Why I Decided To Search For My Ex-Husband Among Ashley Madison’s Hacked Users (Spoiler Alert: I Didn’t Find Him)
I could try and spin this or soften the intro somehow in an attempt to make the readers more sympathetic to my crazy, however the headline pretty much says it all. No sugarcoating or misdirection would even be possible, it’s pretty straightforward. Yes, I searched the hacked database of Ashley Madison users. I was convinced I would find my ex-husband’s name among the list that has been leaked on the Interwebs. I recognize that this makes me all kinds of psycho but I know I am not alone in doing this and I use that reason to justify why I am coming forward and sharing this story. For those of you who also looked please rest assured you are not alone (and you probably already knew this, right?)! But really… why did I do it in the first place? What did I hope to find? How would it change anything? As usual, I have some theories. So get comfortable because like it or not I am sharing them! (Okay, not really… if you don’t like it you can just stop reading. Free will, folks!)
I don’t think I am betraying any past confidence or trust when I say that my first marriage was not a good one. I think we would both agree that it was a rushed mistake and the best thing to come from it was our eventual divorce. Sure, we had some good times (because really, if we hadn’t than why in the hell would we have even married in the first place?) but those happy moments should have been pleasant memories from a short relationship, not rare occasions in an even shorter marriage. I guess it’s true that you really do live and learn. It has been several years since we separated and I am now happily remarried, yet when the news broke that the names of Ashley Madison users had been hacked and leaked online I knew I had to look. I never knew my ex-husband to be unfaithful to me while we were living together but there were some disagreements as to when “separated and seeing what happens” turned into “ew, I can’t believe we were married and I need this to be legally over ASAP” and where on this timeline his re-entry into the dating world fell. Thus, I personally don’t believe we were on the same page with our beliefs in the area of fidelity. But was he actively searching out ways to cheat? I don’t believe so. Yet still I had a slightly nagging suspicion that he may have been on Ashley Madison at least for the sake of curiosity – a curiosity that resulted from the state of unhappiness in which we both lived for the final year of our (not quite two-year) marriage. Ahem.
Well… I was wrong. I used one of the many websites that were created to search among the hacked names and found nada. I suppose I could have been more diligent during my brief foray into investigation work. After all I only knew of one email address that he used – his work account – and had he actually been a registered user on Ashley Madison he most likely would have (probably) been smart enough to use a personal email. And even if his name had popped up I would never be able to ascertain the timing and whether any alleged activity on the website occurred during our marriage. So yes, I knew all this, and still I looked (and yes, I also told my husband I was curious and would be looking). But why. Really… WHY?
What it comes down to is that I was looking for a reason. A reason that could become the excuse for why I was divorced, one that had nothing to do with me – at least not directly. Something that could scoop up the marriage, the divorce, the general mistake of the entire union itself and tie it all up with a bow. And that “bow,” that big, flashing neon-sign of an act that couldn’t be ignored or overlooked would suddenly excuse me from having even been in the marriage in the first place. As simple as a hall pass or a get out of jail card and the slate would be wiped clean. “It didn’t really count because he cheated” (or rather registered on a website that may have led to cheating). In short: I wanted it to never have happened and if I couldn’t have that than at least I could find a way to lessen the worth of the marriage somehow. This seemed like a way to do that.
Sometimes the thing that bothers me most about my first marriage is that it happened, period. I wish it didn’t, I wish we never lived those 20-something months as man and wife and I wish most of all that my current marriage was my one and only. It would be great if my now-husband was the only one to whom I said “I do.” I recognize this is probably silly and my husband has never, ever made me feel this way. He accepts me and loves me for who I am and all I have experienced, divorce included. And I know deep down that I am ME, the girl he married, because of – not in spite of – all my life experience. But yes, I admit that sometimes I wish things were different.
I suppose I saw the Ashley Madison hack as my chance to find an eraser of sorts for my life, something to wipe out and excuse that chapter in my history. But I didn’t find a thing and now nothing changes. And what if I had found his name among the 36 million users? Samesies. Nothing would have changed. It wouldn’t nullify the marriage nor would it wipe out the past. Maybe I’d have the excuse I was looking for but that would be all. Thanks to years of distance from the marriage and some kick-ass, post-divorce therapy I know that I wouldn’t have been upset, I may have even laughed in an “oh boy, of course he did” sort of way. It wouldn’t have hurt my feelings or affected my self-worth like it may have a few years back. Maybe I just needed to go through this process as a reminder of how far I’ve come.
As I explained it to my husband, “I ultimately want you to be my first marriage, I wish I could give you that. I think I was trying to find a way to make that happen, as twisted as it sounds.” And he did something that no search results could top. He told me that as far as he is concerned this is my first marriage.
All in all this was a good reminder that growth and healing comes in all forms, sometimes in the most unexpected of ways. And yes, oddly enough, that even includes the hacking of an online dating website for adults in “committed relationships.”