As humans, we wrestle with the paradoxical need for both novelty and security.
A marriage, with its pretence of unconditional love, offers emotional – perhaps financial – security. Two bright-eyed lovers vow, on their wedding day, to stick it out for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live. They are gung-ho in their love and devotion to each other; they’re as hot for one another as rabbits in springtime and can hardly stand the anticipation of the raunchy, post-ceremony consummation session.
But the joy of bodily union fizzles after a few years of marriage. Husbands and wives clip their toenails in front of each other and sex follows the plot of a James Cameron flick: it’s a predictable and unoriginal yawn-fest. Instead of flirting with each other, spouses flirt with the idea of extramarital affairs.
Sex doesn’t a marriage make, though, and couples often stay together for very valid reasons. A couple can still love and care for each other deeply, even when marital sex seems, like Bigfoot, to be folklore. There is comfort and history. There is connection, and often even love. The security need is abundantly met – but what about that excruciating ache for novelty?
Author and couple’s therapist Esther Perel speaks about this very issue in her book, “Mating in Captivity”. She writes, “We seek a steady, reliable anchor in our partner. Yet at the same time we expect love to offer a transcendent experience that will allow us to soar beyond our ordinary lives.”
“The challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious and awe-inspiring.”
The reality in this oh-so common situation is that the majority of married couples are not good at communicating their desires with one another. More than often, a man will not tell his wife he wants more oral sex because – well – she is the mother of his children and he values that more than getting a blowjob (or at least he tells himself that).
Enter AshleyMadison. Because of its commitment to discretion, the service offers its members the freedom (and security) to explore other options, to feel the novelty of desire for a stranger, and, in some cases, to feel that desire reciprocated. Some AshleyMadison members use the site for physical affairs, whereas other users keep their infidelity limited to the virtual exchange of racy instant messaging and suggestive emails. The titillating act of online flirting is often all it takes to fill one’s curiosity and the need for new sexual experiences. An unfulfilled wife, for example, might engage in a naughty chat session with a guy that she met online, but then return to the safe, loving arms of her partner.
Maybe you can have it all…