Shock waves are still rippling throughout homes around the world from the recent Ashley Madison scandal. (AshleyMadison.com is an online dating site that promotes adultery and extramarital affairs.) Hackers stole data from its parent company, Toronto-based Avid Life Media, and have been spreading it across the internet.
Ashley Madison has been no friend of families, before or after the recent scandal. In 2014, around Presidents Day, one of its billboards promoting infidelity landed in my community, only miles from FamilyLife headquarters … and my home.
The billboard boasted, “Who said cheaters never prosper? Happy Presidents Day!” and featured images of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton—presidents who were widely alleged to have cheated on their wives.
As a husband, father, and grandfather, I was horrified by this ad and ashamed it was in my community. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all and knew we had to do something to respond. Doing nothing was not an option.
Friends, family, and community leaders reacted as well. One friend of FamilyLife offered to pay for creating a sign in response. Local leaders of a national advertising company were outraged and offered us free use of billboard space in Little Rock.
Looking back now, I hope that our billboard in response to Ashley Madison’s original one might have caused some men and women to think twice before having an affair.
But what about the husbands and wives whose Ashley Madison identity was recently revealed to their spouses? Millions may doubt that their marriages will even survive.
If you are one of them, I want you to know that there is hope! Read “Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery,” by Cindy and Chris Beall. In it, Cindy shares four lessons that she learned as Chris worked to regain her trust. And listen as the Bealls candidly talked to FamilyLife Today® listeners about their difficult journey.
Guarding against adultery
Even if you were not directly affected by the Ashley Madison scandal, it may have prompted you to wonder, How can I protect my marriage?
Adultery is often sparked by emotional unfaithfulness. Two people form an emotional connection, and then sparks began to fly. What was first an emotional affair then becomes a physical affair.
Satan is sly. He takes good gifts of God, such as the intimacy and oneness of spirit that can occur through prayer or Bible study, and interjects some quality into them that is not pleasing to God. We have to be on the alert for the initial warning signs of that, especially in Christian circles. There are several precautions you should take.
First, be careful about how much you share with a person of the opposite sex.
You should beware of praying with just one member of the opposite sex, because of the intimacy involved in prayer. Never share with someone of the opposite sex a problem that you are having with your spouse. It is totally inappropriate for a man to share with a woman any negative comment about his wife, or for a woman to share with a man any negative comment about her husband.
Second, memorize Scripture.
If we are going to be able to resist the temptations that will inevitably come, we must have lives built on the foundation of the Word of God.
Memorize verses like 2 Timothy 2:22, which says, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” When you are tempted, the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind those verses that you have committed to memory.
Third, cultivate intimacy with your spouse.
Make your marriage a priority, and make intimacy such a fun reality in your marriage that you are not even tempted to leave. Learn how to please your spouse, and teach him or her how to please you.
Fourth, maintain openness in your relationship with your spouse.
Early in our marriage, Barbara and I were leading a Bible study and one night Barbara told me she was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with one of the men.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, I just sense that he is a little too friendly,” she said. “You know, I feel foolish for sharing this with you. This is so dumb. There is a voice inside me that says, Don’t share it, don’t let him hear that.”
But I put my arms around Barbara and I said, “I want you to know, Sweetheart, that sharing that with me is the most important thing you could have done.” That is the time when temptation needs to be shared. If you wait until it is full-birthed temptation, it will be too difficult to share. You should discuss it while it still feels silly.
A fifth guard against the trap of adultery is to control your thought life.
If you entertain a fantasy, you are allowing your own desires to drag you away.
It is not wrong to be tempted, and it is not wrong to be attracted. That is not sin. Sin occurs when we act on that temptation. James 1:14-15 tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
The result of entertaining temptation and then acting on it, is death. It is not pleasure. It will not result in long-term satisfaction. It will result in destruction.
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