Four quick thoughts on the Ashley Madison hack:

  1. Should you post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times? “No” used to be standard advice, but that isn’t practical any more. I do online banking, but that doesn’t mean I want my financial information all over the internet. Nor my credit card information, which is stored with various online retailers who shall remain nameless but I wrote about one of my favorites last week. It’s unrealistic to expect people to go “all-analog” at this point in our technological development.
  2. That having been said, a credit card can be cancelled, and a bank account can be closed and reopened elsewhere. But once your spouse or significant other finds out you’ve been cheating, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to remedy that except grovel and beg for mercy. (Or claim you were hacked. Yeah, that’s the ticket.)
  3. If an employer were to call for advice about an employee who was “exposed” in the hack, would I recommend termination? Not unless the employee is in a position in which marital fidelity is an “essential function” of the employee’s job, or at least an important one. Pastor of a church? Sure. Lobbyist for the Family Research Council? Yep. If the employee’s “partner” was also an employee? Possibly, depending on the circumstances. In most cases, I would not recommend taking action against the adulterous employee unless there was reason to believe that the relationship would affect job performance. A consensual relationship — even if adulterous — is not sexual harassment.

(CAUTION: A consensual relationship between co-workers will often result in post-breakup accusations that one party sexually harassed the other. This is especially true with adulterous relationships, in my opinion, because of the increased number of victims — not only the parties to the relationship, but their respective spouses and family members — and because of the intense feelings of anger and betrayal.)

  1. I saw today that two men have committed suicide, presumably as a result of being exposed. Gives new meaning to the slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair,” doesn’t it? (Just so you know, my snark is directed at that abominable website, not these men.) Cheating on your spouse is bad, and getting caught may be worse. But it is not the end of the world. Maybe this will be a very painful-but-constructive learning experience. Maybe this will force you to address some issues in your relationship (or within yourself) that you hadn’t addressed before. And think of all the people who love you in spite of what you did and how devastated they will be. (Possibly including your spouse and kids — just because they’re furious with you doesn’t mean they don’t still love you.) Please don’t ever feel that taking your life is the only way out.