A Midwestern small business owner sits in his garage, staring in shock at the email that pinged his front pocket. It’s from his wife, but not for him, and it’s through the cheating website Ashley Madison. (The best he can tell, she logged into the wrong Google Voice account.)
“Why’d you choose me?” she asked. “Solely on looks?”
That was three years ago. Since then, Jim (he asked not to be identified by his real name) entered counseling to keep his marriage of 15 years together. For the sake of their young kids, he forgave his wife and tried to reconcile.
Six months ago, Jim discovered the second batch of emails, again through Ashley Madison. They were more recent. The divorce trial is next month.
A 2013 lawsuit claimed Ashley Madison’s users are 90 to 95 percent male, with most females either being plants of the company or fake profiles. Even if that’s as correct as it feels, that still leaves 1.6 to 3.7 million real live females who use the site to plan extra-marital affairs.
This is the story of one of them, and the devastating effects of her actions.
MH: So you had no clue before seeing the emails?
Jim: None. I was living the dream, man. We have kids, we were happy. But she would go in the bathroom and just sit there and message these guys. She’s telling them, “I don’t want my husband to find out. I don’t like him, but I don’t want to divorce him.”
This one day, she tells me she’s going to CostCo. In reality, she’s going to this former Marine’s house and having sex with him. I mean, I never thought my wife would lie to me. She was absolutely perfect. I was such a braggart about her to everyone. We didn’t fight; we didn’t argue.
MH: How did you find out just how bad it was?
Jim: She told me everything, which I wish I never asked for. But I played detective and put a whole case together. I made myself an Ashley Madison profile as my wife and contacted the same users who contacted her. I told them, “Hi, it’s me on a new account, so my husband won’t find out.” One of them immediately sends me a dick picture. Can you believe that?
MH: What did you do next?
Jim: I called the guy. Of course, he’s married and scared shitless. All of the guys were married, except for one who was engaged. One is a prominent attorney who is scared to death that I’m gonna tell his wife. I tell him all I want is information. So they sent me screen shots of all their messages with my wife and I’m able to see everything that happened and build my case.
MH: How many guys were there?
Jim: I know for a fact, four. But I still don’t believe I know everything.
MH: Why did you decide to stay together?
Jim: I was in love. I wanted to save my family. I did not want my kids to be the kids of divorced parents. When you experience something like this, you go through the five stages of grief, one of which is bargaining, which is what I did. I blamed everything on myself and decided we should go to counseling to fix this. Man, I cut her so much slack.
MH: And then she cheated again. How did you find out the second time?
Jim: She got a new phone, deleted all her messages and gave my daughter her old (phone). But I was able to recover the messages from her old phone. And she’s out there having affairs with married men again. And this stuff is even more graphic than the first time.
MH: These messages all occurred after you reconciled?
MH: Why do you think she did this to you?
Jim: There may be mental issues involved, and things that happened to her as a child that I don’t want to get into. But basically, I think the reason is that I married her when she was 19 and a virgin, so she never got to experience life. She didn’t get to go to college and experience her twenties and have fun and sleep around, like I did.
She claims that she thought I was cheating on her, but I wasn’t and I think that was just an excuse. You always think it’s only the men who cheat, but I was a loyal husband and I will be until a month from now, when we’re done.
MH: Did you ever think you might not be satisfying her in bed?
Jim: We had sex almost every day, and it was great sex, creative sex. I don’t want to get into the details, but if I wasn’t pleasing her, she deserves an Oscar.
MH: Why do you think she didn’t file for divorce to begin with?
Jim: Because she loved our kids and our family, too, and she probably thought she could get away with it.
MH: Do you blame Ashley Madison? I mean, your wife could have hooked up on any dating website, or even through Craigslist.
Jim: Ashley Madison’s tagline is “Life is Short, Have an Affair.” That’s
different. This is a site specifically designated for people to cheat on their spouses. Their whole business model is based on lie, cheat, and betray. That’s different than going on Match.com or Tinder for a hook-up. That’s intentionally creating emotional pain, splitting up families and harming children.
When I see the site or even read about it, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to my worst enemy.
MH: Are you happy about the Ashley Madison leak?
Jim: I’m gleeful. I made a Facebook post that said “Bla-ha-ha!”
MH: But should hacktivists really be the ones who get to set our morality? What if someone who’s against porn hacks into YouPorn and decides to post all the users that searched it and the terms they searched for?
Jim: You’re right. That’s where I’m emotionally conflicted as well. But
because I have this emotional level where it affected me personally, it just feels like karma, it feels like justice.