"Life is Short. Have an Affair." So reads the slogan for The Ashley Madison Agency Web site, a business devoted to helping married men and women sexually hook up with others.
With its in-your-face billboards and provocative ads, the site has been in the news the last few years. Recently I debated the merits of the site with its CEO, Noel Biderman, on "The Laura Ingraham Show."
Biderman, who runs the best-known of many Web sites for philandering spouses, claims to have millions of members. Whether or not that's true, I pointedly asked him how he would feel if his own wife and the mother of his young children were to become one of them.
He admitted he would be distraught. But he was also adamant that he would have to "look in a mirror" to figure out what he had done to steer her onto the path of adultery to begin with.
Wow. There are so many things about Biderman and his business one could respond to. But that comment really got my attention. Getting on the scale each evening with my husband and asking, "Did I do enough today to keep you faithful, did you do enough for me, or not?"
No, thanks. That would be more shifting sand than I would want to live with. And what would be the point then of ever getting married in the first place?
But I don't have a spouse. I've written about this all before, including how devastated my four children and I were when my husband of 17 years chose to end our marriage five years ago.
Time has passed, and the healing has been wonderful. Still, when I look back on it, one thing I have not done is to "look in a mirror" and blame myself.
And not because I was a perfect spouse. But precisely because I wasn't.
Sure, I could list my shortcomings in that category. Biderman, or his wife, could certainly make a list of his faults. Should that win her a free membership on his Web site?
Marriage can be so wonderful. When we delight, and delight in, our spouse it's a special joy. But we are supposed to love and be faithful to our mates even when their flaws are most obvious. That's the covenant. And loving and being loved that way in return can be the wonderful instrument that God uses to shape and build our own characters.
Yes, while I believed my husband and I were building, and then at the end rebuilding our marriage, I was happy to "look in a mirror" and consider how to be a better wife. Naturally, if I get married again I'll look hard into that reflection and consider the same.
It just seems to me it's only when the protective bonds of the covenant are there that a spouse has the freedom to be most exposed, faults and all. As well as the greatest desire and ability to change and please.
But when a married person chooses unilaterally to break a covenant, no "looking in the mirror" by the other can fix that. Because such a mirror can't shed light on what's broken.
There are many people who blame their spouses' (sometimes) very real faults for their own infidelity. I guess it's easier that way than looking in the mirror themselves. And with today's shallow "all about me" view of marriage, it's exactly what the culture encourages.
But say what he will, if Biderman's wife chose to use the Ashley Madison site to have an affair, I think he would have a lot of other action items on his list ahead of "looking in a mirror."
Of course, neither he nor the site -- nor even the other fellow -- would have caused his wife's infidelity. That would have been her choice.
So I wonder if then Biderman might rethink his slogan. Maybe he would consider something like, "Life is Short. Work on Your Marriage."
-- Hart hosts the "It Takes a Parent" radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.