Trust, and the Ashley Madison hack

25 Aug



Look. Call me unsophisticated, but I would not describe myself as “happily married” if I, or my spouse, were having a secret affair.

For me, the value of a so-called “committed” relationship is to be found in the trust between parties. If that’s not there everyone might muddle along reasonably well to all appearances. However, there is a depth of intimacy that is inaccessible in such a situation, because it only blossoms in trust. Trust is inherent in the concept of monogamy, and once it’s broken, the entire concept is under challenge.

The possibility of experiencing those intimate depths with another is the only reason I can see for committing to the monogamous state. Without that experience it seems a tiresome, repressive and unfulfilling arrangement.

I also find it difficult to imagine much equality in a relationship where trust is absent, and where one party is necessarily surveilling the other.

I admire those who manage to negotiate the complexities of trust in polyamorous relationships: humans being as possessive, jealous and psychologically perverse as we are, the challenges in those situations must be enormous.

When my husband had an affair I asked him (after we’d cleaned up the broken dinner plates) do you want a monogamous relationship with me or not? Realising such an arrangement would work both ways he decided in the affirmative, and we carried on in that understanding. Neither of us considered ourselves suitable candidates for polyamory.

(There are limits to the number of times this understanding can be reached: serial betrayers make a mockery of it.)

However, if my partner or I were secretly active on an infidelity website, the deliberate intention to deceive and betray implied by that choice would crash through our trust like a wrecking ball. So it is with some disbelief that I’m reading comments by the hacked that they don’t want their spouses knowing because they’re so happily married.

It makes me wonder, what constitutes a happy marriage, then? Apparently not trust and equality.

I don’t think any of those people deserved, in some wowserish moral sense, to be outed as they have been. It’s more a case of actions and consequences than it is of morality, as in, if you do a, b is likely to result. It’s a bit rich, though, for individuals engaged in betraying the trust of their nearest and dearest to make a song and dance when someone else invades their privacy. The same can be said for the Ashley Madison website: if you’re dedicated to deception, why complain when someone betrays you? There’s a kind of inevitability about it, really.

For mine, I’d much rather my partner told me if he or she felt desire for someone other than me, desire that he or she wished to act upon. While I don’t know what I’d do in reaction to such information, at least telling me would allow us to maintain our trust. Feeling desire for another isn’t the deal breaker: deception and betrayal are. You can’t swear you’ll never want anyone else: you can promise to put trust and equality first, and be honest about your desires.

Unless of course you’re dedicated to the illicit, and then you’ve no business doing monogamy in the first place. The two are entirely incompatible, aren’t they?




8 Responses to “Trust, and the Ashley Madison hack”

  1. sam jandwich August 25, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I read recently (where??) that there are now more single households in Australia than there are couple households, and that this is partly attributable to the fact that people these days are far better-educated about what a loving and functional, trusting and equal relationship is supposed to be like… and yet very few people actually achieve that, so instead of putting up with sub-standard relationships they are simply going it alone. (yep, I guess i’d put myself in that category).

    Perhaps on the strength of this Ashley Madison thing we might say that many of the people in relationships should probably be single as well?

    Or perhaps social movements and technology are breaking down culturally-influenced relationship practices and allowing people to live in closer accordance with their natural state. You and me baby!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson August 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

      I agree with your last paragraph.
      I think it takes a lot of courage to end a relationship, so maybe people are becoming more brave about these things.
      In my experience there’s nothing lonelier than being in an unsatisfactory relationship.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michaela Tschudi August 25, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    I wouldn’t dare call you unsophisticated sheep!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hudsongodfrey August 27, 2015 at 12:14 am #

    One of the first things that occurred to me when I heard about the whole thing was that the hackers surrendered the moral high ground the moment they presumed two wrongs would make anything right. Instead all they are is a bunch of phony moralising busybodies sticking their noses where they know damned well they aren’t wanted, and making a hookup service look if not good then at least the victim into the bargain.

    As for trust, there’s no way its overrated, but civilised people might like to think they could trust their partners so as if they were going to cheat they’d spare us the embarrassment of having to confront the fact. Personally I don’t go in for that, but I hear some people maintain open relationships and its times like this that I feel obliged to respect their choices, along with their privacy!

    The thing that therefore concerns me is that this might play out with members going after the webmaster for a lapse in privacy, based partly on a misplaced sense of justice but mostly on the knowledge that the hackers, even if caught, probably lack any resources from which to compensate them. It bothers me that whether the guilty hackers are caught or not they may still get what they want at the expense of a good many people who it was never any business of theirs to invade the privacy of in the first place. And I will wager like minded religious and moral zealots will be emboldened by this!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson August 27, 2015 at 7:07 am #

      I hadn’t got to investigating the hackers and their motives – I’d assumed they were mischievous but hadn’t considered they had religious/moral motives.


      • hudsongodfrey August 27, 2015 at 9:23 am #

        I think it is possible that in future cases this is the kind of act fundamentalism tends to lead towards. In this case there is as yet no evidence of what the hackers’ motives were, though I’d grant there’s a number of reasons one could hold a grudge against such a website. If caught I’d also expect the hackers to realise that activism sounds so much more honourable than extortion, and make disingenuous claims as to their motives.


  4. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 1, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    FYI I embed this tweet by @Australian for its link, just in case you have not seen it. It appears to touch upon stuff you have put up on ‘Sheep’ from time to time, and specifically refers to the Ashley Madison hack.


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