Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 2 of 2)
Dave Carder: It begins, to start out, just altering your mood. It’s - you get an email, you get aphone call. And it begins to take on, um, an emotional tone to it. And you begin to anticipate it, look forward to 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.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Dave Carder. And he’s back again today to share more about how to protect your marriage. And this is Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, I’m really pleased to have Dave back with us again. I know this is a tough subject. And I know there’s some people in the audience that are going to say, “Hey, my spouse and I, we have a great relationship. This is uncomfortable.” I get that. But there are a lot of people in the Christian community, and certainly outside the Christian community, that struggle with attraction after you’re married. And, uh, we want to make sure that we’re equipping you with the ability to recognize the pattern, to recognize the danger of it before it costs you your marriage and your family.
The destruction that we see here at Focus from those bad choices in the heat of the moment, uh, would break your heart. And you hear about the impact on these children. Adults, you know, we often rationalize it. You know, it’s just the way God made me. What have you... But the impact on your kids - you have got to back up and think about the lifelong generational impact that you may cause. And that sounds heavy, and it is heavy. I’m not gonna walk around it. If you missed any part of the program last time, get a copy. Uh, let us know. You can get it through CD. You can get it, uh, by downloading the broadcast app. That’s the way I listen often is through my smartphone. Then I can listen the way I wanna listen and what time I wanna listen to.
John: Yeah, you’re kinda selfish about it.
Jim: I am. I enjoy it. It’s a lot easier.
John: It’s a lot easier, isn’t it?
Jim: But it’s here for you. All the resources, including a copy of our guest’s book - Dave Carder - his book,Anatomy Of An Affair.
John: Yeah, it’s a great resource. We’ve got that. And as Jim, said downloads and CDs of the previous conversation. Dave is the author ofAnatomy Of An Affair: How Affairs, Attractions And Addictions Develop And How To Guard Your Marriage Against Them. Dave is the pastor of Counseling Ministries at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton in California.
Jim: That’s Chuck Swindoll’s old church, isn’t it?
Dave: It is.
Jim: Dave, it’s great to have you back.
Jim: Thanks for the education last time. And it was really helpful. You went through the different, um, areas that people can be entrapped. In fact, I think it’d be good for those that didn’t catch it. Uh, let’s just recap that a bit. Give us those various types of affairs that we covered briefly, and then we’ll get moving.
Dave: Well, class one is that one night stand. You didn’t know the individual. You may be away at a conference or something. It’s private. Alcohol is almost always involved. A lot of remorse and regret afterwards. The second is the entangled affair, where it’s a friendship that develops gradually over time. Eventually turns sexual. You feel like you’ve found your, um, soulmate - somebody that understands you. You’re willing to trash everything in your life to maintain this relationship.
Jim: And it’s important. You related that to Samson and Delilah. I think that’s great.
Dave: Samson and Delilah, they - this is an illustration. Since they - he could not stay away from that woman even though he knew she was trying to kill him.
Jim: I mean, it’s absurd. It’s insanity.
Dave: When you begin to think of it like that, you say, yes, that is crazy. But people who watch these kind of things happen, they think they’re spouse has developed a mental illness. I’ve heard that a lot of times. Like, “Who is this person?”
Jim: And that’s entangled affair. Now move to the next.
Dave: OK, sexual addiction, which is a sexual compulsivity. It’s not a relationship issue at all. It just is trying to satisfy or self-medicate some anger, hurt, pain in your life. It’s repeated sexual offenses. Eli and his sons were an illustration of that. They did that. God took their lives - took Eli’s life prematurely because he would not stop this process in Israel. And it has all kinds of repercussions today because of smartphones - ability to attach this to pornography, massage parlors, strip clubs, prostitutes. It just all gets all mixed up.
Jim: Dave, in that context - um, that’s one we hear a lot about. And particularly - it doesn’t always go this way - but particularly men who are trapped there. And when their wives find out or if their husbands have the courage to begin to talk about it, um, there can be a variety of reactions. The most common reaction is this break of trust that the spouse feels. And it’s over.
Jim: I can’t stand this. But the way you just described that - this self-medicating, that’s really what’s going on deeper.
Dave: Oh, it is. It is.
Jim: And it’s good, I think, for a spouse to try to dig a little deeper and understand more what’s at stake here.
Dave: Yeah. This is not a marital issue. Best couple often goes in to their pastor or to a therapist because they wanna work on the marriage. This is not a marital issue. This person would have done this no matter who they married, OK? And they actually married this person hoping it would fix this pain in their life. And it didn’t. A sex addict gets two years of marriage before he begins to act out again, or before she begins to act out again. Because it’s insufficient. It doesn’t really deal with the issues. So in this case, before you do couples counseling, the individual that’s been acting out has to get sober. He needs some or she needs some individual help first. That’s a sexual addiction.
Jim: Yeah. And then lastly is that reconnection.
Dave: Yeah, we get that - or the add-on affair.
Jim: The add-on affair.
Dave: Yeah, where the marriage is great. You aren’t planning on leaving. You’re both dedicated to it - your marriages. But you have this one little activity or behavior or whatever it is that you share together. And it’s very legitimate many times, but it’s during that connection you build this emotional friendship that’s way too, uh, compulsive. And it actually does turn into a sexual affair many times - not always, but many times it does. Then the last one is that emotional attachment, that reconnection where you go back to an old girlfriend or boyfriend, and you find them and it’s, like, 30 days and you’re crazy in love with them again.
