In Defense of the Ashley Madison Leak

choices

This week’s news has been flooded with debate over the Ashley Madison website breach and resulting data dump. Granted, the hacking of a website carries legal/ethical ramifications, but is it any less ethical to cheat on your significant other? What if a particular incident of hacking is to expose injustice or betrayal? Would it be acceptable to expose those who commit treason against our country? If so, why would interpersonal treachery mean so little?

First off, let us keep in mind that nothing on the internet is secure. This is evident by the data breaches of major corporations, financial institutions and our own government. No reasonable person should believe that a hook up or dating site would have better security measures than the Internal Revenue Service (who were also recently compromised). Secondly, no sensitive financial information or social security numbers have been released (thus far) by those responsible for the Ashley Madison breach. Several writers have played the ‘slippery slope’ card, cries of ‘The internet is no longer safe!’ (again, it never has been) and the reaching theory that exposure of deception will cause humiliation so devastating that it will lead to mass suicides/homicides.

I have seen numerous comments in defense of those who utilized the site. Flimsy arguments that perhaps members are in an ‘open’ marriage. Fair enough, but why would you have to pay a website that prides itself on discretion if you are polyamorous? Maybe members were just ‘curious’? Ok, but curiosity is an indication that you are lacking something in your marriage. Some commenters were berating others for being prudes. When did fidelity become sententious? If you aren’t having your physical needs met, you need to have a conversation with your partner as to why. It is one or both of you that have a deeper underlying problem preventing intimacy or the type of intimacy you desire. If you two can’t make that work or be complacent in a relationship void of intimate interactions, you shouldn’t be together.

The argument I found most maddening was ‘It’s no one’s business!’. Almost. It is not 99.9% of the world’s business, the exception being the person being cheated on. They absolutely have the right to know if they are being deceived, if their relationship is a lie, if they have no idea the kind of person their partner really is and if they are potentially being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

The victims in this situation are not a company created and branded specifically for people looking to secretly break their commitment/vows. Ashley Madison are profiteers of philanderers (I’m modernizing this term to apply to women as well). Nor should we have compassion for those who intentionally went looking for or followed through with an affair. They made a deliberate choice, even if it was a moment of feeling spiteful or neglected, it is a choice. The only victims in this situation are the unknowing spouses and any children between them. These are the individuals who will be forever damaged by the decision to be unfaithful.

Even if the spouse forgives, they have experienced the emotional equivalent of rape. They will have been traumatized by their partner’s betrayal. They will always carry (at minimum) a sliver of doubt, they will never fully recover their self-esteem, they will never look at the cheater quite the same. It is like breaking a beautiful piece of china and gluing it back together. At first glance it may seem perfect, but the closer you examine it, the fine cracks and missing fragments will stand out.

The children, if they aren’t old enough to understand, will learn in time what led to the demise of their parent’s relationship. Expect insecurity, anger and anxiety if divorce is the outcome. If the parents stay together, and worse, if the infidelity is reoccurring, expect emulation in their adult relationships. I wonder if those who cheat ever think about their daughters marrying a guy just like dad or their sons finding a girl just like mom? Would they be happy knowing they have set the example that being sneaky, manipulative and dishonest is acceptable behavior? Would they be proud knowing they have raised a tolerant little doormat who attracts deceitful jerks?

The other nagging questions I have are, if you are looking for a more fulfilling relationship, do you honestly believe one founded in betrayal is going to last? If you just want to shag everyone you can, why the hell are you still married or in a committed relationship? You don’t want to lose half of your money? Hire a good lawyer. You can’t bring yourself to hurt your kids? If that is the reason, spending time covertly whoring around has already taken time out of your relationship with them.

Aside from certain cases of bi-polar disorder with severe compulsions, I think there are universal reasons that lead to the choice to be unfaithful. Vengeance, harboring resentment towards your significant other, a lack of desire or loss of interest because they no longer find their partner attractive, a means of masking their own insecurities/inflating the ego. While these are all valid feelings, the problem is how one chooses to address said feelings.

