Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the Ashley Madison scandal by now.
Ashley Madison is every (faithful) spouse’s worst nightmare: a dating site for married people that want to have affairs. And the leak was every cheater’s worst nightmare: someone at the company stole the email addresses of all its members and posted them on the web.
For all the ways that the leak shocked people, there was one thing about it that didn’t come as a surprise at all: almost all of the site’s members were men.
Men didn’t just make up an estimated 95% of the site (once you discount all of the fake accounts and sex workers from the female profiles). They were also the only ones paying to use it. They had to pay to join, pay to send messages, pay to make sure women saw their messages first, and pay to open messages that were sent to them.
But women could use the site for free.
Let’s just think about that for a moment. Women could use this site for free – while men had to pay a small fortune – and yet they were outnumbered 20 to 1. Why is this? Because women don’t have affairs?
Of course they do.
What it suggests is that women approach affairs differently.
It suggests that, when women do have affairs, the vast majority of them are looking for something very different to the vast majority of men. They aren’t looking to sleep with anyone who’ll agree. They aren’t looking for an anonymous liaison to fuel their egos or give then the thrill of deception.
These ratios suggest that women who cheat are looking for, or are offered, a specific person or type of encounter; something that makes them, personally, feel desired – not just on the receiving end of someone else’s scattergun attempts to get laid.
The information suggests that most men who have affairs are interested in the novelty.
They’re not fussed about the quality of the connection. They want to feel free to do what they want. To feel unfettered. Okay, a disclaimer: most people are (probably) not cheating on our partners and the behaviour of a minority doesn’t necessarily reflect how the rest of us think.
But if these are the kinds of things that men and women are craving outside of their relationships, don’t you think this gives us clues about what men and women are craving inside their relationships, too?
So if men are looking for a chance to cut loose and women are looking for a chance to feel wanted, what does that suggest about what they need from their partners? I would say that, for a relationship to be successful, it’s important to recognise these traits in your partner, to respect them – and to support them.
Look for ways to give them what they need within the confines of the relationship.
If your partner is someone who clearly needs to feel free and independent, let them. Don’t sit up late waiting for them to come home when they’re out with their friends.
Don’t text or call them every five minutes like some crazy stalker and don’t feel you have to reply straightaway every time they get in touch.
Don’t harass them to help you with whatever chore you feel needs doing the minute they walk in the door, when they just want a bit of time in their own head to do their own thing.
Give them some space. Let them feel free. And equally, if your partner is looking for warmth and support, give it to them. Be affectionate. Be gentle.
Take an interest in the things they care about, be it their work or their personal passions and goals.
Listen to them talk and engage with what they have to say. Use “we” not “I” to talk about your plans. Be protective of them and show that you’re on their side.
Let them feel loved.