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September 11, 2015

The Real Lesson in the Ashley Madison Scandal.

Harsh Agrawal

Communication is hard.

I’m not sure why, though.

Sure, most people talk to each other in some way every day. But much of the time, it’s just communicating facts or making small talk to pass the time.

But what about when it comes to saying something difficult? Revealing a truth that may alter the course of a relationship?

It boils down to one word: fear.

Fear of what you ask? Now that’s another matter. Our own truths can be uncomfortable enough to deal with, let alone another person’s truth.

Let me start with truth.

When I found out about how online users of Ashley Madison were hacked and publicly revealed, my first thought was, “good.” It kind of shocked me that I felt that way. I’m not in a serious relationship at the moment, nor have I ever been cheated on to my knowledge. But I have been hit on by men who were involved in relationships that were not open.

There’s something that disturbs me about cheating, and it has more to do with the deception than the extra-marital affair.

I’m familiar with polyamory, in which intimate relationships are open to other partners. The key to the success of these relationships is consent and all parties knowing what’s going on, which means an extra-marital affair is allowed by the primary partner.

Now polyamory isn’t for everyone but the rules of consent and knowledge are major distinctions from what took place in the Ashley Madison scandal.

The key difference is truthful communication. The difficulty lies in the receptivity of both partners to hear one and other’s truths.

Truths like what?

Maybe there is something wrong in the relationship that functions like an elephant in the room. Both parties know it’s there, but neither one wants to talk about it for fear of creating a fight that just won’t end. Maybe stress and work and life have taken a toll on the sex life.

Whatever the reason is, it does not excuse cheating and lying. But it does point to where the communication broke down.

How hard is it to say out loud the thoughts that show our vulnerability?

It takes a lot of courage. I have spoken my truth to people with the desire to create a deeper connection, only to rock the relationship. Speaking your truth is like knocking on a door to see if anyone will answer. Yes, it hurt when my words were shut down and ignored and invalidated. But I would do it again because of the people who did listen and accept me and what I had to say.

It’s impossible to find those connections without speaking up, no matter how scary it is to do so.

Therefore, I do have some sympathy for those who have been outed for cheating. Most probably, some of the partners caught cheating have narcissistic tendencies. They would have cheated one way or another because they do not have the courage to confront their wounds. They do not have the ability to make a real connection with anyone at this point in time.

However, it’s possible that some of the relationships could have avoided this fate.

Sometimes people make mistakes but are capable of reconciliation. This post is for those folks.

Everyone lies to one degree or another. Most of the time in the form of white lies. Some even see these lies as necessary for healthy relationships (“Does this dress make me look fat?”). But where is the line drawn?

If emotional distance has entered your relationship, it’s time to have a talk. This is easier said than done. Both partners have to want to connect and taking steps to make that connection is scary.

We risk rejection. We risk vulnerability.

But if the Ashley Madison scandal has taught us one thing it should be this—risking that vulnerability to connect with your partner is a much easier and gentler step to take than picking up the pieces after a public humiliation.

Relephant bonus:

~R

Relephant Read:

4 Stages of Cheating & When It’s Warranted.

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Author: Risa Pedzewick

Apprentice Editor: Carlene Kurdziel/Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Harsh Agrawal/Flickr

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