, to process the big picture. I can’t talk to my lover about my husband. I can’t seek advice for marital spats or discuss fertility woes. And I can’t talk to my husband about my lover. I can’t brag to him about the amazing sex, or cry to him with the heartbreak that is being involved with a man who loves someone else. None of it makes any sense to me yet, and the secrecy draws me further, not closer, from the people in my life. In my search for excitement, romance, connection and intimacy, I’m as alone as I’ve ever been. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the point.

In a perfect world, we would all know ourselves enough each to say, “I am thus and so should be true to myself, choose someone who can accept me for who I am” and be brave enough to act in accordance with the statement. But the question arises: Would Andrews seek the others if her husband accepted her dalliances? Or would that take away some of the lure of seeking lovers in the first place? The deep-seated need to be alone, as Andrews remarks, may be the motivation for maintaining infidelity practices, and she suspects or knows it. So long as the cost-benefit analysis weighs in favor of the benefits, she will continue to feed her need to be conflicted and between worlds–or someone finds out and gets really hurt.  

I believe the lure is more insidious; it’s about being someone other than who you are. That is what cheating allows, the fantasy of being someone’s “all I ever dreamed of or all that I don’t have” It’s easy when there is really not all of your skin in the game, so to speak–for either. Affairs allow you to be what you are not in your main relationship–and that is the fun, just like Halloween or costume parties. Pretend. And much needed release for being so much of what you are not for someone else.

The Painters of Love: Loving a Married Woman

  

I adore Anna Pulley’s story ache of loving the married woman, which appeared in Salon yesterday. She not only captures the essence of the thin-tissue-beauty of love, the compulsion of the affair, the ever-turn of the heart toward love, but also the crafter’s gift of the memorable passage. Like this one, for instance:

Ours was a love that hinged on possibility—what we could offer each other was infinite potential. Reality never stood a chance against that kind of promise. I loved her in a way that felt both inexplicable and inevitable. She represented a singular perfection, she had to because she contained none of the trappings of a real relationship, the awkward, the beautiful, the sweet, the ordinary, the holding hands in public, the quiet walks, the bickering at Trader Joe’s. She was perfect in part because she was an escape, she seemed always to offer more.
 
After an enticing lead-in about long-distant love and steamy encounters, she delicately moves us along the strip tease of her narrative, the movement from reflection to memory slip-sliding her narrative along with the tensile desire of an abandoned lover simmering sleight over time. She does not call herself a lesbian until two thirds in to her lovely essay. She wants to soften us to love first, to focus her reader. A concerted effort to steer her  reader’s mind from irrelevant drift she anticipates–detours like same-sex relationships, polyamory and the like, she withholds. Her story is of love, despite the title–all love. And imagery.
 
Fantasy. The addiction (cynical), the lure (soft), or the attraction (clinical) to the love of a “taken” one lies in the fantasy and the primal urge to create more compelling than procreation (fewer responsibilities to the aftermath).
 
We love to idealize love, to be in love, to make it and create it even where it does not exist. I am not suggesting that the love of a married woman ignores the woman, the being, for the objectification of love itself. People mostly fall in love with people, their features, physical or otherwise. However, the framing of love inside the circumstances of the beloved–the out of reach object–often plays a larger role in the picture of love we paint.
 
The interdiction (legal), the forbidden (moral), and the circumscribed (situational) of the affair seduces the painter in us. We who urge the perfect love, inch closer to its never realization by placing love in an outline, form or box with walls of pristine ideals and requirements. I love my lovers because they are who they are–funny, sarcastic, sensible and sexy; because they love me the way they do–with abandon; because they engage in the most intimate acts with me, thrill my very being and inspire me to create, live and aspire to contribute to humanity–go to work, raise my kids, change people’s minds. They make me feel.
 
They never sour, fall from grace before my eyes in the daily practices that make us all abject beings: ever cleaning the rotting flesh we are in the pettiness of hourly living. We belch, shit, blame and deflect responsibility. We lie, cower and deny. The human.
 
Not for the mistress of our getaways. Whether the encounter is a sleazy hotel sex hour or a week at a resort in Cancun, we project our ideal loves in that other we cannot keep, probably do not want to keep except to indulge surrender to the painful satisfaction of longing. Weaned on love stories and poetry (okay, maybe that’s just me), we grow to yearn, throb and grieve. Pain, like love, reminds us what we are. Affairs bring all of that and more.
 
