Sam and Nia found fame online as Christian YouTubers. He was hiding a 'toxic secret'.

As vloggers, Sam and Nia Rader are used to sharing themselves with the world. They've amassed 2.5 million subscribers to their YouTube channel — a catalogue of "the ups the downs, the fun and the fails" of family life that spans 10 years, more than 2,600 videos, and 1.1 billion views.

There are titles like "500 BATH BOMBS IN SWIMMING POOL!!", "Baby and Puppy at the Beach!!", "HEARTBREAKING DADDY-DAUGHTER GOODBYE". And of course, the 2014 title that gave them their first viral hit (23 million views and counting): "Good Looking Parents Sing Disney’s Frozen". 

But now the Texas couple are sharing a less-wholesome side of their story. 

In 2015, Sam's name was among those leaked by hackers who had infiltrated Ashley Madison, a dating website for married people seeking an affair. At the time of the data breach, the site boasted more than 37 million users.

Though Sam says he never met up with anyone via Ashley Madison, the revelation led him to confess to a pattern of previous infidelity. He came clean to his wife, to his pastor, and to his family. And then he took it public via a video posted to their YouTube channel. But almost a decade on, the confessional tour continues. 

This year, Sam and Nia participated in the hit Netflix documentary series, Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies, and Scandal, and they've co-authored a book that details their story. It's called Sam and Nia Live in Truth: Public Scandal | Secret Vows | Restored Hearts. 

As the title suggests, the couple has reconciled and even recently renewed their marriage vows (There's footage on their channel. Of course). 


So why publicly pick at old wounds? Particularly ones as painful as these?

Watch: Ashley Madison Sex, Lies & Scandal Official Trailer. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

Speaking to Mamamia’s No Filter podcast, Sam and Nia said that, yes, they are hoping they get some more attention — just not for the reasons people might expect.

Becoming the face of a scandal.

When Sam and Nia Rader met as high schoolers in Wills Point, Texas, part of what drew them together was their Christian faith and their — as Nia put it — "strong morals".

"We used to do little Bible studies together. We prayed together. We worked hard to be pure before marriage," she told Mamamia. "For me, it was also like fireworks and rainbows and butterflies. It was so magical, like a movie kind of love."

They married in September 2009 when Nia was 21 and Sam was almost 24. 

The betrayals began just months after their wedding day, when Nia was pregnant with the first of their four children.

Sam was in nursing school at the time, and he was friends with two single guys whom he'd join on nights out, flirting and making eyes with women. He said he continued "walking right on that line" for while, until suddenly he found himself stumbling well and truly over it.


He kissed and held hands with two of Nia's friends. He tried to start an affair with another (his feelings weren't reciprocated). He engaged the services of sex workers at a massage parlour. And one evening in 2013, while working a quiet night shift at the hospital, he signed up to Ashley Madison with the handle "dirty_little_secret_man", complete with real identifying information and profile pictures. Though he never met anyone via the site, he concedes in the book that: "had the chance arisen, I would have taken it. Signing up for Ashley Madison was just a small part of the destructive cycle I was caught up in at the start of our marriage."


Sam has spent the years since trying to understand what motivated his betrayal.

Speaking to Mamamia, he referred to his late father's infidelity and his parents' subsequent separation, saying his father showed him the value in an affair. "It was worth six children, and a wife he had been married to for so long. It was worth his home," he said. 

Such was the impact of his father’s cheating, that Sam said he even introduced him to one of his mistresses. "I thought he would be proud," he said. "It was such a stupid thing, such an immature thought to have as an adult." 

But Sam also refers to a motivation far less deeply rooted.

"I think it was just trying to find excitement in my life. When I became a nurse, I hated the job… And life just hit me hard," he said. "If you want to really get down to like the basic answer, I think — and I hate saying the word — but boredom, maybe?"


Sam explained in the Netflix documentary that the success of their YouTube channel ultimately satisfied his desire for excitement and validation. And so he insists that he never cheated after he and Nia started vlogging in 2014. But he did keep his "toxic secret".

Sam and Nia were in Seattle for a content-creator conference when the Ashley Madison data leak forced his hand. Sam confessed to his wife over dinner at an airport restaurant.

"I remember sitting down and almost immediately he was just so intensely telling me this shocking news," Nia said. "It was layered with embarrassment because of how public it was."

On top of that was the fact that the couple had presented themselves as devout Christians, speaking proudly about their faith and efforts to "deliver Christ's message to the world".

But for Nia, amid all the anger and embarrassment was a deep, raw sadness.


"I went through a lot of heartache," she said. "It was so painful and just tragic. It was like a death to me, losing that high school love, that grand love that I knew us to have."

It was an already fragile time for Nia and Sam. The couple was coming off the back of a controversial viral video. Sam had revealed Nia’s own pregnancy to her, after (unbeknownst to her) testing urine she'd left in their toilet. Some criticised him for violating her privacy and robbing her of agency in her own pregnancy. And when they later announced that Nia had experienced a miscarriage, many even claimed the couple had staged the entire process for views — a claim Nia dismissed as "crazy". She was still dealing with her grief when the Ashley Madison scandal broke.

Listen: Sam & Nia: The Couple Who Survived The Ashley Madison Cheating Scandal. Post continue after podcast.

The couple separated for a while. Sam moved out of their family home. But one day, while in desperate prayer to her God, Nia was overcome with the conviction that their story would be used to help others navigate betrayal.

"That was the moment where I said, I'm going to stay and I'm going to fight," she said. "I didn't feel it yet… I even thought I might be unhappily married to him for a long time, but I'm going to work towards forgiveness."

For them, the reconciliation process started with a months-long period of radical honesty and boundary-setting.

"It started with the confessions and being as open to her as possible, so she saw that I had nothing to hide," Sam said. "After that, I think it involves letting her call the shots, basically, of my life. Letting her tell me what she's comfortable with and what she's not comfortable with, and just allowing and not fighting it… For example, not talking to women alone, texting women, staying out at night, going out with certain people. Actually, only going out with solid Christian men."


Nia acknowledges their path may not be for everyone. (Countless commenters have told her as much, lobbing accusations that she’s being "dumb", "naive", "fake".)

"Not everyone's actually repentant and wants to turn their life around and fight for their marriage," she said. "I fought hard to forgive Sam. But he fought really hard to stay true to me and to prove his faithfulness to me. I mean, he really did fight hard. And I know people like to hate on that, because he's the one that cheated. But I didn't make it easy on him. And I'm very thankful. I think [many] men would give up under those circumstances, and he didn’t."

Sam and Nia say they're happily married now, and focused on building something beautiful out of all the ugliness. 

"If it just one marriage, one couple, could find hope or freedom or healing or redemption through us sharing our story publicly," Nia said, "then it will have been worth it."

To hear more about how Nia and Sam handled the scandal, including what they've told their children, listen to No Filter.

Feature Image: @samandnia Instagram.

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