Since I found out about the Ashley Madison hack, I have been sick to my stomach. Last year, I discovered that my husband had been chatting with several women in online dating sites, a couple of which he eventually met in real life. He swears that he didn’t do anything, just met them for drinks. Since then, we’ve been through counseling, and we have been through your Happiness After Infidelity couples home study course which helped us tremendously. And I can honestly say that things have been better than before. My problem is that I have an intuition that he had an account on that site. I feel like I should check to see if his email is on the list. I want to know if he had met women from there, but I am also afraid to find out and have it end up ruining the progress we’ve made so far. What should I do?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I believe your question is not only a timely one, but also a complicated one. On the one hand, you admit that you’ve made progress since the discovery. By your own account, things are better in the marriage than before. And yet on the other hand… you have an intuition that there’s more to the story than you’ve been told, and the Ashley Madison hack has opened up the possibility of verifying this intuition. For the first time, you have a chance to find out more about your husband’s online shadow life. Now that leaves you in a dilemma (which is not the same as decision). A dilemma is far more intense — since you stand to lose whichever path you choose.
1. If you follow your intuition and your suspicions are confirmed, then you stand to lose some of the faith and security you’ve recaptured, you stand to lose ground, you stand to lose hope… you open yourself up to more pain, bitterness and disappointment.
2. If you follow your intuition and your suspicions are not confirmed (his email doesn’t show up in the database), then you stand to gain relief, but you may also gain some guilt for not trusting in the first place.
3. If you ignore your intuition and let sleeping dogs lie, you stand to lose the chance to verify, to confirm, to know for sure… if your intuition was correct.
So, which way will you go?
I leave that decision up to you. However, I will say this: whichever path you choose, please note that you take a risk since there is no “risk-free” choice facing you (if you check, you risk facing more disappointment or guilt; if you don’t check, you risk losing respect for not following your intuition and feeling like a coward). At this point, you must ask yourself two key questions: (1) what do you really want, and (2) which path has the best odds of delivering what you really want to you.
Notice: First step is to determine what YOU really want.
Why is this important? It’s important because until you know your destination, it will be hard to decipher what decisions to make to get there. So, if for example you want to save your marriage… you want to rebuild a better marriage, you want to have the relationship of your dreams with this man, which decision has the best odds of getting you that?
Notice: I said the best odds. This is because in life, there are no guarantees. The most we can do is make the decisions that we feel give us the best odds of success. So don’t ask which decision guarantees success (that’s impossible to know). Instead, ask which gives you the very best odds of success.
Here’s another key insight.
One of the biggest conflicts in the human mind is the conflict between the pleasure of being right… and the tranquility of being happy. The ego (our lower mind) takes great pleasure in being right. Therefore, it would be a huge boost to the ego to discover it was right… your partner did indeed have an account. It would enjoy having suspicions confirmed, it would revel in the opportunity to dig up more dirt and to uncover more evidence of guilt. Am I saying it’s wrong for you to do this? Not at all. Remember, this is not about right versus wrong. It’s about right versus happy. Maybe you’re thinking… “what if I check and his name is not there… wouldn’t that bring some relief?” My answer? Maybe… maybe not. Because what does the “absence” really prove? That’s right. Nothing. The ego is not interested in exonerating your partner. If so, why not just do it now? The ego is interested in uncovering more evidence of guilt, in being right, and in having the evidence to prove it’s right (therefore, superior).
Maybe you’re thinking…
But isn’t it just naïve of you to “let it go”? Aren’t you setting yourself up for future disappointment if you ignore the potential to discover just how involved your partner was in this online dating world? Because if you knew that he was deeply invested in it than he let on, doesn’t that mean he would/could or may eventually do it again?
In my opinion, that last question is the one that pours salt in the wound.
It’s the fan that “fans the flames of anxiety and panic” — the fear that what you don’t know will come back to bite you in the future. Which suggests that the opposite is true, that having deeper insight and knowledge of his guilt will protect you from further betrayals in the future. So, if for example you knew what dark deeds he is capable of… then knowing would prevent you from being blindsided. It would protect you from getting disillusioned again, and it would help you make better decisions about him in the future. (Did any of those ring a bell?) If so, here’ something to consider.
Proof, depth and details of guilt are three very different things.
People get very confused about this. Maybe it’s because we are so used to watching crime dramas on TV that we often forget that we are not dealing with criminals or criminal intent here. You already have proof of his guilt (the date of discovery). The other two (depth and details of guilt), have more to do with sentencing, punishment and judgment than anything else. And that’s why, for example, prosecuting attorneys spend enormous amounts of time, energy and resources proving these two.
But your husband is not on trial. (And you are not his judge or his jury.)
Which brings me to another question. Will having more evidence of “depth and details” of his guilt lead you towards what you truly want, or will it lead you away from what you truly want? Again, the answer depends on what you truly want.
In the end, I can’t tell you which way to go or what choice to make because you are the only authority in your life. The only thing I would suggest (before you decide) is to at least take the time to ask yourself what it is that you truly want. Once you have a clearer sense of your true desires, then (and only then) can you make the choice you believe gives you the best odds of achieving success (what you truly want).
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!