Schadenfreude

One of the greatest things I have learnt about being a blogger, is that of empathy. In telling my little stories, I get to hear yours.

This week I wrote about the Ashley Madison Scandal. You can read it here. One of the members of our community got in touch with her own story. We went back and forth a bit, and I invited her to share her experience. And she agreed.

I hope it makes you think about things a little differently. My tiny mind was blown.

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It was a first year university Pyschology class, when the lecturer asked if anyone knew what schadenfreude was, and she was greeted by 30 blank stares. When the lecturer explained that, it meant to feel pleasure or enjoyment at the misfortune of others, there were 30 of us, nodding our heads, all quietly reflecting on a somewhat guilty feeling we’d had, without knowing there was a name for it.

In the last week, the world has been gripped by a mass case of shadenfreude. The media and public have gleefully been watching on as the fall out from the Ashley Madison hack has filled newsfeeds and column spaces. The general consensus seems to be “serves them right” of the (mostly) men who have been publicly ousted as being cheaters.

I have watched all of the coverage, the conversations and god help me, read the comments sections, though not with glee or enjoyment, but with a growing sense of sadness. You see, almost 2 years ago my marriage was destroyed, when I discovered my Husband’s Ashley Madison account.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but that sunny November morning (it was Melbourne Cup Day), with my 4yr old watching Playschool, I sat at the kitchen bench with his Ipad and found page after page that would cause my entire world disintegrate before my very eyes. Dozens of conversations, some so horrifically sexually graphic I couldn’t bring myself to finish reading them. The photo he’d used on his profile was him lying in a bed I didn’t recognize, on yellow sheets – we didn’t have yellow sheets! It wasn’t a selfie, that much was obvious, so who the hell had taken it?

Articles outing prominent figures and minor celebrities are popping up left, right and center. Commenters are having a field day with self righteous columns throwing stones. But behind every name published on that list, are people like me and my 2 beautiful daughters, who are the innocent bystanders, caught up in lies and cheating.

After our split, I went through the emotional roller-coaster that I imagine anyone who has caught a cheating spouse goes through; shame, grief, self-doubt (oh…so much of that one), anger, rage… it goes on. All the while trying to protect my young children from the mess behind the scenes with “Mummy & Daddy are happier not living together” and “we’ll always be a family and love you, we just live in different houses”.

But I was lucky, it was all done in private. The humiliation of what had happened to me was mine, and mine alone to manage the best I could. Don’t underestimate this feeling… I was humiliated. A drunken fumble at a Christmas party? That I probably could have come to terms with. But the active seeking of an affair, spending over $700 of our hard earned money (I was working 2 jobs at the time to support him setting up his own business). How could I not feel that humiliation, that shame, that feeling that somehow I’d created this… what had I done wrong, why had he gone looking for such things?

I can’t even fathom how it must feel to be going through that publicly. Not only to find out in such a way, but knowing that your neighbor, your friends, your teenager, in fact anyone with an internet connection can now find out the darkest secrets of your relationship.

My girls are young, so I’m lucky that I have many years to rehearse my answers to some inevitable questions. I never want to them to lose the undying admiration and love they have for their Father. I’ve worked damn hard to separate my feelings of betrayal and loathing, from the day to day relationship my children and I foster with him. I tell them stories of when we fell in love, when they were born, when we travelled the world… the happy times. They play dress ups in my wedding dress, and the heavy black album of our wedding day is out to look at whenever they want. They will know that we loved each other fiercely and we will both love them both without question. I will not become that bitter, twisted woman.

Aside from a few very close friends, no-one knows what I found that November morning, and if I have my way that’s how it will stay. A marriage is between 2 people, and when a marriage pulls apart at the seams, there should only be the those 2 sides – it’s nobody else’s god damn business. This whole scandal removes that privilege of privacy from millions of families. It’s now public consumption.

I hate every column article, every self serving, self righteous comment, and I wonder how many authors of all of these words have quietly logged onto the sites that will scroll through the 32 million names and just double checked… because trust is a fragile thing, and humans are imperfect. Glass houses and all that…. I’m happy that they get to be self righteous, because it can only mean they haven’t felt the hurt and indignity that I have. But you know what? Shoosh now… please, just, enough.

It must seem ironic that Ashley Madison destroyed my marriage, and yet here I am defending the privacy of those exposed. But I’m not defending the cheaters. No… I’m defending the right to dignity and discretion of the wives and children, who are now caught up in this. Because their lives, their dreams, everything that, until a few days ago seemed so safe, will now collapse.

Shadenfreude is the sense of enjoyment at another’s downfall. At the end of the day, the ones who will suffer the most loss in all of this is not the ones everyone is pointing the finger at… trust me… I know.