Focus on the Family Broadcast

Friendship or Flirtation? Danger Signs for Couples (Part 1 of 2)

Friendship or Flirtation? Danger Signs for Couples (Part 1 of 2)

As a young Christian, Dave Carder saw two pastors commit adultery, losing both their families and their ministries. He was determined to find out why people commit adultery and to help couples recognize “close call friendships” that could blossom into affairs. Pastor Carder provides over a dozen “red flags” that warn of inappropriate intimacy in a friendship, and encourages spouses to stay within judicious boundaries. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 14, 2015

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, Pastor Dave Carder shares one of the leading causes of infidelity in marriage.


Dave Carder: Infatuation is the most powerful drug known to man; people have died for infatuation. People have given up kingdoms for infatuation. Infatuation will cause you to do crazy thing. And we always say this at the end, what was he thinking? The point is he wasn’t, that person is under the influence of a mood-altering substance. They are stone drunk.

End of Preview

John: We’ll hear more about infatuation and the seemingly innocent steps that can lead up to it today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I’m so looking forward to today’s broadcast because I believe it will literally save marriages. Uh, we’re going to be talking about avoiding infidelity. You know, most of us don’t wake up one morning and decide, I’m gonna go out and ruin my marriage today. These things happen slowly in a series of small steps, as you said, John. And what we want to do today is throw up some of those yellow flags for couples who may not have a firm foundation of intimacy in their relationship, and it could jeopardize their marriage. They could lose their marriage if they’re not careful. Uh, today’s broadcast guest is Dave Carder. He’s studied infidelity for over 30 years, and he has some amazing insights. For example, in a study of 4,000 pastors, over 20% admitted to being sexually indiscreet. That’s one in five pastors of those, almost every single man said they did not intend to cross that line. So we’re going to hear how affairs start. What is that flame that occurs? And it’s based on information Dave has gathered counseling church couples through their first-time experience with infidelity.

John: And Dave’s insights are really sobering, Jim, because he’s talking about couples who share the same moral foundation and values that we do. He’s talking to us and many of us have seen this happen among our friends and family members. We hear about a couple divorcing and then we find out there was an affair going on. So Dave is gonna help us kinda roll back, uh, the tape, if you will, to see how marriages can first begin unraveling.

Jim: And if you’re not married, keep listening, these yellow flags and in some cases, those red flags can help you not get caught up in an inappropriate friendship with a married man or woman.

John: Yeah, those are good boundaries to keep in mind. Good point, Jim. Well, our guest Dave Carder served as pastor of counseling ministries at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, uh, for over 30 years. And as we’ve said, he’s been laser focused on this topic for most of that time. You’ll hear what prompted that interest in just a moment or two. Dave is the author of the book, Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. I’ll encourage you to get a copy from us here at the ministry. You’ll find it at Here now is Dave Carder speaking at a Smart Marriage Conference on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

