Caught him on Ashley Madison: Now What?

You found your partner’s name linked to the Ashley Madison Site. Now What?

The identity of millions of Ashley Madison users have been revealed, which means millions of partners are either reeling from the reveal, questioning whether to look for their partner’s name in the database, and some are simply unaware their partner has been on the popular dating site promoting infidelity, and are in the dark. For those of you who have caught your partner on the Ashley Madison user database, or your partner disclosed to you that he/she was linked to the Ashley Madison account, you may be experiencing mixed emotions of anger, doubt, sadness, betrayal, insecurity and fear. Depending on how you found out (whether he/she came to you, or you discovered the information yourself) you may be wondering what to do with this information? Do you confront your partner that you know he/she has been on Ashley Madison? What does this mean for your relationship and the quality you thought your relationship had? What’s the next step now that you have this information?

Wake up Call
These are all common responses to learning that your partner cheated, or at least flirted with the idea of cheating. This obviously depends on what your partner did once they were logged on the site (i,e., chatting, browsing, arranging and attending dates, or nothing, (he/she just made an account out of curiosity one day and that was it). Today many people struggle with this type of technological shock and awe. Many today discover their partner’s infidelity through emails, text message exchange, or even pictures on their smartphones. What sets finding your partner’s name on Ashley Madison apart from other forms of technology is that you had enough instinct to look. You were already concerned enough to question your partner’s behaviors and fidelity. If you have found your partner’s information linked to Ashley Madison you are now called to face the reality of your relationship, and you need to talk about what’s really going on. While something like the Ashley Madison reveal is an upsetting betrayal there will be an array of emotions for your to process, this is also your wakeup call to address and discuss with your partner each other’s needs and to honestly explore what is missing in the relationship for both of you.

For some spouses this type of violation is a deal breaker, and there is no solution except to pack bags and go separate ways. For others, such infidelity can serve as a wakeup call, forcing a couple to address the problems that have been ignored and contributing to looking outside of the relationships. This can serve as a turning point for these couples, which can reset everything, if you’re willing to do the really hard work that’s involved. For this to happen, honesty, transparency, vulnerability, responsibility, and a true partnership must develop. The couple must be ready and willing to work through it and face some hard truths together in order for the healing to begin.

How did we get here?
When a couple is working through infidelity, an essential piece of that work is to identify what contributed to one or both of the partners looking outside of the relationship, and how can this be prevented in the future? For any couple trying to heal together post Ashley Madison hacking, both people in the relationship need to discuss what they each think lead to the disconnect in the relationship: what needs were not being met? how is something/someone outside of this relationship the solution? how do we relearn to work together to meet each other’s needs? It’s not about playing the blame game, it’s about taking an honest assessment of your contributions (positive and negative) to the relationship.

How to confront your partner
It’s difficult and easy to imagine what some of the initial exchanges have been like between Ashley Madison users and their spouse lately. On one hand, it’s hard to predict the content of the conversation, and on the other hand there’s likely been many conversations that have begun with name calling, attacking language, and a lot of “How could you’s?” For the more emotionally wired people out there, going through the emotional process and getting out your frustration will be a huge part of your process. Your mix of emotions, especially anger and hurt are especially understandable and valid. Everyone is different, how they work through difficult information varies from person to person. However, taking a deeper, more inquisitive approve may be more effective. It can provide more honest answers, more information to work with, and ideally, more understanding about your partner’s choices. Simply starting with “What’s going on?” “What does this mean?” “How are you feeling about me/us?” As opposed to coming out of the gate with “How could you?” and many other attacking lead sentences that will immediately put your partner on the defense and possibly in the mentality to do damage control, which can mean diluting the truth and telling you more lies. Depending on your partner and his/her personality, their response to your confrontation will vary. Some people lie when confronted. It’s simply a knee-jerk reaction to keep things as they are, to not hurt you, to not expose themselves. They feel panicked and possibly caught off guard, and as survival will tell you what you want to hear. Others will just spill the beans right off the bat, and come clean immediately. It’s completely normal for either response, but understandably you want to believe what comes out of your partner’s mouth the first time, not have to ask three or four times to get the truth, or pieces of the truth. Based on your history with your partner and the interactions you’ve had with him/her over the years, you likely have a good sense of their patterns when it comes to honesty and confrontation. Go with your gut when it comes to taking in what they are, or aren’t saying.

The Public Factor
Many Ashley Madison users and the partners are extremely concerned that their name and basic information is out there for anyone to look up, it feels very exposing. While it is completely exposing and embarrassing, unless your partner is a highly public figure or celebrity, it’s unlikely that anyone other than you will go out of their way to search for your partner’s name and information. Remember, it’s millions of user’s information out there that people have to scour through to find whoever they are looking for. The one person you need to focus on, is you and how, if at all, you plan to move forward and heal with your partner. Most of your friends and family will also never know, it’s very unlikely any of them would go out of their way to snoop for your partner’s name on the database. Therefore it’s up to you and your partner who to tell.

Trust
How do you trust your partner again after catching him/her in such a widely public scandal? He/she didn’t come to you with the information ready to disclose and accept the consequence of his/her actions. A group of strangers on a mission of revenge against a company outed your partner for you. Depending on what you knew or sensed prior to the discovery, you may have been completely in the dark. Your partner may have been incredibly skillful and covering his/her tracks, and if that’s the case, would your partner have ever come clean? These are the questions and ideas you need to really sit with for yourself, as well as ask your partner. What do you need from your partner to move on? Asking for passwords, access to emails, phone password and information, credit card accounts are acceptable methods in the early stages to help you feel like your partner is now transparent. This is not a long term solution, or recommended for long. This is merely to help you two start somewhere in the healing process towards rebuilding trust.

There is so much more to consider when trying to rebuild trust. Especially depending on the level of your partner’s use of the Ashley Madison site. For Example. Was he/she just on their with a profile to explore the concept, and nothing more? Or did he/she go one step further and communicate with others? Did he/she sleep with/date any of the fellow users? How involved was your partner in the site? Once you have that information and once you believe that is all the information you need, that’s when you can better assess exactly what you need to rebuild the trust.

Once you confront your partner, you need to take the time to assess and decide how you want to move forward. Is this the information you need about your partner’s behaviors to cut ties and end the relationship? Or do you feel this is something that you can forgive and understand (even partially) and want to move forward with your partner?
Something you will want to consider when assessing what to do about your relationship (i.e., rebuild or walk away) Do you feel you are getting what you need from you partner to at least start the healing and rebuilding process. Has he/she demonstrated their remorse? Did you receive a heartfelt apology? Do you sense they grasp the severity of their actions? Are you in the position to leave (i.e., kids, financial, etc.)?

There is a lot to consider when deciding whether to rebuild or walk away from the relationship. If you find yourself uncertain of which decision is right for you, individual as well as couples therapy after infidelity is a great source of support and information when trying to navigate where to go from here. Help is available, call us: 267-324-9564.