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Lying About Ashley Madison: Two Readers Write In

You may think that total honesty would kill your marriage, but lying already has, so you don't have much to lose. Besides, it is likely that your wife is so fed up with you lying that she would welcome hearing your internal monologue without a filter.
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I had two complementary reader questions this week. Here's the first:

Reader Lies All The Time writes,

I'm sure you know about the data hack through Ashley Madison. Unfortunately, I was exposed in the hack by having an account. I did not have a paid account and simply used it long enough to see how it worked. I never contacted any other person through the site and "cancelled" the account. Also unfortunate is that I lied about it when my wife found out and an hour later came clean.

I've had a history of lying when caught, and that is the biggest issue my wife sees in this, because she feels as though she can never trust me fully. We are high school sweethearts and have a two year old, and I'm afraid that is all going to crash down. I have told my wife I meant no harm by signing up, but my name is on the list, so it is hard for her to believe that especially with my past. I'm trying to figure out where to go from here and figure out what is best for our relationship to be fixed and how do I just STOP lying?

Dear LAAT,

You know, you're not the first person I've spoken to with this lying issue. I have had numerous male clients who "lie all the time" and whose wives force them into therapy, or who seek therapy on their own because their wives are so angry and hurt by the lies. I think that women probably lie equally as much as men, but men aren't as emotionally attuned to verbal communication as women are, so they don't notice as often.

Constant lying is likely due to one of the following issues:
  • A childhood where you were expected to be perfect and rewarded for perfection, however that was defined.
  • Narcissism and a need to always come off as "right" or "good."
  • Insecurity within the relationship and the feeling that if your partner knew the "real you," she wouldn't love you.
  • Emotional immaturity and the desire to always do what you want to do, even if you know it's lazy or ethically questionable.
Which of these is you? I don't know. I'm going to take a wild guess here that you only slept with your wife, or you cheated a couple times but basically only her, since after all you were high school sweethearts. You were curious about Ashley Madison just like everyone else is (or else why would it get so much media coverage?). So you made an account hoping to peruse the ads of uninhibited, sexual married women, which would give you fantasy material for later, possibly even when sleeping with your wife.

I don't judge you. I don't think that's bad. I don't even think talking to other women is bad. It only becomes bad when IT'S A SECRET. Your wife is probably not an idiot. She knows you are a liar at your core, and it is likely that she suspected you were cheating and that's why she looked for your email address. My point is, she probably isn't an Amish schoolgirl that would be deeply shocked by the knowledge that you're curious about other women. Instead of doing what you did, here is an alternative, that you can use the next time you come into possession of a time machine:

You: Hey, I am really curious about Ashley Madison. I want to make an account and see what all the hype is about.

Her: WTF, are you serious? Remember when my friend was drunk and you made out with her and then lied about it? Remember when you lied about watching porn while I was in the hospital having a C-section? Why the hell would you bring up cheating on me?

You: No! This time I'm not lying. I am telling you outright what I am feeling like doing. If you say absolutely not, then okay, but I would like to change our usual pattern of hiding my desires from you and trying to pretend I'm Super Husband and then going behind your back and lying and getting caught. Instead, I want to tell you openly and include you and maybe you and I can make an account for a day and look through the ads, and see if it's funny or sexy or what.

Her: I don't know, that site grosses me out.

You: Well, let me know. I think it would be exciting in a way. I bet if you made an ad, all the guys would be emailing you right away.

Her: Yeah, right. Okay, I have to make dinner.

See? You can just sense that after a couple glasses of wine she would agree and you could have an exciting evening. This is not outside the realm of possibility. Plenty of people share their infidelity fantasies and then don't have to be unfaithful. You already know what I think of monotogamy and it's unlikely that your wife is so aroused by your penis that she has seen exclusively for decades that she can't muster up some enthusiasm for something new and different.

Anyway, back to your current problem. It is probable that you are not a therapy-seeking type of guy, or else you would have mentioned that even your therapist couldn't stop you from lying all the time. But I urge you to seek counseling, from an insight-oriented psychologist, who can help you figure out why you are self-sabotaging by lying all the time and ruining your marriage.

Or else you can just decide to STOP LYING COLD TURKEY, and that was all in caps to emphasize how absolute and radical this step would have to be. You just STOP LYING and you tell your wife that you're going to stop, and that the things you'll end up saying may be a lot more tactless, weird, sexual or whatever. Also, you will be telling her whenever you feel like lying. Like this:

Wife: Do you ever think about my friend that you made out with anymore?

You: I am feeling like I want to lie right now, because I'm anxious that anything I say that's true would make you really angry with me.

Wife: Why? What's the truth?

You: The truth is that sometimes I do think about it, but I wouldn't actually want to be with her, and I love you. (If the truth is that you don't want to be with her, tell her that too, by the way, but I don't get that sense from you.)

You may think that total honesty would kill your marriage, but lying already has, so you don't have much to lose. Besides, it is likely that your wife is so fed up with you lying that she would welcome hearing your internal monologue without a filter. It may even bring you closer. And over time, with practice, you will develop tact, which is honesty without extra honesty that isn't helpful.
Example: "I like the other dress better," versus "Hell no, you look like an orca in that thing."

Remember, you met your wife when you were in the most idealistic stage of your development. She probably viewed you as her Prince Charming and it's hard to feel like you're disappointing her when you don't think, act, or feel that charming. But the lying hasn't worked yet, so it's time to try something new. Good luck, and keep me updated. And now let's turn to your counterpart.

Here is the wife who wrote in two days later, who I'll call Give Me a Break:

A few days ago when reading about the Ashley Madison hack, I went to a email search website and learned that my husband's old email address was included in the list of emails that had accounts at that website. At first I thought it was probably a fluke -- that perhaps someone else had entered it by mistake since they don't use email verification. The next day I went to AshleyMadison.com, typed in his email, and then typed in one of two old passwords that he used almost exclusively in the past.

All of a sudden I was logged into an actual account. There was no photo, and there had been no activity on the account at all. However, I felt I could confirm it was my husband's account by the password, as well as unusual interests he had checked such as "philosophy" and "opera." I became livid, and texted him that I had found his account looking for a "disease-free woman" and that he shouldn't bother coming home until he gave me an explanation.

He did come home, and denied that he had ever created the account. He said they must have pulled the information from some other website. He was furious at me and said his trust in me was almost completely gone for "spying" on him. I don't believe that he has ever cheated on me -- we talk all of the time during the day -- but I can't shake how weird it seems that this account uses his password and has his interests checked. Is it possible that he really didn't create the account? He swears he has no recollection of it, and that if he were going to cheat on me he would have gotten a different email address to do it.

Dear GMAB,

Either we are in the realm of the paranormal, or someone is setting up your husband like in an old school detective movie, or else your husband is pretty much the same guy as the guy I just responded to above. Except your husband is still in the phase where he thinks the best defense is a good offense.

You didn't check that email list for no reason. You probably know that your husband is not that honest of a guy. You may talk all the time, but that means nothing about his ability to make an Ashley Madison account. And the "get a different email address" thing is funny, because that's what I bet all those people with work email addresses are saying.

Anyway, at least he didn't contact anyone. But he is likely a liar. See above response to what is probably at play here, and keep me updated when you discover anything else.

Both of you, good luck, and keep me updated. And till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Thinks Compulsive Lying Is A Sign Of A Deeper Issue. Also, That Site Has a Lot of Open Marriage Couples, So It's Not All Cheaters.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.