Dave Carder: You have to be aware of the deficits. But I’ll tell you the big ones are all about admiration and affirmation and affection. And marriages that don’t supply some of those needs – we all need more affirmation than we could probably receive. We all need someone to admire us and look up to us. And if those begin to decline, you become vulnerable to somebody who will pay attention to you.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Dave Carder and he joins us on this Best of 2018 Focus on the Family broadcast. I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Marriage is central to what we do here at Focus on the Family, John. We believe that marriage is the foundation of the family, and God’s design for marriage is a relationship where both husband and wife are committed to loving and caring for one another for a lifetime. It’s pretty much that simple. The problem is we’re selfish creatures. And that selfishness pokes out in all kinds of ways. And I think at the end of the day, that’s what God is trying to eliminate in the institution of marriage. “Become more like Me. Become selfless.” We recognize that problems come up and sometimes leave devastating results in marriage.
Every day, we receive calls and letters from people who are shattered in their marital issues. Why do I convey that? Because I don’t want you to be embarrassed. If you need to contact us, we want you to call. Help is here for you through counseling. We have our Hope Restored marriage intensives which – it’s designed to really come alongside you and be there. It’s a four-day intensive at Branson, Missouri, a wonderful program. We have an 81 percent success rate post two years. So I can’t think of a better program in the country to heal a broken marriage. And oftentimes what they’re dealing with is infidelity and sexual issues. So today’s program, we want to be bold and blunt with you so that you can affair-proof your marriage.
John: Yeah, we want you to stay alert to the potential problems that creep into a marriage and to avoid the dangers. And to do that, we’ve invited Dave Carder to join us. Dave is the pastor of counseling ministries at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California, and has written a number of books, including his most recent which is Anatomy of an Affair.
Jim: Welcome to Focus, Dave.
Dave: Well, thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to this.
Jim: Well, you have written about this. You have been a pastor for many, many years helping couples deal with this issue. So you’re coming loaded with experience, and I appreciate that. That’s far more important to me than, you know, letters behind your name – actually being at the ground level, dealing with thousands of couples who have struggled is an incredible experience. What is the most common thing that you hear when you’re dealing with marriage counseling? What do they tell you, especially in this area of infidelity?
Dave: Well, most of them say, “I never planned to do this. I did not go into this relationship thinking this. I didn’t take this job hoping this would happen.” So we find this element of surprise in where they’ve been kind of shocked or blindsided as this kind of developed. It’s not intentional in most cases, at least in the Christian community.
Jim: Yeah. That’s true. What drove you to do this? I mean, this is a murky area which people – you know, dealing with people’s darkest areas of life is not usually something that you’re drawn to. But what drew you to it?
Dave: Well, when I was a young seminary grad and I was a youth pastor – and I’d only known three pastors at that point in my life. My family didn’t come to Christ until later. And he ran off with the woman in the church. And that was the second time out of those first three passes that it happened. So I tracked him down to Dallas-Fort Worth. He didn’t want to come home. My friend and I drove back. We pulled the Hertz rental car in. And I leaned over to Paul. And I said, “Paul, when I get home I’m going to go back to graduate school. I’m going to figure out what pastors do this.” So that was in ‘77. And I started in the local university taking prerequisite courses and five, six years later graduated and didn’t know a whole lot about this subject but kept working at it and over the years, kind of put together some stuff that proves to be helpful.
Jim: Well, I so appreciate it. You’ve written this book, Anatomy of an Affair. And it is a great hands-on manual about how to do the best job you can do to affair-proof your marriage, very practical. In the book, you talk about the close call. Describe what the close call is. I’m sure people innately know what that means. But what is it?
Dave: Oh, I don’t think they do, Jim.
Jim: Okay, good – go for it.
Dave: I think we’re very innocent. When we surveyed all these pastors, 4,000 of them, they talked about being blindsided, bushwhacked, just had no idea that this is even developing. But in this culture, men and women work together. They play together. They work out together. They minister together. And many times, your spouse doesn’t have that same interest. So over time, you just develop this admiration for the ministry they do or how good they are at this or that, et cetera. And that gradually begins to develop into what we call a mood-altering experience. You look forward to going and seeing them. You might even begin to want to spend extra time with them or to improve your skill set. Or you’ll save articles you’ll take because your spouse doesn’t care for that or maybe CDs or – it just gradually…
Jim: Maybe plan your day it.
