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.