Dave: I was driving a school bus as a recently graduate of seminary. I was a youth pastor at the time, and I was coming back from Jersey shore where I’d taken a bunch of kids, 40 of them to be exact, to, um, do a mission’s trip. Nine o’clock that night, I’d just walked in the door, I get a phone call from the senior pastor’s wife and she’s crying hysterically on the phone. Now, two of those teenagers in their home had been on my trip. I go over to the house, try to comfort this family, begin to hear the story of how the senior pastor who just preached that evening had suddenly left the house, left a note, and they were terrified that he was gone forever. But as they’re talking about what’s been going on, I begin to think to myself, you know, I think I know more about this story than they do. And about 11 o’clock, as I’m putting all this together, I hop back in my car, and I drive to a neighboring town, and I pull up in front of a little apartment building. And it’s black, lights out, but I’m thinking, you know, getting outta the car and sneaking up to an apartment building in the middle of the night is not exactly the best thing for, uh, a pastor to do. So. Anyway, I get outta my car. I sneak up through the hedges. I plaster my face against a plate glass window. I look inside this particular apartment and there’s not a stitch of furniture in it. And I think to myself, you know, I was just there two weeks ago having a Bible study with a bunch of boys in this apartment and the, the, this family never said anything about moving. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I thought to myself, I’ll come back tomorrow morning, maybe I can catch a couple of these boys at school bus stop. And maybe they can tell me what happened to this family. Sure enough, next morning I come back, couple my, those boys are there. I start talking to them, I say, hey, what happened to such and such? And they said, you know, they moved. I said, moved, what do you mean? Well, they moved. They brought a big U-Haul truck in here on Saturday and loaded up the furniture and took off. Well, where are they going? They wouldn’t tell us. I said, I know where U-Haul truck store is. I hop back in my car. I drive to the neighbor in U-Haul truck store. I get out, I walk in, and I ask the guy behind the desk if I could verify that my senior pastor had rented a U-Haul truck. Now that were, is in the days before it became an issue to look at other people’s contracts, et cetera. So he just threw the whole set of invoices at me. I started thumbing through them and I found my senior pastor’s name on one of those invoices. I scribbled the location where the truck was to be delivered. I called my wife. I said, pack my suitcase. I’m coming home. I’m gonna go and I’m gonna track this guy down. So I go home, get my suitcase, drive 90 miles to the closest the airport, buy a ticket, take my binoculars, fly to that neighboring city.

Audience: laughter

Dave: Okay. Okay. I’m telling you the truth. I fly to that big city, 2000 miles away. I get a room on the 14th floor of the Hilton hotel, overlooking the U-Haul truck store, where my pastor was to bring the truck back. Now, I wanna tell you something, don’t run for me. Okay?

Audience: laughter.

Dave: So, (laugh). So anyway, I sit there for six straight days and this guy doesn’t come back and on Saturday, I get a phone call from the church saying, you know, you gotta come home. Rumors are rampant. We just can’t have any more of the pastoral staff gone. Okay? So I hop in my rental car. I drive back to the airport, buy a ticket, fly home, and it was chaos back home. But, before I left that big city, I walked down to that U-Haul truck store, I looked at this guy and I said, well, I’m gonna tell him the truth. So I walked up to the counter. He’s at a desk behind working on some paperwork. And I said, I think my senior pastor has run off with another woman in my church. And he is going to bring the truck back to this truck store. And he stands up, he puts his hands on the desk. He leans forward and he says, I’m Southern Baptist, let’s get him.

Audience: laughter.