If one has these or similar issues with their partner, it is not only cowardly and weak to avoid addressing the problem(s), it is lazy and selfish to skip right into having an affair. Holding resentment and anger towards someone you share a life with guarantees the relationship is doomed. Even in war, peace is only achieved through diplomacy and compromise. Say one side kicks the shit out of the other, simply surrendering creates an atmosphere of distrust and tension that can last for decades. You have to be willing to negotiate and you can not negotiate if you withhold.

To those who are considering straying from your partner- expressing your feelings, addressing the issues your have within your relationship does not mean berating, belittling, shaming or acting hostile. It needs to be done with clarity, compassion, encouragement and optimism. Hoping it resolves itself or throwing in the towel without putting forth effort is self-sabotage. If you can be honest and specific in what it is that you want/need, you have a chance of making things right.

To those who have been cheated on- If you have caught them or if you know in your heart that they are and it is a lack of tangible evidence, stop and evaluate your situation. If your significant other is attempting to gaslight you, if they are making you think you’re crazy or can look you in the eye and lie…is this is the kind of person you want to invest your life in?

For both parties involved- If you have already attempted to be constructive and you are met with indifference, if your feelings are dismissed by your partner, if they outright refuse to work with you or put all the responsibility on you to mend the relationship, it is quite apparent that your are no longer their priority. Don’t cheat, leave with dignity. Do not waste another moment of each other’s time.

Advertisements

Narcissist or Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The word Narcissist gets thrown around a lot in modern society, but it shouldn’t be confused with being a selfish dick on occasion. Everyone has had moments of saying something hurtful in the midst of debate, to mask an insecurity, out of spite for being hurt or something rooted in jealously/fear. The difference is remorse and feeling bad for those moments of asshole behavior. The bigger difference is changing your behavior to prevent further incidents in the future.

Through several years of Criminology and victim advocate education, I have encountered many clear cut cases of abuse from all backgrounds, economic status, race, gender and sexuality. People think about charming serial killers or gold-digging trophy wives as master manipulators, but there is a far more common nuance that thrives among us when it pertains to Narcissism.

We encounter narcissistic behavior on a daily basis to the point where we expect it. The obnoxious person at the store who demands their expired coupon be used (and holds up the line for 15 minutes), the one who berates the server because the chef messed up their order, the asshole who parks in the handicapped spot…they all feel special and entitled to an elite station in life. These people are a nuisance or inconvenience at best. We roll our eyes, mutter something rude and carry on with our day. They may have NPD, but we don’t attempt to maintain a relationship with these people so, we can only guess.

The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association lists the following as symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The DSM-IV identifies the following symptoms:

  • An exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and achievements
  • A constant need for attention, affirmation and praise
  • A belief that he or she is unique or “special” and should only associate with other people of the same status
  • Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power
  • Exploiting other people for personal gain
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment
  • A preoccupation with power or success
  • Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her
  • A lack of empathy for others

Without a great deal of professional training, it is difficult to make a diagnosis. That being said, adding the pieces together gives us a good indication of who demonstrates the behavior. It is my point in writing today that we can recognize the people in our lives who present these symptoms and act accordingly to adjust our interactions with them.

An exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and achievements- The person who lies about their background or brags that they have done more than what they actually have. Frequent changes in interests according to what will gain them a false sense of power, respect and security. For example, you wouldn’t call yourself an expert at fishing or shooting if you’ve only done it a handful of times as a child. A person of balanced mentality wouldn’t walk into a new job (in a new field) and tell everyone they should be running the company due to their superior intellect and expertise. A Narcissist will play the arrested development card, the one up game or talk shit to anyone they feel is competition or inferior to their grandiose life experiences. They will flat out lie to inflate their ego and attempt to strip others down to nothing.

