Having the Ashley Madison 'Talk'

September 1st, 2015

Now that millions of members of the cheating website Ashley Madison have been outed by hackers, it’s time for pastors to start giving their members — especially the ones considering marriage — The Talk.

It needs to be as frank as the talk that African-American parents give to their children so they can survive — hopefully — encounters with biased or bigoted police officers. It should be as real as the talk that many modern parents seem to be having with their children about sex and sexuality — even though some of us with children and grandchildren are still waiting for parents to give us “the talk.”

Maybe pastors should start by having couples do a Google search of words like “infidelity,” “extramarital affairs,” and “cheating spouses.” They’d get a serious reality check about how prevalent and pervasive infidelity is — and perhaps that it’s easier than they might think to mess up.   

They also need to know how to gauge the internal warning signs that indicate a person might be vulnerable to having affairs. Perhaps pastors should lead couples through an emotional and psychological inventory to uncover any potentially problematic experiences, feelings or memories.

What may be most challenging is facing the reality that being Christians and going to church don’t inoculate a couple from adultery. Couples need to see the statistics regarding adultery and Christians.

And if the pastor is healthy, transparent and brave, she or he will make it clear to the couple that even some clergy cheat on their own spouses — some falling prey to seduction; others by being predatory themselves. Of all the affair scenarios into which a Christian can fall, it may be the worst. Clergy-lay person affairs not only can destroy a marriage, but can make any future connections with God or the church difficult, if not impossible.

Sex is one of the most important aspects of a marriage, yet many of us have been ill-prepared for its physical, emotional, mental and spiritual impact. Some of us tripped over it on our way into puberty without understanding fully what we’d discovered until years later, accumulating painful mistakes and destructive bad habits along the way. Some have been forced into sex by molesters and rapists who preyed on unsuspecting victims in Sunday School classes and choir rehearsals.

Marriage is, of course, a good thing. I believe in it so much that I decided to try it again after my first marriage failed.

But marriage is not a fairy tale. Husbands aren’t Prince Charmings. Wives aren’t Cinderellas. Marriage requires an unwavering commitment to personal growth, to each other and to the concept of marriage itself.

Couples need to know upfront that Ashley Madison — or her dastardly brother Allen — are always lurking in the shadows, looking for an opportunity to poison their love and destroy their marriage. And if they are going to make their marriage work, they need to know how to identify the enemy, especially in the church where Jesus said the wheat and tares will grow together.  

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