Dave: So I left a picture of my senior pastor with him. I fly home and on Monday morning at 10 o’clock, I get a phone call from this guy. Now he’s whispering, uh, he’s in my office. I need, I know it’s the right guy. And I ask him, I’m, start whispering too, I’m 2000 miles away. Okay? But I started whispering myself and I said, now, how do you know it’s him? Well, he’s got the same shirt on in my office that he’s got on in the picture. I know it’s him. So I, I whispered back, I said, tell him you gotta send him some money. Okay? And get an address, just get an, I don’t care what you have to say. He calls me back about 15 minutes later and he has an address. I go home and get my suitcase, drive 90 miles to the closest airport. I get on a plane. I fly down there. I take a friend with me this time and I actually get a rental car, drive to his home that he is renting, knock on the door. And this single mom about passes out. He comes to the door behind her, we take him to the park and spend three hours trying to talk him into coming home. He refuses. We take him back home, we get in the car, we drive to the airport, and I break down like a baby and just cry and cry and cry and could not stop. I finally got control of myself as we pulled into the Hertz rental car lot. And I leaned over to my friend. He was driving, I was sitting in the passenger seat. I said, when I get home, I’m going back to graduate school and I’m gonna figure out why pastors do this. That was in 1977 in August, and then in September, I was enrolled, taking prerequisite course. Now, that’s when I started on this mission of trying to understand infidelity. Finally, in the ’90s, I joined a research team and we surveyed 4,000 pastors from 1988 to 1998. And one of the things that came up on that survey that was, I just could not believe, even though this had happened to me twice, both of the senior pastors I had worked with had ran off with other women in the church. But these pastors, when they were given the opportunity to describe how their affair happened, they chose words out of a list like, blindsided, had no idea this was happening, shocked that I did this. I couldn’t believe it. Now, I was trained that they had busted through all the hedges, broken down all the boundaries, ran all the red lights, whatever metaphor you want to use. But I had to begin to ask myself maybe could this be true? Maybe they didn’t really realize how prepared they were to fall. Maybe they did get swept off their feet. Maybe they didn’t realize how close to the flame they really were. That’s when I begin to think about “close calls”, that’s when I begin to work on where do these surprise infidelities come from? I’m not talking about people who are out fishing, who have character flaws. I’m not talking about poaching. People who are going after married spouses. I’m talking about people who have a first-time experience with infidelity, who had no idea until it was too late. That’s what I’m talking about. Now, in our culture, we have a, a lot of interesting experiences working, men and women together. So before I dive into this, I wanna say very clearly, I am not against having, in my case, female friends, or maybe in your case, male friends, I’m not against that, I don’t wanna go back to the ’40s or the ’50s or even beyond in some religious circle, I’m not interested in that. But I think you’re gonna find this very interesting as we kind of take a look at it. How does this happen? What is a “close call” friendship? What, what kind of a setup happens or occurs in these people’s lives that gets them into trouble later on? Well, I begin to realize very quickly in my professional training when I was going back to school that second time, and my first clinical supervisor ran a 30-bed alcohol rehab inpatient program, I began to learn a lot about addiction. And I begin to realize these people sound like people, these people who have these affairs, they sound like people who maybe have become addicted, who’ve gotten swept off their feet. So one of the concepts we’re gonna use today is that “close call” friendship is any friendship, any relationship that has a potential for infatuation. Infatuation is the most powerful drug known to man. You think about that’s statement. People have died for infatuation. People have given up kingdoms for infatuation. Infatuation will cause you to do crazy things. Okay? Crazy thing. And we always say this at the end, what was he thinking? The point is he wasn’t, he was under the influence or that person is under the influence of a mood-altering substance. They are stone drunk. And you need to think of people who are infatuated as drunk. They will do things that no thinking person would ever do. What kind of relationship am I talking about? I’m talking first of all, about a platonic friendship, a male female teammate that you share an interest, a passion, a work, or a workout, or a volunteer opportunity with. Somebody that you like doing things with that is not your spouse. There is nothing wrong with this, not one thing, but it’s outta of those kinds of friendships that inappropriate relationships often are built.

John: You’re listening to pastor Dave Carder on Focus on the Family. And in a few moments, Dave will share a list of risky behaviors to avoid that he’s compiled over 30 years of counseling couples. We’re gonna post that online and that’s where you can get today’s audio as well. While you’re there, request Dave’s book, Anatomy of an Affair, it’s a terrific resource. And, uh, you’ll find it at or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Dave Carder.

