I'm a simple man. I'm a simple man with one of those high stress jobs that seems to never give you a moment's peace. I signed up for it, so I should probably quit complaining at some point, right?
I got into the biz 22 years ago. I was young, but I was hungry. I had just left one of those non-fulfilling jobs, because I wanted more out of life. I wanted something that I was passionate about.
I found something that really got my gears going. The pay was a lot less than I was used to, but it was just me. So, I took the leap of faith. I knew that it was like most jobs that if I got really good at it I could climb that ladder that everybody talks about.
The work was fine, but I really didn't have any idea as to what I had signed up for. I suddenly was on the road 26 weeks out of the year, and my high-profile boss was constantly in the public eye. I, by proxy, was also thrown into this lifestyle.
For the most part I didn't mind the requirements of the job, but every once in a while the stressors of the road would get under my skin. I missed people. I missed the connections. I was lonely.
I filled my spare time with meaningless encounters. Having women around was a by product of the job, and the evenings were filled with cocktails and conversations. It felt like an ok arrangement that I was willing to get behind...for now.
This pattern continued for 14 years. I'm sure that some looked at me with judgement, but I was living my life on my terms. Even though I knew that other members of my team were married, it just didn't seem fair to me.
We were gone so much. How fair would it be to make someone else as lonely as I was? It wasn't.
I continued on with my life as normal. That is, until my boss sat me down in one of those awkward meetings that are abnormally serious, and you feel like you can't escape it. He chose his words intentionally, and I did my best to give off the appearance of actively listening.
He told me that it was time that I started thinking about my future. He pointed out that every single one of my co-workers were either married or at least in a serious relationship.
I instantly felt this annoying knot in my stomach that seemed to be getting tighter. I didn't want to get married, and I certainly didn't want children. That wasn't the life I had chosen for myself, so why did it matter to this guy?
He went on to explain that it was his job to worry about the perception of our team. He had heard the stories of some of our crazy evening escapades, and he didn't want that to soil our reputation. The look on his face was definitely one of disappointment and disgust.
I couldn't really help but think, "is this really happening right now?"
So, I did what I was told and looked for a "real" partner. In the sea of women it wasn't hard to find a woman willing to live the lifestyle, but part of me always felt that any kind of relationship that I found wouldn't be one of substance.
I finally rested on one that seemed to be a good fit, and I did what was asked of me. I did the expected marriage thing. She even came out on the road with us a few times, so it seemed to be working out just fine. At least I hoped it would.
Years passed, and we settled in to our normal routine. We even had a child a few years after we married, but somehow it never felt like we truly connected. I almost looked forward to my weeks away.
Is this what marriage was supposed to be like?
I finally slipped into old habits. I would be out on the road and find myself casually flirting with the idea of a casual encounter. I enjoyed the attention that I used to receive, and I missed that. I certainly wasn't getting it at home.
I constantly felt like there was this internal argument with myself. I didn't feel like we were ever truly a good match. Over the years I had begun to resent her for her selfishness. I felt like she was an opportunist that really only loved the high profile lifestyle.
But, I struggled with the idea of leaving. We had a child, and she was my responsibility. I was raised by a single mother. I knew what that life was like. I watched my mother fight tooth and nail to make ends meet, and I never wanted that for our daughter.
I just couldn't imagine not being able to be there to tuck her in on the nights that I was in town. It actually tore me up inside just thinking about it. Not to mention, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on if a lengthy custody battle ensued. I was stuck.
What options did I really have? I couldn't risk everything just to find some resemblance of happiness. So, I sucked it up and chose my daughter. I stayed comfortably miserable for the sake of my family. That's what any good father would do, right?
Not much changed. The road stayed lonely, and I began to hate my life. I dreaded going home to more fights and cold shoulders, and I hated being alone on the road. For me it was a lose-lose situation that I couldn't really seem to escape.
I needed to find my happy. I wanted to find my happy, but I didn't really know where to even begin.
I knew people used those online dating sites which wouldn't be a terrible idea, but it wasn't like I could really post any kind of profile photo or use my real name. Sure, it was a messy situation, but I wasn't trying to make it even worse. I just wanted a genuine connection. I wanted attention. I wanted to feel wanted.
