H-CENTRAL COAST

Feb 16, 2011 1:22 AM by Ariel Wesler

High-Tech Cheating Part II: Moral Debate

Our report about the online dating site AshleyMadison.com has stirred up controversy across the Central Coast and on our KSBY Facebook page.

The website connects people looking to have an affair. Last night, we showed you what local users had to say about why they signed up for the site.
In part two of our report: High-Tech Cheating, we're exploring the morality or immorality behind the website's popularity.

Mary Jo Pedersen, a marriage and family therapist at the Central Coast Counseling Center in Santa Maria, calls AshleyMadison.com a complete fantasy.

"When I look at this here, I get sort of a cold chill," Pedersen said.

She had never heard of the site before, but scoffs at the "affair guarantee."

"This is a guarantee that your marriage is going to go through some really hard times," she said.

Pedersen says users delude themselves into thinking the site will help keep their marriage together and they're just one click away from happiness. She says any lasting marriage has its ups and downs.

"There's no marriage on the planet that's going to be able to sustain, ongoing, all the time, excitement and a high," Pedersen said.

Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman first launched the site in 2002 after learning that 30 percent of users on traditional dating websites were already in relationships.

"It's a way for them to still love and cherish their family relationship, their extended family, their economics, but to pursue something that isn't taking place in the bedroom," Biderman said.

While many question his business ethics, the site boasts more than 8.3 million users worldwide and 19,000 on the Central Coast. In fact, since we started researching this story a month ago, another 200,000 members have joined the site. Biderman says it's the 2nd fastest growing social network on the planet and proves affairs are universal.

"This is a business that can find a home in everywhere from Baltimore to Beijing, from Sydney to San Diego," he said.

"There's a lot of devastated people out there. That's what this tells me," Pedersen said. "It's short term thinking. It's like you don't understand the devastation this is going to cause."

Biderman says he's not trying to destroy relationships, but simply providing a safe and secure place for men and women to do what they've been doing for centuries.

"You can't watch a 30 second TV commercial or a 60 second radio ad or see a billboard and say, 'You know what? I was happy a minute ago, but they're right. Life is short. Have an affair. I'm gonna go have an affair.' It doesn't work that way," Biderman said.

But Pedersen aruges the lasting impacts of having an affair are no joke.

"It takes up to two years to work through an affair, to reconcile in therapy," she said.

Biderman, who's married, says therapy doesn't work for everyone and critics shouldn't blame the website for infidelity. So, if his wife cheated on him?

"I would take a long look in the mirror and say 'How was I not being accountable to my relationship. How did I fail to understand the needs and wants, and why did it go down this path?'"

"We just have so many resources to help couples get reconnected, make their marriage vital," Pedersen said. "Why not do that?"

Whether you like it or not, High-tech cheating is clearly catching on, and you can be sure this passionate issue won't be put to bed anytime soon.

If you're wondering how the website got its name, Ashley and Madison were the two most popular girls names when the website launched in 2002. Biderman says he was hoping that would attract more woman to the site.

If you think you may be in need of relationship or marriage counseling, you can find some help below.

Centralcoastcounseling.com

Affairrecovery.com

Beyondaffairs.com

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