Dave: Secondly, I have come to believe after listening to multiple people tell me this, that there is a particular dangerous partner profile out there in the world that you are especially susceptible to. Now, when I share that with people, they often, uh, snicker at the idea, but just remember, not every woman is particularly appealing to me and not every man is particularly appealing to you. There are certain kinds of people you like, and we’re gonna talk about the dangerous partner profile. Now, the third source of these close call relationships has only been available, really readily available to you in the last eight or 10 years. And I’m talking about old girlfriends and old boyfriends. Now, I wanna tell you what I’ve come to believe about this. If you are at a difficult spot in your personal life, if you are at a difficult spot in your marriage and you are up at midnight, trying to keep a baby happy or maybe just getting a baby to sleep, or maybe trying to work through the bills and the finances and things that are just wearing you out, and you suddenly have a thought to contact Susie or Bill. I wonder how they’re doing. I have news for you, to contact an old girlfriend or an old boyfriend at that stage of your life is like playing with dynamite. And the reason is, and here’s the reason, you don’t have to create infatuation with an old girlfriend or an old boyfriend, it’s already in your brain. You have the memories stored, and I’ve developed a little saying out of working with these couples for the last eight or 10 years, 30 days of regular contact with an old boyfriend or an old girlfriend and you will be swept off your feet with infatuation. It’ll come back and just drown you. 60 days from start to finish, and you’ll be sleeping with him. You cannot stand against infatuation. You just can’t. And you know you are in great danger when two things happen in your head. First, you are embarrassed by all these feelings you have for this person who is not your spouse. And secondly, you are spending most of your waking hours trying to manage them. If you are doing that, you are that close. Don’t ever forget, the power of a temptation always lies in its timing, always. You can resist lots of temptations, but if this is a particular experience in your life, it’s gonna be very doubly difficult. Now, when we talk about these friendships and these relationships, let’s kind of spell them out a little bit, and I’m gonna tell you how I did this. For almost 30 years until my last move, I kept a little black notebook in my desk. And after a session with couples, I’d make the next couple wait, after a session with couples where infidelity had taken place, I would jot down any kind of insights I developed in that session. And that’s kind of how I built some of these concepts. So I’m gonna share with you my list of 19 reasons or circumstances or experiences people go through. Now, you don’t have to make a list of these, but I think you’ll find them very interesting because probably most of you in this audience have done some of these things. I have, and it’s kind of amazing as you begin to think about it. First of all, a close call friendship, when you begin to save topics of conversation for somebody other than your spouse because they understand you best or they understand you better and you feel like you’ve got this connection between the two of you. When you look for and save topics, plan on topics of communication between you and your friend, that’s one of those stages or steps. Secondly, if you begin to share spousal difficulties under the guise of, you know, you’re a woman, help me understand how my wife works, now, that’s very interesting, uh, topic. It’s really a form of criticism. You’re actually blaming your wife. You’re actually sharing confidential information with somebody who has no right to know it. It’s between you and your spouse. But we’ll do this. Now I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from people. I, you know, I, she was sharing the story, I shared some things and the next one is the friend shares relationship difficulties. And now you’re off the, the business relationship or off the hobby or the interest or whatever else and now you’re under really personal stuff. Fourth, when you begin to anticipate seeing this person more than going home and seeing your spouse, you are sliding sideways. You know, we see our spouses at the two worst times of the day, in the morning when we’re trying to get out the door, get the kids fed, get the books together, make sure everybody’s happy, got their lunch, it’s terrible. Uh, we had four kids, I know. Okay? And then in the evening you come back, and you start the same thing in reverse, and you go to bed exhausted. It’s very easy to begin to anticipate seeing somebody who’s fully dressed, clothed in the right mind and who’s been thinking maybe even about you, okay? It’s just easy to do. When you begin to compare the spouse to this friend saying, oh, I wish she was more like that. Oh, if he would just do that or he would talk to me like this other guy does, it’s easy. I just wanna keep saying, it’s easy. You begin to provide special treats for this friend. There is nothing wrong with this. I wanna say over and over. It’s how it all kind of collects and builds. But you provide special treats, you’re buying some mints at the store, and you think, you know, Bill really likes those, I’ll get him a box of them. You become more concerned about your friend than your spouse. And you say, oh, I don’t do that. Tell me, it is the easiest thing in the world to ask this friend, how are you doing? Did you sleep okay last night? Now, how, when was the last time you ever ask your spouse that? Okay. You might even fantasize about marriage with this friend, just fantasy, just thinking about it, not planning it or anything like that, but just fantasizing about them. I really do think in my experience, that women do this more than men, but I could be wrong. Okay. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. Okay. Number nine, you begin to spend more alone time with a friend than with the spouse and you say, no, way. Oh yes, this happens easy. If you’re on a softball team, a co-ed volleyball team, if you’re on a, a worship team at some church and you’re singing at rehearsals, and if you’re in a mission feeding the poor, or if you’re, uh, on a hiking club, you can very easily spend more alone time with this friend than you do with your spouse. It’s unbelievably easy to do.