I landed on one of the low-key options that I felt was a safe bet. I chose a stock image, and I used a fake name to ensure annonymity. However, both of these decisions landed in disaster.
I really wasn't prepared for the responses I received. I would get messages from robot-like accounts that would share a link to an adult website or young girls looking for a Sugar Daddy. There wasn't really anything of substance to get excited about.
I knew that I was looking for trouble. I couldn't help but wonder if I was asking for trouble or if I was just wasting my time. I couldn't risk someone connecting the dots and the information circling back to my wife. So, I decided to put my search on the back burner once again.
This was a nightmare that I was playing out in real time. Within days I was back on the road, and I found myself back in the same position I was before. I was lonely.
I just questioned if I could go back to the way things were long before I ever thought about getting married. Sure, my nights were consumed with casual encounters, but I always felt like I just got to be myself.
I was happy with who I was. I wasn't out breaking hearts of my partners after they were left tripping over the feelings they had caught. The lack of expectations were clear from the start. I made sure of that.
I even toyed with the idea of wondering what it would be like to have some sort of side piece on the road with me. I had no idea what it would be like on the road, but I selfishly liked the idea of having a dirtly little secret to myself.
There wouldn't be any committment once we returned home. I wouldn't parade her around to my collegues. She would just be someone that I could spend my time with off the clock and enjoy those intimate moments that I was clearly missing.
It was a nice thought.
I managed to sulk my way down to the hotel bar one evening where a group of strangers flirted over their cocktails, and I found myself so envious. I missed being in that crowd without a care of what wondering eyes were looking. I was so mad at myself for letting others talk me into getting into this situation.
I wanted what I knew others had. I wanted to connect with someone. I wanted to be able to just be myself with someone without any judgement, but I also didn't want to break up my life at home for my daughter's sake. I just didn't know how to connect A and C without resulting in D. DIVORCE.
I went back to my room and trolled the internet once more. There had to be an option. The internet had everything. There had to be something that would allow me to live my life on my terms without blowing it up too.
I skimmed through the results and read through some of the reviews, but nothing appeared to jump off the page. It suddenly dawned on me that I was putting in the wrong words for my desired results. I wasn't looking to change the direction of my life. I just needed a small and temporary detour.
When the page reloaded I glanced at the top results. I read through the small blurb on discriptions to see if these results were any better. This is where I found Ashley Madison.
It said "Meet bored men and lonely house housewives. Define your experience, and live life to the fullest." I didn't need to bring home any souveniers. Why not? I was a bored man, so I clearly fit the description.
I was directed to the website, but I quickly realized that I wasn't going to get very far without creating an account. I wanted to find out what I could potentially be getting myself into before I actually got myself into it.
I went back to my search to enter "What is Ashley Madison?" There were thousands of articles to choose from, and plenty of opinionated articles questioning the morality of the services that the site offered.
I decided that at some point I didn't care. I was a grown adult that was fully capable of forming my own opinions about something. I certainly wasn't going to let the internet control my thoughts too.
I realized that Ashley Madison was tasteful adultery dating site that allowed people, like myself, to find casual fun. This appeared to be right up my alley, but was it worth it?
I would be remissed if I didn't mention the articles that initially caught my attention. They referrenced a security breach that happened a few years ago leaking the account holders' information. There was definitely a moment of panic.
I questioned my actions for a moment. I knew I didn't want to risk the chance of my wife finding out just what I was up to, but, quite honestly, I was also in a state that I didn't care. I was so unhappy with the direction that my life was headed.
I figured what the hell, and I signed up. The worst case scenario would be that I wasted my time and potentially some money. It couldn't be any more than I had wasted spending countless evenings in a hotel bar hoping for the same result.
The interface was actually pretty easy to maneuver. It appeared that I could actually find a match without too many strings or commitment. With features like a Panic Button and the disappearing chat, I might actually be able to pull this off discreetly without the added headache.
I found that it wasn't like the other sites that I had visited before. There seemed to be a very broad range of people that might be looking for open or polyamorous relationships. It's not necessarily a site for swingers or swapping, but it looked like I could maybe find a partner and maybe some fun.
I skimmed through the profile setup so that I could look around. I noticed the communication features allowed you to message, wink, chat, and even send gifts to other members. It had potential.
