Logging on to Match.com as an unhappily married mother-of-two was the first real step I took in exploring the pool of available men. I knew what I was looking for: someone like me–divorced or on the brink of it, with a strong libido and no huge desire for commitment. I entered a search query for men who were aged 30-45, divorced, and living within 10 miles of me.
Looking into what else was out there served another purpose for me: I wanted to see if there were normal men who had also made a bad call with their marriage and had the guts and strength to pull the plug and start over again. I wanted to see what those men looked like. In all honesty, I hoped they looked good.
Imagine my disappointent when my search results yielded the exact opposite of what I was looking for. Overweight, balding men, many of them with decorative facial hair, filled my computer screen. I didn’t want to have sex with any of them. After a brief perusal I logged out of the site and quickly forgot about it all.
More recently, in the past few months, I was the most unhappy I had ever been in my marriage. I felt hopeless and I stopped caring. I disliked my husband, and I just wanted to be alone with my kids, but I was also wary of starting over and being alone. So I came up with a plan: What if I could meet someone else while I am married? That would make it much easier for me to break up with my husband, knowing that there is someone else out there that I already liked. Admittedly, this pre-meditated course of action is immature and it would be cheating, but I entertained a fantasy of meeting some dad at the playground or at my kids’ school, sharing witty repartée, planning play dates and then totally falling for each other (it sounds like a Hollywood rom-com, I know).
But how was I going to meet a married man that might be interested in exploring outside of his marriage? Before I started flirting with men at the playground, I wanted to know who these “cheating men” were and what they looked like. Was it even worth my crossing that dangerous line into infidelity? I thought the easiest first step was to check out a website I had heard about for married people who are looking to have discreet love affairs, Ashley Madison.
One night after my husband and kids fell asleep, I visited the site. I was nervous to even enter the site in my browser but my curiosity took over. In order to search I had to sign up for an account so I entered false information and signed up for a trial membership. I eagerly entered some basic search terms, which resulted in a small list of about 20 men. None of them had photos in their profile, but that’s not surprising. I started to read each of their brief headlines to see if I could learn anything meaningful. The headlines were cold, heartless and all about sex. “If you are looking for a hot night, I am your guy,” or “I don’t want to know anything about you, just meet me at a hotel.” Even though I was looking to cheat, I felt disgusted. Somehow, my desire to explore outside my marriage seemed more innocent than these men who were just looking for sex. I was hoping to find a nice, confused person like myself. I felt so dirty and guilty even looking at the search results that I quickly logged out and terminated my account, never to return.
These days, I am back from the brink of divorce, but my husband and I still have hard times. I am constantly analyzing my feelings and our relationship, and often wondering if there is someone better out there. But I am no longer scouring the Internet for a boyfriend. I still find myself checking out the dads at the park or at the gym, taking mental inventory to see how other married-looking people are doing. Is he a single dad? Is he divorced or just no ring? Does he look happy?
When I feel upset in my marriage, I remind myself of a lot of things. “Marriage is a roller coaster” and “Relationships are hard” are two quotes that I often come back to. I also remind myself that I have a great, handsome, fun man and I would be much happier working on what I have rather than jumping back out there and trying to find someone new. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped looking at the men around me.