One visit to the home page of the AshleyMadison.com communicates volumes. The banner reads, “Life is Short. Have an affair”. The visual of a woman whose wedding band is prominently shown gives the universally understood sign for secrecy. AshleyMadison.com was established in 2001 as the self-described “world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters.” The website boasts nearly forty million anonymous users. Except on August 18th, 2015 the secrets were revealed courtesy of The Impact Team, a hacker group, who cracked the Ashley Madison database and vowed to release the names unless the site was taken down. On this infamous date, the hackers posted the names, partial credit card numbers, email and physical addresses, and sexual preferences of 32 million Ashley Madison customers.
Revelation of the database of clientele of Ashley Madison has sent reverberations throughout many sectors of society as many trusted authorities have been implicated. Many clients were military personnel where adultery is explicitly forbidden. Some CEOs have resigned from prominent positions. Just a few days ago, Relevant Magazine reported survey results suggesting that four hundred church leaders will resign this Sunday because of this leak. I suspect that we are only at the beginning of the consequence of the hack.
My focus isn’t on whether The Impact Team’s hack on the Ashley Madison database was just. I clearly think it was wrong of the hackers to illegally crack this database and expose the Ashley Madison customers. But, honestly, that is not what saddens me. My spirit is grieved by the very prominence of this website. My heart is heavy because it boasts nearly forty million users. And,
The Ashley Madison scandal is only the latest evidence in a string of alarming signals. Recent surveys of pastors in the U.S. show that 77% of pastors report that they don’t have a good marriage. This same study points out that 50% of pastors’ marriages, just as among the general population, will end in divorce. Additionally, almost 40% of surveyed pastors admit to an extramarital affair since beginning their ministry—maybe with the help of Ashley Madison.
Might this at least partially explain the recent Gallup poll which concludes that “Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” Gallup arrives at this conclusion as a minority (42%) of Americans indicate confidence in the church or even organized religion.
There is a pandemic in our culture as it pertains to marital fidelity. And, the Church, the very institution that should be a moral compass in this melee has “blood on it’s own hands”. Sadly, for many of these Church leaders, their own moral compass is broken. Thankfully, there are many faithful Church leaders out there who will intercede for a country in need of familial healing.
This post is my encouragement and advice to all married folks who would like to protect their marriage from Ashley Madison. Look. There are no guarantees. We spouses continually fall short of the ideal that God has for us. However, I do believe that these five actions best guard your marriage from an extramarital affair.
- Stay Best Friends
Recent research in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships show that the friendship aspect of a romantic relationship is a strong predictor of love, sexual gratification, and romantic commitment. Relatedly, the research demonstrates that friendship is a protective barrier against dissolution of the relationship. Even more interesting is the fact that these benefits come specifically from valuing the friendship more than any other relational aspect (e.g., sexual intimacy). This is not an isolated study. Two researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics found that life satisfaction and well-being are about twice as large for those whose spouse is also their best friend. The message is simple. Best friends care for one another at an emotional level. They accomplish this by listening more than talking. Best friends make the other person the priority. Your spouse should be your friend with fringe benefits. Sexual, spiritual, physical, and psychological benefits accrue from the position of being best friends.
- Pray together daily
You have probably heard the adage that “couples who pray together, stay together”. My wife and I have prayed together everyday for many years. We are committed to the practice because we know that spiritual intercession is what helps our family and our marriage to thrive. It is very difficult to be unfaithful to a spouse with whom you regularly open your heart in prayer. The safer you feel with your spouse the more open you will be in your prayer. At first, it may seem somewhat rote. But, just keep at it. Pray from your heart without a blaming spirit. Pray with grace. This practice will inevitably heighten your emotional and spiritual sensitivity to one another.
- Share all passwords
My wife, Dalia, knows all of my passwords. She can access my iPad, iPhone, Laptop, and any other secured services that I have. I have nothing to hide from her. If you are unwilling to give your spouse full access to anything then that causes a pause for me. I do understand that there may be justified exceptions, such as maybe a financial account that is only yours (though I personally have a different opinion about that too). This open stance has a least two advantages. It communicates a message to your spouse that you have nothing to hide. So, it builds trust. But, it also is a means to hold you accountable. If you know that your spouse can access a medium you are less likely to use that medium to engage in something to which your spouse would take exception.
- Avoid fatal attractions
Affairs take different forms. Some are planned, long-term trysts by individuals who have emotionally disconnected or compartmentalized their marriage. Others are one-night stands or affairs of convenience by individuals who are genuinely regretful of their poor choice. Some affairs develop slowly as the emotional connection wanes in their marriage and increases with someone else. Other affairs are libido-driven quickies. Regardless of the type of affair, it always has victims and consequences. Every type of extramarital affair is a fatal attraction. The only way to avoid the temptation is to frankly avoid the temptation. The best thing that you can do to protect your marriage is to avoid being alone with anyone to whom you feel a romantic attraction—even a small one. And, if you find yourself unable to shake that attraction avoid being around the person. That could even mean changing a job, if it is a coworker. It could be switching gyms if it is someone you see there. The key is to flee from this temptation while you still have the willpower to do so.
- Sexually stimulate Your Spouse
One of the big problems in marriage is that sensuality is replaced by responsibility. Sex becomes routine and monotonous. Same thing every time. Very predictable. Married couples often lose sexual passion even though they love each other. And because sex is often a difficult topic for couples to discuss, sexual preferences and needs often go unspoken. Spouses need to prioritize each other’s sexual needs. Sex is a powerful motivator—inside and outside of marriage. If those physical needs aren’t satisfied in the context of the marriage, they usually get met outside of the marriage. As couples navigate the different stages of life, sexual assumptions need to be revisited because preferences, needs, schedules, and libido change. If you haven’t had a talk with your spouse about your sexual habits, make it a point to discuss on your next date night. And, yes, you do need to have a regularly scheduled date night.
So, those are the five habits that I believe best protect your marriage from Ashley Madison. The married life is one of ups and downs that take an emotional toll. But, these five habits best position married couples to stay aligned regardless of life’s stressors.
I’d love to hear some of your examples of how you protect your marriage from Ashley Madison. Leave us some tips.