Dave: Just plan your day around it.
Jim: Wow. So you know that’s trouble. That’s a flag.
Dave: It is. It is.
Jim: You speak of the four phases of the close call. Let’s hit those. What are the four phases of the close call?
Dave: Well, first of all, there’s a mood attraction involved in that. And being around this person brightens your day. And like I said, you look forward to it. And then you begin to get more involved in it, kind of entangled in the process. And then you might begin to realize, you know, “This is bad. We’ve got to stop this. We’ve got to get out of this. This is not good.” But it becomes then kind of an intermittent thing, which is even more powerful in its bonding experience.
John: Why is that?
Dave: Well, an intermittent reinforcement is a very powerful behavioral determinant. And what happens is – it’s like the monkey pulling the food bar. They never know when they’re going to strike it rich. Or people go to Vegas pulling the one-arm bandit – you just never know.
Jim: Is that is that the emotional affair?
Dave: That’s the emotional part, yeah.
Jim: What people would call the emotional affair? So there’s nothing physical per se…
Jim: …But you’re attracted?
Dave: No. But if you continue to stay close to that, you will move into a phase where you will begin to feed the relationship. And you’ll rob the marriage.
Jim: Wow. Yeah.
Dave: Feed the friendship. Rob the marriage.
Jim: And people know this when it’s happening. They just tend to ignore it, or…
Dave: At that point, they do. They think they can manage it. They feel like it’s not worth, uh, saying anything about because it’d be very troublesome to everybody. They try to hide it. But it becomes a kind of a secret stash.
Jim: The other – one of the others of the four is, uh, destabilization of relationship.
Jim: Describe what – is that kind of the breakdown of the marriage side?
Dave: Yeah. Well, that’s kind of the breakdown of both of the friendship sometimes. It’s very abrupt. Maybe your children from both friends have been going to school together, and all the sudden, we’ve got to cut this off. Sometimes it involves the marriage changing friendships, movin’ away. Yeah, it’s a very difficult time.
Jim: So we have that basis for the emotional relationship. Let’s move to the next phase, which typically then becomes a physical relationship. In the book, Anatomy of an Affair, you describe five classes of this sexual betrayal…
Jim: …Or emotional and sexual betrayal. Let’s go through those with illustrations. The first is the one night stand.
Jim: I mean, that is what it is. I think it’s self-evident. But give us a story.
Dave: Yeah. Well, David and Bathsheba would be a biblical story. No relationship, no prior interaction at all. Somebody goes to a conference or to a professional, uh, experience – training experience. They’re alone. Alcohol’s almost always involved in this. Uh, they just become friends. Uh, they might go back to the same hotel if they’re in a training conference. That’s very dangerous – hopefully different rooms. But it’s just a one night stand. It’s kind of like, um, a terrible experience for both of them.
John: And Dave, you know, the thing here in our current context in the culture, Mike Pence, the vice president, was ridiculed for having established some boundaries around this kind of situation where he doesn’t, uh, eat with a woman unless there’s someone else present. He doesn’t put himself in a position at the so-called “training moment”, right?
Jim: What you were describing there – training offsite, out of town kind of thing. I admire that. He was ridiculed for it, but I think the wisdom of it is now being shown with the, uh, things that have been happening in the culture. I mean, now there is wisdom, especially for the Christian community to not place yourself in this position where the one night stand can occur.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. This culture’s very different than it was even 20 years ago. You’re just half of the equation. You don’t know what the other half is bringing to the experience.
Jim: Yeah. The next is the entangled affair. Describe that.
Dave: Well, this is where you get emotionally involved, and eventually physically or sexually involved. And a great illustration in the scriptures is Samson and Delilah. And we had this picture of his head in her lap and they’re talking back and forth. But he couldn’t stay away from this woman even though he knew she was trying to kill him.
Jim: That’s amazing.
Dave: That is amazing. You know, it just shows how powerful the attraction and the addiction is in that situation.
