From the first relationship in the Garden itself, it's clear spouses don't always have their partner's best interest in mind.
You know the story – the serpent tempted Eve who in turn coaxed Adam who was with her to bite into the forbidden fruit. Adam, of course, was Eve's husband, her helpmate, her friend, her confidant. And yet, there's nothing in the Genesis account that would indicate Eve struggled with her decision to involve Adam. Did she not care about him? Did she not love him? Certainly, but isn't it interesting that "love" just wasn't enough of a protection in this particular situation?
In a nutshell, Eve bit hook, line and sinker when the devil convinced her that the real reason God didn't want her to eat the fruit was because he was trying to withhold from them something exceedingly good. In essence, the serpent was calling God a liar. All of a sudden Eve went from someone completely vested in her husband to one who contributed to his downfall (which is not to say Adam didn't have the responsibility for his own actions).
It doesn't take a degree in Marriage and Family to realize that husbands and wives have for thousands of years been making similarly selfish decisions, many with lifelong negative consequences. One thing that is different, however, is that in today's world, couples face technologically-driven temptations along this line as well. Old enticements often come repackaged with a new twist using today's computers and the anonymity that comes within cyberworld.
A MySpace World
Obviously, the Internet has introduced pornography into many, many homes. Although a huge problem, I want to focus on less obvious temptations affecting some marriages. For instance, the other day while doing research about social networking sites, I stumbled upon a MySpace profile that I'm sure represents untold thousands. Here was a man who described himself as married with several children. But he had built his entire online profile describing himself as some type of, well, I'll use the term "sex-god." He had posted photos of women in various sensual poses, often with very little clothing. In an online poll he had pasted into his site, he had asked sexually-oriented questions in inappropriate fashion.
I couldn't help but wonder why a married man would do such a thing? Nor could I help but wonder what his wife or children would think if they discovered his secret online "life." (Perhaps his wife does know, which presents a whole other set of problems). Because the Internet world is considered a private domain where the user can be anonymous, this man apparently felt safe to try and make himself out to be some sort of Casanova.
Whatever the reason, he's certainly not alone. Just ask Sue Hoogestraat. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, she was understandably upset when she discovered her husband had a virtual marriage in Second Life, a fictional cyberworld where online visitors participate in commerce, sex and relationships, and build their own imaginary world. Although Ric Hoogestraat had never met, or even spoken with, Janet Speilman, the woman who controlled her online character, the two constantly spent time "together" in cyberspace – eventually "marrying." "It's really devastating," expressed Sue. "You talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they'll be having sex with a cartoon." Ric can't understand why his wife would have a problem with his online escapades. In his mind, it's all a big game. But is it?
The Dangers of Anonymity
Brad Paisley's hit country single, "Online," humorously describes a pudgy loner who boasts of chatting with several women online (or at least he thinks they're women). As he chats, he claims to be taller and thinner than he actually is. Although the song intentionally pokes fun at how people can and do represent themselves via the anonymity of the Internet, it's no laughing matter when a married person goes online intentionally looking for someone to fill a need that only his or her spouse should satisfy.
Some may argue that having an edgy social networking profile, carrying on online relationships and chatting within cyberspace is relatively innocent stuff because there's no intention of really getting involved physically. I'd argue to the contrary. It's not just getting involved physically that crosses the line, it's the very desire to play around online in an area involving a certain amount of intimacy.
For some married individuals who feel under-appreciated and under-respected, the anonymity of the Web allows for a chance to flirt and pretend. What could be wrong with that? Dr. David Jeremiah, commenting about a list of "hedges" that individuals need to put up to guard their marriages, had this to say about flirting: "Never flirt, even in jest. Never flirt with someone other than your [spouse]." Of course, flirting used to be something that primarily occurred face-to-face. Not any more. Flirting can now take place through chat, text message, IM, online gaming and profiles. Still, Dr. Jeremiah's advice is valid.
The Gift of Intimacy
The author of Proverbs offers incredible advice along these lines when he says: "Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. ...May you rejoice in the wife of your youth...may her breasts satisfy you always. ...Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?" (Proverbs 5:15-20, NIV) Clearly, the writer is not referring to actual water but to the intimacy that occurs in marriage. Furthermore, this water is more than just the sexual aspect. It includes the closeness, the oneness and the entire sense of unity that a husband and wife can and do experience when they do things God's way.
One of the greatest gifts the Lord ever gave us was the gift of intimacy. As described in the Bible, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh" (Matthew 19:5, NIV). Jesus added, "So they are no longer two, but one" (Matthew 19:6, NIV). It's that oneness, that intimacy, that water that married individuals are called upon by marriage's Creator to guard closely, pray about regularly and fight for diligently.