A constant need for attention, affirmation or praise– This goes beyond attention seeking. It is born of massive insecurity and, quite often, being overindulged in childhood. Mommy or Daddy always told them they were perfect in every way, they never had to work for any luxury and they have been unknowingly abused because they were never taught that you aren’t born special, you make yourself special on your own. Life doesn’t give you a trophy for showing up and when adulthood comes, it kicks you in the ass. Those with NPD will often be found living at home after one or more attempts to hack it on their own (or never leaving at all). The reason being that they are unable to be accountable, unable to work with others and constantly bailed out when they massively fuck up an opportunity. They are usually enabled by someone and their enablers deny anything is wrong with the situation, perpetuating their disorder and encouraging their behavior.

A belief that he or she is unique or “special” and should only associate with other people of the same status- The academic elitist who has to tell you where they (and everyone they introduce you to) attended university and which degree(s) they hold. They will also be certain to point out those who have not attended or finished their academic endeavors. This form of snobbery also applies to meatheads or exceptionally shallow individuals who will only associate with those who meet their criteria for income, body fat and social status. Everyone else is inferior and put on this Earth to be belittled.

Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power/a preoccupation with power or success- Those who have not reached the aforementioned status who hold a deep, unrealistic belief that they will easily achieve a six figure income fresh out of school or by sheer luck. When they speak of their dreams and goals, they don’t mention passion, they dwell on what they will gain socially and monetarily. There is rarely a desire to do something beneficial for others or contribute to the betterment of society. It revolves around having authority over others and a preoccupation of instilling fear in their ‘inferiors’.

Exploiting other people for personal gain- Having a multitude of ‘acquaintances’ and very few, if any, longstanding relationships. Narcissistic personalities do not have the luxury of forming meaningful, honest relationships because they know if someone gets too close, they will eventually realize their motives. They charm or bullshit their way into others’ lives with the sole purpose of getting something from them. This could be an opportunity to climb the social ladder, having access to those with wealth in order to participate in their lifestyle or surrounding themselves with people who will make them look smarter and/or more attractive. When it pertains to intimate relationships, they seek out the insecure and/or fragile. They will make outlandish promises, say whatever they think this person needs to hear to gain trust and maintain the charm long enough to hook a co-dependent or needy partner. When they are certain they have control, they will manipulate, humiliate, gaslight and abuse their partner in an attempt to exercise their authority, counteract their own insecurity and use them in every manner possible. Once they have broken their partner’s spirit and obliterated their self-worth, they leave. They are parasitic and masters of destruction.

Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her- Envy is  rooted in insecurity and fear. This goes beyond longing for what others have, it becomes competition and leads to unhealthy obsessions/hatred. Anyone with more power, success or stuff who the narcissistic personality can not manipulate is dismissed or criticized. They are generally unable to handle any form of criticism directed towards them. To question the intentions or validity of their claims, is cause to instantly banish that person from their life. If you disagree or challenge their false sense of ego, you will become the enemy no questions asked.

A lack of empathy for others- This is, in my experience, the most obvious of symptoms. I am going to provide examples from my personal experience pertaining to lack of empathy from a narcissistic person.  The person who calls or visits and always fails to ask ‘How are you’? The same phone call is fifteen minutes of their verbal diarrhea and abruptly ends with ‘Well, I have nothing else going on over here. Bye!’ The same visit is nothing but tales of glory, gripes, rants about the latest person to wrong them or walk out of their life, their expertise of everything imaginable and showing disinterest when you have anything to share that doesn’t directly involve them. This is the person who leaves their own family member alone in the emergency room because they are having an imaginary relationship crisis.

There is little to no joy in having a relationship with someone with these traits/symptoms. In no way am I advocating abandoning people with mental illness. I am advocating not allowing ourselves to be mistreated by others. We can point out when we feel uncomfortable or hurt, we should let our relationship expectations be crystal clear and stand by those expectations. If others are unable to recognize and change their behavior, it is not on you to provide repeated chances. Does it matter if they are willingly selfish or they have a psychological excuse for it? If they refuse to work on their issues and repeatedly abuse others, it is time to step back or walk away.