Jim: You gave a modern story about Rob and Becky. Rob was in grad school. And, uh, at night, he was going to classes, working full-time during the day. Becky was doing well in her career, but she felt left out of her husband’s life, so that isolation factor. Uh, she shared her frustrations with her boss, George. They began to get to know each other a bit better. And sure enough, they connected and had an affair.
Dave: Yeah. Yep.
Jim: That’s another angle.
Jim: “I feel discouraged. I don’t feel involved in my spouse’s life.”
Dave: “I’m not connected to them. We don’t have time together.”
Jim: So they look for connection.
Jim: That’s the entangled affair?
Dave: Yeah, yeah. It is. And eventually, it’s very nurturing and caring before it ever becomes sexual.
Jim: It feels good.
Dave: It feels good.
Jim: And, uh, be wary of that.
Jim: Don’t go headlong into that. Step back. When that feeling occurs, you should step back and say, “What’s happening to me?”
Dave: So you kind of highlight there, uh, Jim, the idea that you need to be aware what’s going on inside of you. It’s not just the external things – the appearances, the dinners, the lunches. It’s the feelings that matter.
Jim: All right, so we had the one night stand, the entangled affair, as you’ve described it. And then we have sexual addiction, which is more prevalent today, I think, than ever before because the internet. And then anonymous ways to see it and look at it and experience. Uh, talk about the sexual addiction issue.
Dave: Well, when I got into this years ago, I was thinking adultery was adultery was adultery. I was a seminary grad. I didn’t know the classes or differences. But when I read the Bible again, through my – when you’re reading – the Bible reading – I became – oh, my God. That’s this. So…
Jim: It’s right there.
Dave: It is. Eli and his sons were – Eli’s sons were sexual addicts. They were prophets. They were priests. And they would select women out of the line of giving sacrifices, take ‘em into tents to have sex with them, and dismiss them. And God told Eli, “You need to stop that.” And he didn’t. So God took the lives of those two sons. And God also took Eli’s life prematurely because he would not stop this behavior.
Jim: That’s pretty bold right there.
Dave: That is pretty bold. You know, adultery is on God’s top ten list. It’s right there.
Jim: It’s so true.
Dave: It is.
Jim: But why do we – again, um, I’m trying to help the person that may be struggling in this area to prompt the questions in that direction. Why do we fall prey to not hearing that? We know that. It is so true.
Dave: It’s the emotion. I keep saying it’s what’s going on inside of you that just kinda sweeps you off your feet. I’ll give you a great illustration. Are you a car guy?
Jim: I like cars.
Dave: Okay. The car I drove in high school, okay? Just sold at bar – Jackson’s auto auction for $200,000.
Jim: You should’ve kept that car. Come on, Dave.
Dave: I should’ve kept that car. Now…
Jim: You sold it for $500.
Dave: Yup. Yup, exactly. I went on to something I thought was better.
Jim: Yeah, right. The Volkswagen.
Dave: That’s right. But you know why that guy bought that car? He didn’t buy that car. He’s gained 100 pounds, lost all of his hair, got a big belly on him. But when he gets in that car and starts that engine, how old do you think he is?
Dave: He’s 16 years old, draggin’ Main Street, you know? So it’s the memories. It’s the feelings that cause people to…
Jim: But I gotta ask you, what kind of car was it?
Dave: It’s a – it was a 426 Plymouth.
Jim: Okay, good.
Dave: Four speed.
John: I know what that sounded like. I do.
Jim: Now you know we’re car guys.
John: Yeah. So along those lines, what’s the emotion inside that leads to sexual addiction?
Dave: Well, it’s – actually it becomes lust eventually. But initially, it feels relief. There’s sexual pleasure. There’s all the chemicals that God built into the system that are released in sex – oxytocin, everything else. It’s just a flood of feelings that comes in that experience. And people usually start this way back in childhood experiences. There’s a lot of childhood sexual injury many – in cases, but it’s looking for a self-medicating process.
Jim: Yeah. That’s important to know. Next then, is the add-on affair. I don’t know what that meant in your book. Like, you’re having an affair and you have another affair? What does the add-on affair mean?
