On Sunday 1st February, during the most popular US TV programme of the year, the Super Bowl, a controversial advert was aired. The NFL and NBC both felt it was inappropriate but local affiliates in Texas decided that $250,000 for a 30-second spot was too much to turn down. The commercial advertised an online dating service for… married people. It showed a couple at a restaurant on their wedding anniversary. The man was an obnoxious jerk who talked on the cell phone al through the supper. Then, he got up to leave during dessert, and said, “Happy anniversary, honey.” The voice-over, targeted at women, asked, “Isn’t it time for Ashley Madison?” Their website promises “Have an affair…guaranteed”. The company owner defended the ad by noting he was simply providing a service for people wanting to be honest about their displeasure with marriage. He started the service in 2001 after reading that 30% of the people signing up for singles dating services were married. He now has 3.3 million members. Texas was the only state to see the ad, but that was intentional. Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio represent their fastest-growing markets with nearly a quarter-million members joining in the past few months. Less than 24 hours after the Super Bowl ad, Houston alone accounted for more than 147,000 hits to the site.
How does adultery occur?
In Temptations Men Face, Tom Eisenman lists 12 common steps that occur in sequence as a relationship moves toward adultery.
1. Readiness Unresolved issues in a marriage that make the partners vulnerable.
2. Fantasizing Innocent thoughts about someone else beginning to turn to fantasizing. The ‘what if” which we rationalize as day dreaming.
3. Innocent Meeting Heightened awareness when around someone. Electricity.
4. Intentional Meeting Plotting to be in the same area so you might see them again. Playing games. This is the point when a person enters the danger zone.
5. Public Lingering Mutually agreeing to spend time together, ignoring others, shutting others out of the conversation. Showing particular interest in the other person’s personal history, interests. Observers might pick up that something is unusual at this point.
6. Private Lingering Long after others have left they are still talking. A growing excitement in being together alone. Converrsations shift from ideas to feelings. Caring is shared.
7. Purposeful Isolating Now the couple begin to plan times alone for legitimate purposes. Men will often confide in the woman and ask for advice with their marriage problems. Or the woman asks the man to stay late at the office to help her with the computer. The couple will still deny any suggestion that their relationship is not completely appropriate. At home, however, a wife might notice a decrease in verbal and nonverbal communication. He seems detached, almost formal.
8. Pleasurable Isolating Now a couple are planning times alone just for the sheer enjoyment and fun of being together. It takes on a youthful euphoria. There is more intimacy. The warm touch of the hand or arm. The couple will still rationalize that they are just good friends.
9. Affectionate Embracing Secret longings become intense. There is embracing often through tickling or wrestling. Physical expression is still rationalized.
10. Passionate Embracing Alcohol or anything that reduces inhibition contributes to increased physical desire and expression. Behaviour is rationalized because a husband or wife is unfeeling or doesn’t make me feel this way.
11. Capitulation Denial is eliminated. There is no longer anyway they can deny the reality of what is happening.
12. Acceptance The couple will admit to each other that they are having an affair. If it continues it is by mutual consent. The spouse is almost always aware at this point. The emotional investment in the affair is at its highest and investment at home at its lowest. The tension of living a double life is usually too much to bear for very long and there is often relief when it is discovered.
Eisenman asks, “Is this the end of the story? Do the man and woman live happily ever after? No. The story of an affair is not a comedy. It is a tragedy.” As James Dobson says, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed.” Once the excitement wears off the couple have to return to the real world and the imperfections they had not seen or had ignored become apparent. But by now there is a trail of pain much like a cancer that begins to eat away at the new relationship. Children have been hurt. A wife or husband abandoned. One or more marriages wrecked. Have you ever tried to put toothpaste back in the tube? Hard isn’t it?
How to fireproof your marriage: Matthew 5:27-30 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.