As I explored the site further I found it to be very liberating. When I was finally able to relax and get a little more comfortable with the idea, I came to the realization that I wasn't alone. There were other people just like me in long-term relationships that were also comfortably miserable.
I decided to go ahead and finish setting up my profile in hopes that it would guarantee better matches. It was pretty standard. I had to choose a username, password, and add my demographic information. I could even add a short bio if I wanted. I was still nervous about the idea of adding a photo, but I did it anyway.
I was all ready knee deep in my risky decision making, so I decided to bite the bullet and start messaging people. However, I realized that if you are a guy on the Ashley Madison site then you have to purchase credits.
At first I thought this was slightly unfair. Guys have to pay for the credits but female user do not. Then I quickly realized that this was just brilliant marketing. This gave more options to the countless men who were exactly in my situation.
The credit system was pretty unique, but it helped me see that it was the best way to get the most out of my account. There were 3 packages that I could choose from:
Credits are used to communicate with potential dates. I might have been way over my head, but I decided to buy the 500 credits that were offered. It looked like the best value, and I didn't know if I'd have the guts to make the purchase later.
I wasn't actually evaluating the value of my purchase; it was more like trying to justify what I was spending my money on. I needed to be able to have this moment to myself without feeling more guilty than I already did.
I was able to use filters on my results such as age, distance, etc, and I was also able to create a list of my favorite profiles. I didn't know if I actually had it in me to pull the cord on it yet, but I was at least willing to look.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I felt like my teenage self once again with all of the nerves in my stomach. I continued to peruse the profile pages to see if anything caught my eye.
I guess I thought in that moment that just maybe if I found trouble worth getting into, that I just might be willing. I was drowning in possibilities, but I was optimistic. I wanted this to be worth it so badly.
I was surprised to see who all had viewed my profile already. I deemed myself pretty average, so I didn't expect to find anything initially. It was nice to see that some of the profile photos were actually of attractive women.
I glanced through a few of them before I realized that you could send winks for free. I thought it was a great way to show someone that I was interested before using up any of the credits that I had just purchased.
I got brave on a few. I figured that the worst case scenario would be that they would choose not to respond, but I wanted to find out. I was hopeful that the law of averages would play in my favor at some point even if I only was lucky enough to get one response.
I also noticed that I could send gifts to the other members. From what I gathered, these were virtual gifts that I could use to show others that I might be interested in hooking up. However, this was going to use the credits that I bought. The cost of those gifts depended on the type of gift I was sending.
It was all a bit overwhelming from the jump, but I felt a little more comfortable as I continued to scroll. I found that like most sites there were obvious pros and cons. I wasn't sure if it was just my nerves, but I made a mental note.
I would have to say that the good definitely outweighed the bad. Ashley Madison definitely appeared to offer exactly what it advertised.
I could easily see that it would not be the avenue that I'd go down if I were looking for a serious relationship, but the reviews made it obvious that it was very popular if you are looking into cheating or hooking up. It was a very positive experience.
I think that if I were a sexy woman looking for some discreet fun while I was married that there would be plenty of men looking for much of the same. I know I was. I liked the possibility that that there was a community of like-minded individuals that didn't pass judgment while I explored the idea of infidelity. According to the reviews, it was the best place to do it.
Essentially, you want me to answer my own question for you. "Was it worth it?" I would have to say that whether I connected with anyone or not that the safe space that they provided for me to explore was well worth it.
Society often puts these labels on things that may not be understood such as taboo or wrong, but I did not get the feeling that what I was doing was wrong. There were no undertones of judgement or conversations that led me to believe that the other users felt that way.
I would have to say that I was made comfortable to explore my desires. If you've ever felt stuck in a situation that you don't necessarily want to escape from, then I would say at least entertain the idea.
The cost might be a little shocking at first, but it really isn't any more than a fancy dinner that you really do not want to be at. Plus, your admission will last a lot longer than the 2 hours you spent sitting there.
Take a little advise. Quit being like me in this comfortably miserable funk that you have been stewing in. Go live your best life. If that means that you want to connect with someone without strings, then go do it.
"Life's short. Have an affair" - Ashley Madison