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Marital Fidelity in a Social-Media World

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iStock/Thinkstock. Models for illustrative purposes only.
For thousands of years, husbands and wives have been making bad decisions. But today, enticements often come with a new twist because of the anonymity and accessibility that come with social media.
From the first human relationship in the Garden of Eden, it’s clear that 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” 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 online temptations, as well. Old enticements often come repackaged with a new twist using the anonymity that can come with social media.

A social-media world

Obviously, the internet has introduced pornography into many, many homes. Although pornography is a huge problem, I want to focus on less obvious temptations affecting some marriages. For instance, while doing research about social-media sites, I stumbled upon a profile of 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, often wearing very little clothing, in various sensual poses. In an online poll he had pasted onto his page, he had asked sexually oriented questions in an 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.”

The dangers of anonymity

Some may argue that having an edgy social media profile, carrying on online relationships and private-messaging old flames is relatively innocent stuff because there’s no intention of becoming 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 underappreciated and under-respected, the anonymity and secrecy of the web allows for a chance to flirt and pretend. What could be wrong with that? Pastor 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 anymore. Flirting can now take place through text message, online gaming and social media.

The gift of intimacy

Solomon offers incredible advice along these lines: “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. … [R]ejoice in the wife of your youth. … Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight. … Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman?” (Proverbs 5:15-20). 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 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, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). Jesus added, “So they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Matthew 19:6). 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. Bob Waliszewski is director of Focus on the Family’s Media and Culture department, which features the popular Plugged In website, Pluggedin.com  

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