This past June, Ashley Madison, an online dating service for married people seeking an extramarital affair, released a list of the top 20 cities where infidelity takes place. Three of these cities were in Texas, with Garland at number 13, Plano at number 15 and Arlington at number 20. One of the puzzling things about this data was that the city of Dallas proper was not on this list, and neither were a lot of major metropolises. The list was mostly comprised of suburban cities, where many would not expect for there to be an active nightlife scene. However, in the suburbs, there is a high cost of living, which may lead to financial strain in marriages.
Many divorce lawyers cite lack of communication as precursors to affairs, and sometimes, to the dissolution of marriage. The lack of communication could be in regard to finances, emotion or physical intimacy.
“Infidelity stems from other problems in the marriage,” says Michelle O’Neil, Esq. of O’Neil Wysocki Family Law. “People don’t get married just to cheat on their spouse. Usually, there’s a problem in the relationship that is coming from somewhere else. A lot of times, people have unhappiness in their marriages because of financial issues, or maybe there are medical issues that lead to a lack of sex in the marriage. Those are all kind of things that underline problems in a marriage. When there are problems in the marriage, that’s when people start looking outside of the marriage for solutions.”
While those who cheat and those whose marriages ultimately end in divorce usually cite similar reasons as to why they did what they did, some people feel that they didn’t ever receive a clear answer. Such was the case for Frisco resident Matthew Millstone*, who discovered that his now ex-wife had an extramarital affair.
“Honestly, I’m not sure why she cheated,” Millstone says, “because at the time we had just been married and had a child. I was going back to school to get a better job as well. She switched to a new job and started going out with people from work after. Just eating or hanging out in general. At first, it wasn’t a big deal, but then she started doing it more often and leaving me to watch my daughter alone a lot of the time. I suppose she was getting some type of attention that she didn’t feel like I was giving her. I really can’t pinpoint an exact reason.”
In her 27 years as a divorce lawyer, O’Neil has found that in hetero marriages, men tend to cheat to seek something physical, whereas women tend to seek emotion and romance.
“I think people cheat because they’re looking for that escape from the problems in their own relationships,” O’Neil says. “Instead of doing the hard work and going home and fixing things and doing the best they can, sometimes, the easier route, or maybe the more fun route, is to just take your mind off of it for a little while and just have that temporary relationship.”
Since the divorce from his ex-wife, Millstone* has remarried, had another daughter and is currently expecting a son in the fall. However, despite his happiness with his current family, he believes that his ex-wife’s affair has left lasting consequences.
“I honestly don’t even know what is considered normal anymore,” Millstone* says, “so it’s hard for me to discern when I should actually be upset about something and when I shouldn’t even bring it up because it’s harmless. It’s been really difficult for me to let go and love somebody, but fortunately, I’ve found somebody that understands and is incredibly patient while I learn how to be normal again. It definitely puts a strain on my relationship that is totally undeserved. My wife has been nothing but incredibly loyal and patient, and yet I still find it hard to truly relax and not worry.”
While Garland, Plano and Arlington may have placed high on the Ashley Madison rankings, the significance of this data is unclear. The list indicates the number of people who signed up for the Ashley Madison service, however, there’s no clear indication as to whether or not those sign-ups resulted in extramarital affairs.
“What that says to me is that people have a desire to look outside of their marriage, but there aren’t a lot of places or opportunities to seek that out,” O’Neil says. “They’re finding that the internet and specifically, Ashley Madison, are places to seek out that type of relationship. Plano is very much a suburb. It’s not a place where you can go to a nightclub. So I think it’s more a measure of lack of alternatives to find an affair for those who want to have one.”
Although O’Neil has nearly three decades of experience in family law, she has found that there is no concise, universal definition of “cheating.” She claims she has seen nearly every type of marriage dynamic possible, and that she is constantly learning.
“There’s no one cookie-cutter rule for a marriage,” O’Neil says, “There’s no one thing that says ‘this is how a marriage works.’ Two people are in a marriage and they can set their own rules. There may be some marriages that have some open rules, and both parties may be happy with that. It’s all a matter of abiding by those rules.”
*Indicates a name change to protect identity