For years, I have refrained from even mentioning the Ashley Madison (AM) services in my articles or blog posts simply because I refused to give them any more exposure. Of course, my silence didn't matter much as story after story appeared in the media debating whether this service was best understood as business brilliance or moral failure.

In case you don't know, Ashley Madison is an online service that promised to arrange discreet affairs for married men and women. It's tagline: "Life is short. Have an affair." And it has been very popular with worldwide subscribers totalling tens of millions.

The "discreet" aspect of the service was challenged this week when hackers claimed to have stolen membership data, complete with names, contact information, pictures, and activities with the service. They have threatened to release all this information unless AM shuts down completely.

I don't know if the threat is real. I don't know what the real motives of the hackers might be. I don't know what AM will do. But I DO KNOW that there are tens of millions of men and women who are much more nervous today than they were 2 days ago. Many lives and marriages are likely to be changed in ways never expected.

AM claims their service doesn't hurt anyone. In fact, they say, it actually makes relationships stronger. Ridiculous. (The founder always was clear to make the point that he had never been unfaithful to his wife!) And now, unfortunately, many may experience the devastation that follows when the thin veil of fantasy is torn away and the reality of 30+ million betrayals are exposed.

If AM goes away, other services will quickly step in to take its place. Technology provides easier-than-ever solutions to those who search for ways to cheat. But the consequences never get easier. And the quick trips into fantasy always end with a return to reality, one way or another.

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