Infidelity and Advertising: The Reality Itís Not Is infidelity becoming more acceptable? Why itís more important then ever to encourage honesty rather than secret keeping. BY ROBERT WEISS LCSW, CSAT-S
An open marriage inherently isn't bad, but the dishonesty that often accompanies it.
“ ÖCheating on your wife is fun and natural and everybody is doing it and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and nobody gets hurt by it at all.”
Last Saturday night I was watching Comedy Central and I saw a new ad for Ashley Madison, the now infamous website/app designed for and used by married people looking to cheat on the sly. On the surface, this new ad looks incredibly wholesome and inviting. It starts with a handsome, clean-cut guy singing along to a vaguely familiar pop music melody. Then another equally handsome and clean-cut man joins him. Pretty soon the entire screen is filled with pleasant looking guys, all of them happily singing. If youíre not paying attention, itís a bit like Coca Colaís famed "Iíd Like to Buy the World a Coke" ad, first aired in 1971, with one, then another, and then hundreds of beautiful people on an Italian hillside singing a song about peace, love, and soda pop.
However, this ad is gleefully touting something entirely differentócheating on your wife. Instead of singing, "Iíd like to buy the world a house, and furnish it with love," the chorus is burbling new lyrics to the erstwhile Climax Blues Band hit, "Couldnít Get It Right."
In the past the companyís usually hilariously cheesy ads have focused primarily on either the furtive excitement of infidelity or the unpleasant nature of being married to an unattractive and/or unlikeable person. This new approach is a complete 180-degree turn. It says: Cheating on your wife is fun and natural and everybody is doing it and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and nobody gets hurt by it at all.
In case youíre wondering, Iím not a prude or trying to bury my head in the sand about marital infidelity. In fact, after more than 20 years as a psychotherapist specializing in sexual issues, Iíve pretty much seen it all. Iíve even seen "open relationships" work and work well for some couples, so long as both people are OK with and honest about whatís occurring. But most of the time extramarital sex is a secretive and one-sided activity. While one half of a couple cherishes and upholds his or her vow of marital fidelity, the other does whatever it is that he or she wants to do, justifying this behavior with some form of the following lie: What my spouse doesnít know canít possibly hurt.
Over the years I have worked with hundreds, maybe even thousands of secretive cheaters and betrayed spouses, and I can assure you, even before the cheated-on spouse finds out whatís going on, a lot of damage is occurring. For starters, secretive cheaters are "less present" in the relationship, and this emotional and physical distancing is most definitely experienced by the betrayed and often confused partner. And then thereís all the lying to deal with. This is incredibly hurtful. In fact, most betrayed spouses say itís the loss of relationship trust rather than any specific sexual act that creates the most emotional pain and relationship carnage.
Now we have this new ad that flat-out ignores these relationship realities. Once again, there is nothing wrong with extramarital sex if both halves of the couple are okay with it, but encouraging people to cheat in secret and to think thereís nothing wrong with that?
Experience suggests this is a line we shouldnít cross. Nevertheless, it is clear, not just from this single ad but from the general success of this company, which has nearly 30 million members, and other, similar sites and apps, that our culture as a whole is growing ever-more accepting of sexual infidelityóand there is nothing wrong with that, as long as the behavior is not kept secret. So, if a husband or wife wants to look at porn or occasionally hookup for sex with a stranger and his or her spouse knows about this and is okay with it, more power to them both. However, letís recognize that keeping secrets and telling lies about sexual infidelity can be incredibly hurtful and emotionally damaging to both parties involved.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S, Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute (SRI), Los Angeles and Senior Vice President of Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health is an UCLA MSW graduate and early trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, Mr. Weiss is author of "Cruise Control,""Sex Addiction 101" and co-author of both "Closer Together Further Apart" and "Always Turned On" with Dr. Jennifer Schneider. A media expert to CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and the Today Show among many others, Mr. Weiss also has provided clinical training and program development for the N.I.H., the US Marines, Navy as well as multi-addiction, behavioral health treatment centers across the globe.