On the heels of the Ashley Madison hack, adultery is a focus. Some 30+ million names, email addresses and sexual proclivities searchable for those who scour the Dark Web.
Recent revelations show as few as 12,000 of the purported 15 million female-operated accounts on the break-your-vows facilitation site were real. That is, human women looking for extra-marital affairs on Ashley Madison were outnumbered by men thousands-to-one.
Gizmodo’s Annalee Newitz called the database a “dystopian place” where “where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.” How many 50-year-old men unwittingly pursued a chain-smoking profile fabricator thinking they were potentially hooking up with a fit 26-year-old?
The entire story is sad. Sad for the cheating hearts, sad for the cheated hearts, and sad for site owners profiting on the sadness. Each encounter featured people in the role of both prostitute and john whose hoped for dalliances were mediated by a digital pimp. Or, as Newitz concluded, “When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.”
It appears Ashley Madison wasn’t literal Animal House; it was virtual Fantasy Island. For every marriage ruined by an actual affair, who knows how many will be ruined by the length a spouse went trying to secure one.
The hack reminds us that married people cheat. Adultery–physical or emotional–was not invented by Ashley Madison. People cheated before, people will cheat after, and people cheat without registering for any online account. It’s nearly as old as humanity.
It’s a real shame, because being faithful is better. Committing to, and staying with the same spouse from “I do” until “Ashes to ashes” (rather than Ashleys to Ashleys) is the preferred track for happiness, not to mention holiness. Affairs happen when one spouse or the other quits. Quits trying. Quits loving. Quits putting the other first and foremost. Quits following Jesus.
Why quit? Why quit loving? Why quit pursuing? Why quit putting the other first? Why quit following Jesus? Don’t.
Staying happily married is a challenge, no doubt, but it is worth the effort. It is worth all the work, all the sacrifice, all the times “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” must be offered. It is worth the growing. It is worth the set backs. It is worth the listening. It is just worth it.
Perhaps you’ve heard a long-married person say, “I love him/her much more now than when we first married.” It’s true. The boisterous, emotion filled love of the early years isn’t replaced in a long marriage, but it does morph. Love in a long marriage has been tested. It is battle-scarred. It has resisted temptation and clung to a committed love for “as long as you both shall live.”
Marriages that last 40, 60, 75 years are rare any more. Marriage of those lengths that also continue to grow, with both spouses developing personally and caring for each other, are in the realm of the miraculous. Two people who personally grow will never run out of ways to grow closer to each other. Two people need not enjoy the beginning decades of marriage, only to endure the ending ones. Maturity need not mean mundane.
People don’t just stop loving each other, either. Love loss is at the end of a thousand little missed opportunities to express love or enjoy it. If you cannot love God and mammon because of the inherent impossibility, you’ll find an equal challenge between spouse and work or hobbies or children or parents or self. Intentional expressions of love in latter years are not less loving than spontaneous expressions in the former years; sometimes they are moreso.
The key is not to get into a place mentally, emotionally or spiritually where a non-spouse looks more appealing than your spouse. The grass on the other side of the fence often only looks greener. Sometimes it’s the angle of the sun. Other times it’s just manure.
Those who are followers of Jesus need to remember our marriages are patterned after Christ and His church. He does not cheat; we should not cheat. He does not give up; we should not give up.
The temptation to cheat is real, and, I’m sure, for those who seek such, an affair will be readily available, even if you have to pay for it. Don’t fall for it. Exposure lies at the far end of the secrets. Put your energy into your own marriage. Stay faithful. It’s better.
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