Dave: No, the add-on is to meet a marital void – something that’s missing in the marriage that you enjoy, you participate in, your spouse is not interested. Maybe – we have a hiking club at our church. I use that as an illustration in the book, you know. Uh, your wife doesn’t like the outdoors. So you go to this hiking club and there’s 20 of you. And you go to these places and, uh, just have a hike. But you build a friendship gradually over time, see some of the same people there. And this relationship becomes an additional point of contact outside the marriage.
Jim: Now some people, you know, you’re talking to two groups of people at least. You know, some are going to manage that well. They’re never gonna have an affair.
Jim: You know, I love painting, and so I go to a painting class at the local junior college. And there’s both men and women in this class, and you’re going to manage that well. It doesn’t, uh, attract you physically to somebody else. So those people are hearing this going, “What’s wrong with people if that’s what they do?” But there is a group of people where those connections of similar interests spark the oxytocin, the other things, and they begin to be attracted to the person that’s attracted to the things that they’re attracted to. Does that make sense?
Dave: Well, yeah. Exactly. And you begin to feel like this person understands you better than…
Jim: Knows me better.
Dave: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: I can hear all the words and the clichés, you know. Really, “I feel alive when I’m with that person.”
Dave: Yep. “I’ve got someone who really understands me.”
Jim: But again, I want to be sure, Dave, that people are hearing this. In addition to describing this in the rest of this time, and I want you to come back next time so we can talk more about this. I want that practical, “Uh-oh. What do I do? Uh-oh.” Okay, so if you’re in that spot, even going back to sexual addiction, get help.
Jim: That’s – if you feel that as Dave described your situation, that you’re looking for that soothing comfort, you’re into the internet pornography area. This may have started when you were a teen boy or maybe even a teen girl – who knows? You need help. I’ll be that plain and blunt, especially for the Christian community, but for every human being. And we’re here for you. And we want you to contact us.
John: Yeah. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY – 800-232-6459. And, uh, we do have Dave’s book, Anatomy of an Affair, and other resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Dave, again, one night stand, entangled affair, sexual addiction, add-on affair. You’ve described all of those. The fifth is that reconnection. This is one we hear a lot about at Focus on the Family. These are the people that go back to class reunion online…
Jim: …And describe the reconnection dilemma.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. It’s where you go back, find an old girlfriend or boyfriend just to kind of figure out, maybe, what happened or – to them, or…
Jim: They start innocently.
Dave: Oh, very much so. It all starts innocently, but, you know, you don’t have to grow the relationship there. It’s already stored in your brain. And so you will awaken. If you stay in touch with that old girlfriend, boyfriend from adolescence for 30 days, you’ll become confused about your marriage. You’ll get…
John: Yeah. That leapt off the pages of the book when I read that. Those memories are stored up here.
Dave: That’s the car guy thing. You know, he’s buying that car to feel like a teenager again.
Jim: Go back and be young again.
Jim: Well, that’s – and that’s dangerous. Let’s move to some of the profiles that you describe – the dangerous partner profile. Um, what does that mean – the dangerous partner profile? How are you using it here? And what do we need to be aware of?
Dave: Well, the dangerous part in a profile is a concept – not tall, dark and handsome or blonde, blue-eyed or anything like that. It’s really built on some deficits or things you bring to your marriage that you might not even be aware of, like family of origin deficits. Maybe you were raised by a single mom, or, uh, your dad abandoned the family. Or maybe it has to do with your hobbies or interests. You’re – there’s an immediate attraction there. Or maybe it has to do with things that happened to you as a child that you – it’s this template of a person who seems to meet almost all your needs immediately. Immediately.
Jim: Huh, and that’s a dangerous partner profile?
Dave: A dangerous partner profile. Everybody has one. You need to figure out what yours is.
Jim: So – do you do that, you know, if you’re married, obviously, are you doing that privately, saying, “Okay, this is a person of the opposite sex that I’m gonna avoid,” and you actually think that through? Or do you actually talk that through with your spouse? What’s the greater accountability?
