Perhaps you’ve noticed Ashley Madison trending on the Internet lately. The story here is one of the saddest I’ve heard or read about in a long time.
Ashley Madison, if you aren’t aware, is a dating site for married people. Keep in mind, this is not a dating site for persons interested in developing neat ideas for taking their spouses on dates. That would actually be pretty useful. This is a dating site for married persons interested in sleeping with other people’s spouses. These are married people who are going out of their way to dishonor their wedding vows.
Anyway, the story is that the site’s database was hacked and the hackers are threatening to expose information on all of the site’s 37 million users. Of course, this is a top story because 37 million marriages are now in jeopardy. 37 million people who are cheating on their spouses are now in danger of being exposed.
I’m not naive enough to think that accidents can’t happen, but these aren’t folks who are accidentally getting in over their heads. These are not “it just happened” situations. These are people going out of their way to set up profiles, keep a secret, and find discreet places to meet so that their husbands and wives won’t find out. That takes effort. It takes imagination. It takes determination. It also takes a callous disregard for the other person in your marriage. The site’s slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair”. Gag. What a nauseatingly self-centered way to approach life. It’s deliriously sinister. It’s like a game, and honestly, it sickens me how many people are playing.
But this story is important because it hints at a larger problem–people are no longer taking responsibility for their lives, their happiness, or their marriages.
What People Are Doing Wrong
I’m not going to pretend I know all the ins and outs of people’s marriages or why they feel the need to resort to an affair. A Google search for “why people cheat”, though, yields approximately 9.74 catrillion results, so you know it’s on people’s minds.
I am going to assume that most of these lists of reasons say roughly the same things. I bet I can guess: not enough sex, feeling unappreciated, not enough sex, a breakdown of communication, feeling alienated, lack of variety when it comes to sex, kids cramp the romance, sex, one-sided divvying up of household duties, not enough sex; get the idea? It’s true that sex is an important part of a marriage, but we here in the western world have been conditioned to believe that sex is the altar to which we should bow. We’ve made a god out of it and, of course, our spouses cannot live up to the billing. There is no way they could.
The site’s 37 million users prove that people aren’t doing marriage right. Fairy tale movies and romantic comedies have left us disillusioned. They have led us to believe that marriage is easy, a bright and fun adventure that ends with us kissing our spouses in the rain and riding off into the sunset, never to be hit with the real world again. Such portrayals could not possibly be any further from the truth, and really, they probably do a disservice to anyone entering marriage with that false notion of what it will be like.
So what happens when the marriage isn’t exactly what we thought it would be? We blame our spouse, and this is everything that is wrong with our self-obsessed, narcissistic, Instagram-crazy world. People refuse to take responsibility for their own lives and for their own marriages, and I am tired of it. Somewhere we learned that other people are responsible for our happiness, we are entitled to it, and that we no longer need to be the bearer of our own burdens. This is possibly the most destructive, damaging change in mindset that our world has undergone, the neglect of responsibility for our own lives.
I am sick of people not taking responsibility for their lives. Affairs do not make people happy, and they do not help marriages. What makes us happy is fulfilling our commitment and honoring our wedding vows. Happiness comes from doing what we are called to do, which is love, nurture, and be faithful to our spouses. The idea that happiness could come from something other than that is misguided and erroneous. We’ve been led astray if we think that happiness could result from causing harm to the other people in our lives.
This story shows that selfism is reigning supreme, as per our new usual. 37 million people are choosing themselves over their spouses, their marriages, and in some cases, their children. It shows that 37 million people are marching to the altar of sexual gratification and sacrificing the well-being of their wives, husbands, and children. The remains left on the altar give testimony to the fact that we no longer revere marriage as sacred, but rather as something to be used to our own benefit, and only as long as it suits us.
The ironic part of this whole deal is that there really is nothing to gain from this other than a cheap sexual encounter. I have no idea what percentage of the site’s users experience guilt and regret, but I have to guess that the stress of living a secret double life would outweigh the cheap sexual encounter. No doubt that hardly stops people, and I suppose that after espousing selfishness as a way of life, eventually one becomes immune to the guilt and regret.
What these 37 million adulterous betrayers fail to recognize is that there is only one person who is responsible for the success of their marriage, and it’s them. This is not to diminish the role of the spouse. Obviously it takes two to make a successful marriage, but this problem will not go away until we figure out how to take responsibility for making our marriages work.
We are responsible for working with our spouses and figuring out ways to get our needs met inside our marriages.
People used to know this. We used to be experts at working out differences and settling for compromises. It was okay if every last one of our needs wasn’t getting met because we were happy to sacrifice for our spouses. In fact, I wrote a post a month or two back about sacrifice being the cornerstone of a healthy marriage, and that certainly rings truer than ever. We might argue that none of our needs is getting met. Yet this still doesn’t give us license to have an affair. Wedding vows are not dependent on spouses’ every last need getting met; how did we come to a conclusion like that? It’s an illusion, and even reading a simple set of wedding vows will dispel such a notion.
What We Can Do Right
There is, however, a bright spot here in the midst of the darkness and confusion. There is an opportunity for us to pounce on, and we should, with all the vigor of people trying to save the integrity of the modern world.
It’s times like these when those of us who are living in healthy marriages have our chance to shine. We can embrace the opportunity to step up and be the light the world needs to see. With self-absorbed people disillusioned with marriage, here we stand. There is beauty in sacrifice. There is wisdom in taking responsibility for our own happiness inside our marriages. We can be witnesses to these truths. We have to be, because if it’s not us, it’s nobody.
It’s time for us to step up and take responsibility for our marriages. Stop waiting for the perfect marriage to show up on our doorsteps, and start taking steps to build it. It won’t build itself, and only we can take the first steps. We won’t find the answer in an affair, we’ll find it at home with your spouse. We won’t find it by escaping to someone else, we’ll find it by working at our marriages with our spouses. There is no happiness is sin and deceit, there is happiness in truth and virtue.
Further, we ought to recognize that the purpose of marriage isn’t to fulfill every last one of our physical, emotional, and spiritual desires. Only God can do that. To think that our spouses are capable of offering total fulfillment is to make our spouses into gods, and this is where we become disillusioned. Our spouses are not supposed to be gods, they are supposed to point us to the one God who can fulfill all of our desires.
Again, perhaps we could realize that responsibility for the health and satisfaction of our marriages starts with us. It doesn’t start with our spouse or with anyone else, it starts with us. It can start today, right now, with a phone call or a text. Even the simplest gesture serves to strengthen the marriage and make it stronger.
Lastly, keeping in mind our desire to build a culture of life, let’s remember that this culture of life must begin at home and inside our marriages. It begins with the faithful living out of our vows. It takes a mutual working together. So what do we do when we need something from our spouses? Let’s ask for it. Let’s have an open and honest conversation. Let’s be willing to sacrifice. But let’s remember that our spouses aren’t gods. They are not here to meet every one of our needs.
We don’t have to be disillusioned with marriage. We just need to have the right expectations and a determination to live out our vows.