I once read that our memories change each time we recall them, that we are constantly editing what happened. In the end, we can’t hold onto anything, not love, not even our own truths, because everything moves. Nothing is ever written just once.
 
Yes, we are artists, all of us. Human nature, the essence of frailty, tells the fallible story of its tellers wrapped in the egos of an imagination. We want. That is our condition. Our art is our necessity. We love to be loved in the art of love. And it is an art.

9 infidelity ‘things’ and more…

     
Salon’s  9 things you might not know about infidelity is one of those numbered titles that packages tidbits of information from the significant to the pandering. And though the author does a fine job of gathering, presenting and contextualizing (sort of) the information, there is never a question in my mind about the transparent motives of articles like these: seduce readers with and for the numbers.

It is all in the packaging. Lost leaders abound.

Opening sentences handshake the readers to the tone and subject:

Monogamy is a nice idea in theory, but in practice, humans are less adept at it than they might admit. 

Yes, so we have read. The author, Kali Holloway, then launches into the biology of two of the nine “things” such as the correlation between ovulation and frequency of infidelity as well as a lesson on spermatology: the race to the egg is a competition including beating the opponent out of the race altogether. 

Next up, sociology. Having participated in society only in the last 100 years, women surpassed previous records of infidelity running a closer race to cheater men:   

A 2010 study from the National Opinion Research Center found that over the last 20 years, the number of married women who admitted to affairs rose a staggering 40 percent. Which we can all agree is a lot. Nearly 22 percent of men copped to sex outside of marriage, a number that’s remained fairly consistent since 1991. For women, that percentage rose to 14.7 percent. A number of theories are floated for this change, including increased financial independence for women, the fact that women spend more time in co-ed working environments (most affairs begin in the workplace) and changing attitudes around women’s sexuality.

Now this next came as a surprise:

Most cheaters, across the board, don’t get caught. A recent survey found that 89 percent of spouses engaged in extramarital affairs are able to keep their infidelity on the down-low. But women are better at keeping their affairs a secret than men. 

Though it somehow does not surprise me. My theory: most spouses do not want to know (read: denial) or silently sigh a relief in the face of infidelity. I have no numbers to back up that hunch. All I know is, sex is complicated, monogamy or not. Conflicting sexual appetites, ebbing and flowing of phases of the moon as well as the decades, and a hundred and one sexual hangups originating from family, society and biology, all contribute to the complications inherent in trying to maintain interest in, let alone quality or quantity of sex in the long term relationship.

Holloway cites a Forbes interview for the following statement by a dating site CEO in item number 6: 

“You often don’t catch the women. Because women naturally think more contextually. They consider long-term vision and potential consequences much more thoroughly before acting.”

Based on which evidence: anecdotal? experiential? statistical? A CEO?

People who make $75,000 and up are 1.5 times more likely to cheat than those whose annual salaries are $30,000 or less. Those with graduate degrees are also more likely to seek sex outside of marriage, being 1.75 times more likely to have an extramarital affair than people who haven’t graduated high school. Living in a city also ups one’s chances for cheating by a factor of 1.5 times.

The take home from these statistics? The struggle to survive financially takes up too much time–none to spare for the affair. No doubt social values of a society in which the measure of an individual is in the size of his or her wallet has something to do with it. The equation of money to power weighs heavier on those with lower salaries and affects confidence, logically. 

As we near ages that end in zeroes, the chances for infidelity increase.

Mortality. Enough said.

…people who use Twitter every day tend to have shorter relationships than those who don’t, regardless of age. And not that it’s totally germane, but daily tweeters were also more likely to masturbate on a daily basis

Ok, how in the world does one measure that last info-bit and who even thought to ask?

And along the same vein (pun intended), appealing to salacious appetites for the sexual, inane, absurd and obvious:

…penis fractures and extramarital affairs may correlate according to a too-small-to-be-significant study that the author includes–just because–in an otherwise responsible gathering of information on recent infidelity findings. The study authors appear credible, at least, and if they are not as strong as the National Opinion Research Center out of the University of Chicago, the author comments upon that fact.

And while the trend for the numbered article annoys me, caters to the soundbite mentality of pop readership, I too cannot resist the draw of itemization, the buffet of tidbits of data big and small, serious and amusing, but most of all, the back story of the findings, the minds of the surveyors who seek quantification and categorization of minutae and the commonplace. 

The story, for me, breathes in the cracks of the facts, the why’s and wherefore’s.