John: Well, we’re working our way through a list of 19 dangerous behaviors that, uh, every husband and wife should avoid with pastor Dave Carder on Focus on the Family. And we’re gonna hear the rest of that list next time.

Jim: Uh, you know, John, a few minutes ago, Dave mentioned the need to have some boundaries with respect to prior relationships. And he said that the brain wiring is such that those feelings of infatuation are actually being stored, ready to rekindle the thrill of that romance from high school or college. It’s like a, a dormant virus lurking in your body waiting to strike.

John: I thought that was really interesting.

Jim: Yeah, wasn’t it? Uh, Jean and I understand the importance of keeping a hedge around our marriage so that those old flames, those old acquaintances even, uh, are dormant memories, not rekindled memories.

John: Yeah. There are probably times in most, every marriage where you hit a dry season and you wonder, uh, what about, and you kind of go back to people you knew before and wonder, gee, it was so good back then. I wonder what they’re doing now. And certainly that is a dangerous path to go down. As Dave has said, we’ve gotta recognize that and resist those thoughts.

Jim: Yeah. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts and to take every thought captive. And that’s important for all of us, whether we’re married or single, uh, there’s so much here, but we need to wrap up. Uh, Dave mentioned the dangerous partner profile and we’ll flesh that out next time, but let’s post a summary online, uh, if we can, John, along with, uh, Dave’s list of 19 dangerous behaviors.

John: Yeah, we’ll do that. Uh, certainly it’ll be right there at the website.

Jim: Uh, you know, our research shows that over 300 marriages a day are being saved by our efforts here together at Focus on the Family. And you can be part of these success stories when you donate to the ministry. Help us as we provide counseling consultations, resources, our Hope Restored four day intensive, where couples get the chance to work on their marriage alongside professional Christian counselors without the distractions of daily life. Uh, here’s a success story from a couple who attended. They said we tried it all and nothing seemed to work. The divorce papers were filled out and the parenting plan had been agreed upon. It seemed like we were working on a two-dimensional plane. The experience at Hope Restored brought it to 4D like a Disney ride with sight, smells, and sounds. It made all the difference, and it saved our marriage.

John: That is such a vivid description of the impact that Hope Restored is having on couples. I mean, wow, that is like a revival for that marriage.

Jim: That’s right, John, and even better, these are changes that endure. Uh, you know, when they first arrive, 75% of the couples attending Hope Restored say it is their last resort. And yet two years later after the experience, over 80% are still married with significant improvement in their marital satisfaction.

John: And Jim, I’ve mentioned this before, but Dena and I attended Hope Restored a couple of years ago and we, we weren’t divorce minded, but we felt like we had drifted apart, just so much business and so many demands, uh, for our parenting journey. And, and our marriage got lost in all that. The tools we acquired and the things we learned are being used almost every day. We are so much better and I’m so glad we could go.

Jim: Well, I’m grateful for that vulnerability you’re sharing. And I’m so glad you were able to go and to do that. And you know, these success stories are encouraging, but sadly, some couples can’t afford to get the help they desperately need and want. And that’s where you and I and our listeners come in. Uh, you have an opportunity to participate with us in ministry. Uh, you can help us provide scholarships to couples in need. In fact, a gift of $30 can help save a marriage. Uh wouldn’t you like to be part of that? And hey, when you make a generous donation of any amount to Focus on the Family, we’ll send you a thank you gift, Dave Carder’s book, Anatomy of an Affair. So call us today.

John: Yeah, and our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And you can donate and request your book at While you’re there at our website, be sure to look for Dave’s dangerous partner profile and his list of 19 dangerous behaviors. Next time, you’ll hear more danger signs from Dave Carder.


Dave Carder: You might never have touched each other, kissed each other, anything, but when you share mutual feelings of attraction with that person, from then on, everything is supercharged. You are under the influence of a mood-altering substance.

End of Preview

Today's Guests

anatomy of an affair book cover by dave carder

Anatomy of An Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them

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