Dave: I think both of them are necessary, okay? I think the spouse needs know that you are aware of some of your own vulnerabilities. When I do Christian leadership training or mission conferences, I see everybody has one of these. So you need to figure it out ahead of time. And I’ll tell you, it makes great interaction for small groups.
Jim: And this is your temperament – like you said – it’s your temperament style. It’s what your attraction – extrovert attracts to introvert, kind of those general combinations that most likely you and your spouse share as well.
Dave: Oh, exactly.
John: Uh, this would be threatening to a lot of folks though, wouldn’t it?
Dave: Well, it’s threatening whether they recognize it or not. That’s what I would say, John. It’s the danger that – why many of them go down because they haven’t talked about it. They’ve never sat down and penciled it in. There’s nothing wrong with it. Everybody has this template that they bring.
Jim: I actually think the opposite. I think it may bring comfort in a marriage that you get. If you can talk that openly about and say, “This is the person I never want to be alone with. And this is the prototype.” And if your spouse is aware that you’re aware of that, I would think that would be confidence-builder.
Dave: It could be. It should be.
Jim: Have you seen it work that way?
Dave: I have seen it work that way.
Dave: And people who do this work and figure this out and do talk about it find it amazing. It’s not so much that it’s new. It’s always been suspected by the spouse in most cases. But to hear each of you acknowledge, it does. It builds protection.
Jim: Let’s move to the next one, which is that emotionally-charged friendship. This is probably very common – maybe the most common – I’m not sure.
Jim: Describe that. And what are the pitfalls? And give us an example.
Dave: Well, it’s become even more common because like I said, men and women are working together all the time. Shirley Glass wrote a book on this. Even in the secular market they recognize it. So it begins, to start out, just altering your mood. It’s – you get an email, you get a text, you get a phone call, you meet somebody in the coffee shop, at the workplace, or something like that. And it begins to take on, um, an emotional tone to it. And you begin to anticipate it, look forward to it. And then, you began to actually try to grow it and develop it. And then it becomes kind of a third stage thing where you actually know you can go back to it, and you’ll get the charge you’re looking for, like a great, strong cup of coffee or something like that.
Jim: Uh, Dave, let me ask you for that example. Give us a story out of your book that illustrates this.
Dave: Um, the longest emotionally-charged friendship I’ve ever heard of was 30 years.
Dave: Never sexual, never erotic, okay? It was a 2 p.m. afternoon phone call every single day of the week, okay?
Jim: By two people of the opposite sex?
Dave: By two people of the opposite sex, both married to other people. They never did anything together. They never went out to lunch or anything else. But he had actually been through two addiction treatment programs to try to break that because his adult children knew it was inappropriate. The bondage of these kinds of relationships are so powerful. It’s like the bright spot of the day. It’s – it’s the mood-lifter. It’s the conversation. But you are robbing the marriage, and you are feeding the friendship.
Jim: So if a person’s caught in either of these – the dangerous partner profile, you know, you’re attracted – you haven’t done that work to identify who you need to avoid at all costs, and you find yourself in that spot. How does a person begin to back up?
Dave: That’s a great – you get sober one day at a time with somebody who’s gonna be kind of a sponsor to you, and…
Jim: So you have to confess to somebody you trust?
Dave: You do have to confess. You do. You have to get – you can’t do this by yourself. You can’t do this in secrecy. Uh, this relationship addiction is very, very powerful. And then, you need to be able to talk about it with your spouse, not – she’s not your accountability partner. Or he’s not – your husband’s not your accountability partner. But you need to be able to discuss this.
Jim: Wow. The fear of that, obviously, is that that will end your relationship – your marital relationship. Is that just a risk you need to take?
Dave: Well, it’s like with any addiction. Uh, it is probably a risk you need to take. And actually your spouse already is aware of it.
Jim: In their gut?
Dave: In their gut. They sense some of this is going on.
Dave: And, uh, so the fact that you can acknowledge it is great, but you need to put whatever you need to put on your phone, on all the implements, the devices you use that keep you from getting involved.
Jim: Right. Share – share the internet when you’re on. There’s software or apps that will do that. That’s a good thing.
