It seems every few months the media reports about a well-known man whose sexual forays have led to destroying his career and his marriage. My usual response is "How could he do it? Didn't he know people would eventually find out?"
While these questions can also be asked of the millions of people who joined Ashley Madison, the sheer number of people who signed up on this site raises other important questions: What does this say about the state of relationships today when, with so many people getting divorced, millions more are staying married but straying? Why do so many people think the solution to their unhappiness with their relationship is to have an affair?
Are there lessons here for the rest of us who are divorced or having challenges in their marriage?
The common response to the question of why men cheat is: "Because they can. They think their wives won't find out and what she doesn't know won't hurt her."
That's a clever answer, but in my work with men and in researching my book, Being the Strong Man A Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man, I found the most common reason men in committed relationships say they want to be with another women is because they don't feel respected. They want to be with someone who respects them. The reports that there are millions of men on Ashley Madison shocked me into realizing how common this situation is.
Does a man need an affair to feel respected? Is there a way for a man to regain respect in his current relationship?
I teach men to be the kind of man that women naturally respect. What kind of man is this? It's a man who shows his share of leadership; a man who makes decisions and doesn't leave all decisions to his wife; a man who takes responsibility for what is going on in his home and steps forward and takes charge when a situation requires his leadership.
We're not talking about being a controlling tyrant. It's about being a confident leader who thinks about the greater good of his family.
The irony that I have often experienced is that men think this will not make a difference in regaining respect -- until their wives tell them that this is how they want a man they can respect to be.
The lesson from Ashley Madison for the rest of us: Having an affair may not get you the respect you want -- in fact, it may lead to less respect, embarrassment and possibly divorce. If you feel you are not being respected, it -- like other relationship challenges that can lead to divorce -- may be a mirror telling you how you have to change to regain respect and not feel you have to stray.
Elliott Katz is the author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man which is being translated into 24 languages in Europe, Asia and Latin America and is available online and in bookstores.