Is Ashley Madison Right? Can Marriage Survive Extramarital Sex?

I wrote an article a few days ago about the “dating” site Ashley Madison.  I said I thought it was disgusting and no surprise here, women agreed and men did not.  The founder of Ashley Madison wrote me and said I was angry, but when given an opportunity to talk about it, he declined.  Coward.

I got an interesting email from a reader this week about that article, and it was actually compelling.  He explained that he has been married for 20 years, loves his wife, has built a life with her, enjoys being with her, but they have not had sex is about 7 years, so he was on the Ashley Madison site.

He explained he was never going to leave his wife.  He loved and respected her, and just because she was not interested in having sex anymore, it was not a reason to leave her.  I asked if she knew he was sleeping with other people, and he said he did not think she knew, and did not need to know.

It poses the question: can you have a happy marriage if you are sleeping with someone other than your spouse?  One could argue that while you may be happy, the lack of sexual intimacy does not make it a marriage.  I’m fascinated by the topic both as a Jew and as a woman.

Adultery is the only sexual offense recorded in the Ten Commandments. It is also in the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus 20. The Book of Genesis calls adultery “the great sin” and the Talmud calls adultery ha’averah (the sin par excellence). According to rabbinic tradition, it is one of the three sins that people should avoid even at the pain of death.

The gravity of adultery is evident by the fact the Bible describes the offense as being punishable by the death penalty for both the man and the woman.  Separate from the reasons it is not cool in Judaism, as a woman it would crush me.  If in that situation would end my marriage.

If you like having sex with more than one person then why get married at all?  Can people really separate the act of sex from the emotion of sex?  I believe that many people can, but that has nothing to do with the fact that marriage includes vows.

I have written about this subject before and I will stand by what I have always said, there is a moment, when being intimate, where he looks at you and you are certain in that exact moment that he loves you, and you love him.  It will make your heart flutter and it’s powerful.

If I was married, and my husband cheated, he would have that moment with another woman and it would be devastating.  I am also of the opinion that a marriage without sex cannot be satisfying.  Unless there is a medical reason you are not having sex, you should be having sex.

And even then, intercourse is not the only way to please your partner, and there are ways to maintain intimacy that are important and required within a marriage.  If you are not satisfying each other then going outside the marriage becomes an option, but then so does divorce.

We are animals and monogamy is not natural, but being monogamous is a major part of being married.  I find it unlikely that the woman who is married to the man who wrote me, does not know he is sleeping with other women.  She may not however know about Ashley Madison.

We may not be made for monogamy, but we are also not made for celibacy.  The Catholic church has proven that.  Sex is complicated and while people like to think they can separate the act from the emotion, it’s just not that simple and a sexless marriage is, at its core, not a happy one.

Sex is important.  It’s a wonderful part of being a grown up and there is a safety that comes with marriage that should allow you to swing from the rafters, not turn the other cheek while your spouse is sleeping with someone else.  Sex has to be a priority and with that, monogamy.

One could argue Ashley Madison is necessary.  People are going to cheat, so why not give them a safe place to find someone?  The thing is, Ashley Madison is sleazy.  I created a phantom profile and in the time I was researching the site I was bombarded with sleaze and grossness.

I am certain there are nice people on there, who are lonely and frustrated.  I believe that they are exploring their options in a way that is, in their minds, respectful to their spouses.  That said, I am willing to wager that those people are the minority and the sleazebags are the majority.

To the man who wrote me, you were articulate in your explanation and I find myself feeling bad for you, and therefore understanding why you do it.  I feel strongly however that deep in your wife’s heart, she knows you are cheating, chooses to stay, and is devastated.

I am not here to judge, only to share my personal opinions on a topic I find interesting.  I personally have ended a relationship due to infidelity and think about it a lot.  I loved him, we were to be married, and I wonder if I overreacted and should have stayed in the relationship.

In the end, staying would have meant I valued him and his needs over my own, and that is not something I would be able to live with.  Cheating is painful and sex is complicated.  Ashley Madison can try to make us believe it is doing a good thing, but in the end I’m not buying it.

Sex, love and marriage are very powerful things and if you are blessed to have all three things with the same person, the prize you win should be monogamy.  I am searching for love and in the end I want the prize.  It’s not too much to ask, so I will hold onto my beliefs and keep the faith.

*If you are in Los Angeles this Monday night, Tribe Media Corp. is presenting a special evening entitled “Have Jews Given Up on the Ten Commandments?”