I found it very interesting to read this week that a group of vigilantes recently hacked the Ashley Madison website. For those who aren't familiar with it, Ashley Madison is a site for married people who want to cheat. Their motto, in fact, is: "Life is short. Have an affair."
Millions of email addresses of Ashley Madison users were dumped in two separate instances, and according to a Reuters article, "The public embarrassment and emotional toll is likely to be enormous on unsuspecting people whose extra-marital affairs may have been exposed on the web."
As well, the spouses of these people are likely to be shattered by learning about their partner's infidelity in such a sudden and public manner.
As a relationship expert and the author of a book for men (Women Decoded) on how to have successful relationships with women, it got me thinking about what would happen if your spouse was one of the people on this list.
I'm a pretty open-minded person. I tend not to be judgmental and I like to look at both sides of the equation. However, I do have a problem with cheating.
If two people get married, it's with the express agreement to be faithful to one-another. Unless there's been an agreement to have an "open marriage," marital infidelity is breaking this agreement.
I can't condone dishonesty, betrayal or hurtful behaviour in the context of marriage, or any relationship, for that matter.
Being an adult is great because we get to choose who we're in relationships with. In childhood, we're stuck with the people we're growing up with and we can't walk away from them, even if they're hurtful to us, but as adults we're free to choose people who treat us well. We're also free to walk away from those who don't.
When we get married, we're choosing to be with someone who we expect will treat us with kindness, consideration and respect. Our expectation, and the stipulation of our marital contract, is that both people will be good to one another, honest with each other and above all, trustworthy.
In our society where very little value seems to be placed on behaving honestly and honourably, it's not surprising that there are millions of subscribers to sites like Ashley Madison. But it's terribly sad.
If your spouse's name came up on this list of dumped emails, how would you feel? And what would you do? Would you forgive them and try to work on the relationship? Would you ever be able to trust your spouse again?
I can imagine this to be a devastating experience for the unsuspecting spouses who were living their lives in the assumption that their partner was honouring the vows they made to be loyal and faithful.
Now sometimes, people aren't that surprised when they find out that their partner has been cheating. Perhaps they were aware of some subtle, or not so subtle, clues to the possibility of infidelity.
Many people use denial as a defence mechanism and ignore the clues that are right in front of their noses. I'm wondering if today, after the Ashley Madison fiasco, will people be looking more closely at their marriages and paying more attention to potential clues that in the past, they ignored.
I guess that this type of hack could be regarded as a sort of gift. For those who've been caught redhanded cheating, it's a wakeup call to examine their behaviour and begin taking responsibility for their dishonesty and cruelty toward their spouse.
For those who've discovered that they're being cheated on, it's a very painful but necessary injection of honesty in a relationship that has been -- through no fault of their own -- harbouring a lie.
And for all of us, it should make us stop, look at our own relationship, let go of any denial or wishful thinking and see our marriages through clear eyes.
Maybe we can put two and two together and recognize that things aren't as rosy as we've been hoping they were. Maybe it's not too late to confront our spouse and try to salvage our marriage.
To those spouses who've been cheated on, I want to say, I'm truly sorry. While I'd never condone an illegal act such as this recent hack, the airing of all this dirty laundry might be a blessing in disguise.
I'd encourage all of you who find your spouse's name on this list to seek out support and counselling -- to make conscious, empowered and informed choices about your relationship and to take the very best care of yourself and your children, now and moving forward.
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