Dave: Yup. I would actually say I don’t like the term “accountability groups.” I like the term “vulnerability groups”, where all the guys in the group are equally vulnerable. Because this is not just one guy’s problem. Everybody shares this.
Jim: Yeah, I think that’s true. Um, the other one you mentioned is the seductive personality pattern. Describe that. I think I understand what that is, but tell us.
Dave: Well, our culture is growing people – a larger number of people who come into adulthood with definite entitlement experiences or definite needs. And they – they’re looking for people to fix these needs. They’re looking for relationship – the perfect spouse – someone who will satisfy them, someone who will put them back together again. In fact, rings or people who wear rings are attractive to them because, “Well, you helped this person develop some happiness. Maybe you could help me instead.” So they actually go after married people many times as a way of comforting themselves and reassuring themselves in – in trying to heal this. We have a rule in therapy though: if the injury happens before the relationship, it’s your job to heal the injury. The spouse – no spouse will ever fix something like that in your life. It’s impossible.
Jim: I mean, that’s a good point.
Dave: It is.
Jim: And I think we continue to seek for the spouse’s, um, desire to heal us…
Dave: Yeah. They can’t.
Jim: And that’s not – that’s not a good thing. In that context, you talk about the narcissistic personality disorder. Describe that – we’re wrapping up here, but I want to get this in.
Dave: Well, this is the person who has a great sense of entitlement. There’s a lot of grandiosity. They feel like they need to be adored – high levels of attraction. They need people to elevate them and hold them up in high esteem.
Jim: So they want to be center stage?
Dave: They want to be center stage, yeah.
Jim: And the way they find to – to meet that need is to, um, seduce or…
Dave: They go after somebody who’s really attractive, or whoever they think can help them…
Jim: They want you to like me.
Dave: They want you to like – and they will say things like, “You know, if you weren’t married, we could really be a great couple.”
Dave: So they will go after those kinds of people.
Jim: Well, that’s so true. The other you mention is borderline personality disorder. Now this is deep stuff – mental illness. But you have the narcissist, and then you have this borderline personality disorder. Describe that and the danger of that.
Dave: Well, the borderline is one who has a very, um, limited sense of self – who she is and what she needs and everything else. And there’s a lot of, uh, volatility and mood there’s looking for someone to love ‘em and adore them. Uh, you’re never enough. They will eventually turn on you and throw you under the bus. But they just seem like what you’ve always been looking for initially – both of these.
John: We’ll pause there for today’s Best of 2018 Focus on the Family presentation. This conversation with Dave Carder has been so informative, there is more to come tomorrow.
Jim: Dave’s insights are so eye-opening, and we had so much response to this program – people who were hurting, dealing with broken relationships. In fact, we heard from one caller who had been struggling with stepping over the line to have an affair with an old friend from her past. When she heard this program, she felt that it was a sign from God.
John: What I love about the ministry of Focus on the Family, Jim, over the years, the Lord has given us so many great responses. That woman called us, and one of our counselors at the ministry was able to talk with her about setting up some boundaries for her marriage so she wouldn’t cross that line and have that affair, and was able to connect her with some ongoing counseling to address the issues, the real issues that she and her husband were facing.
Jim: Yeah, that’s why Focus on the Family is here. We want you to have a strong and thriving marriage. Over the past twelve months, we estimate that at least 610,000 couples have built stronger marriages with the help of Focus on the Family resources. And there are many more couples that need our help – your help. We couldn’t do this kind of ministry without you. And let me say thank you for those who have supported us.
When you give the gift of family, your year-end donation to Focus will share a little Christmas joy with couples in crisis, allowing us to offer broadcasts like this one, other resources, and even our Hope Restored marriage intensive program. In fact, when you donate today, a gift of any amount, your dollars will be doubled through a special matching challenge offered by good friends to Focus on the Family. We’ll also send you a copy of Dave Carder’s book, Anatomy of an Affair, as our way of saying thank you for supporting the ministry of Focus on the Family and helping to save marriages. Give today, and help a family in need.
John: You can donate and double your gift and get that copy of Anatomy of an Affair, or our Best of 2018 CD set. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Online: focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller and tomorrow we’ll hear more from Dave Carder as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.