Jim: That’s the Internet problem.
Dave: That’s the Internet problem, yeah.
Jim: Reconnecting with people from your old high school class.
Dave: You never forget stuff from adolescence. We talked about cars last time and everything else. You just never forget those old girlfriends or boyfriends.
Jim: Dave, those are all the outside factors, but we have internal factors, too that you point out in the book. What role does our family of origin play in these risks of infidelity?
Dave: Um, as Christians, we often think once we become a Christian, all the past is cut off. It’s amputated. It’s under the blood. It’s done away with. But that’s just not true. You bring those influences with you into this adulthood life. So just think about the guy that grows up in a single-parent family. Mom’s busy trying to put food on the table. She doesn’t have a lot of time sit down and watch TV with you. She might not be able to go to games that you participate in or anything else because she - she’s just trying to make it, OK? Or maybe you - a young girl in that family and your dad abandons you. What do you think of men as a result of that kind of an experience?
Dave: So you bring these wounds with you from the family of origin. No family is perfect. We often try. I know. I try, too. But you do bring these wounds from your family into this marital relationship - it might be a commitment. It might be a promise. I’ll never put my kids through what I went through type of thing. But you bring them nevertheless.
Jim: How will those practically attach, then, to sexual issues? Um, you know, I want to - I know that family of origin well. I had just about every family type you could live in as an orphan kid and the whole bit - but as a Christian, when you’re making - when you make that commitment to the Lord, how do you begin to sort those things out? Confront your past. Acknowledge those weaknesses.
Dave: That’s right. Vulnerabilities.
Jim: And then say, “OK, I’m gonna try, or I’m not going to do this, this or that.” Describe that to - give me a practical tool. Give me the tool chest.
Dave: OK, well, all first-time adulteries are about two things - comfort and distraction.
Dave: Always. Always. We always - that’s what we fish for in the first session. Where’s the comfort? What was the need for - comfort from what? OK? And what are you trying to turn away from? What are you trying to get out of? What are you trying to leave behind? What kind of an artificial world are you trying to create that you didn’t have without this person? It’s all about comfort and distraction. So you bring this emptiness, and in the marriage, you begin to realize-- I’ve got a great marriage. I’ve been married 51 years, but my wife and I, we cannot satisfy every single need each of us have. It’s just impossible. So you have to be aware of the deficits. But I’ll tell you the big ones are all about admiration and affirmation and affection. Those three big As. 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.
Jim: You know, Dave, that is really profound, number one. I’m thinking - it - it opens my mind up to the wounded spouse. And again, here at Focus, we hear from a lot of people. But it’s - let’s just put it in this context. And again, for everybody, it can be gender-flipped, so don’t hear it always goes this way. Um, you don’t need to let us know about that ‘cause I - it’s the spirit in which I give this, but the wife that was sexually wounded as a teenage girl. Maybe something terrible happened to her, but she wants to pick up those pieces. And she may or may not have talked about it with her - in her courtship with her now-husband. But there’s a distance there. There’s a physical inability to allow herself to be intimate, and the husband knows that. They can’t figure out what’s going on. But it’s never talked about. It’s never revealed. So he just interprets that as, she’s cold, you know? And she doesn’t want to enjoy this aspect of God’s design for marriage. That can lead to an affair, too, ‘cause then a man is out looking for that satisfaction. Doesn’t justify it, but I’m just saying, these are kind of the fractures that occur in a relationship for all kinds of reasons. But describe a little more in detail and how to approach that with the, uh, story I just gave.
Dave: Well, let me just take that and go right with it. Because when this young married couple starts having children, this wife - 50 percent of all first-time affairs in America occur in pregnancy or the first year after delivery.
Dave: OK? Now the reason for that is this. When that wife has this little baby, and she’s nursing that little baby or feeding that baby, holding that baby, the oxytocin just goes crazy. She just feels like she’s in love with the world. Everything is right. Except now, you know when guys have the highest levels of oxytocin? When they have sexual intercourse with someone who wants to be sexual with them.
Jim: It has to be that combination?
Dave: It has to be the combination. Masturbation, prostitution - none of that measures up like that.
Dave: So here’s a little neglected hubby out there sometimes. The wife is sleep deprived. She’s consumed with the kid. She’s up late at night. She might have some, uh, nausea when she’s pregnant. She, you know, you don’t feel like making love when you’re - you’re sick to your stomach.
Dave: So all of that’s kind of changing, and it’s a big adjustment for guys. But nobody talks about it in premarital counseling - nobody.
Jim: No. And I need to make sure people are hearing that’s not an excuse to have an affair.
Dave: No, it’s not.
Jim: I mean, do not take that as a legitimate reason.
Dave: Just recognize you’re at a high risk during that time.
Jim: It’s what you call in your book, “seasons of life.”
Dave: It is.
Jim: I think that fits into that category. You’ve got to, as a spouse, whether you’re the husband or the wife - whatever’s happening - you’ve gotta be able to do the right thing in God’s view, and that is to love your spouse unconditionally. And to get through that period of time, talk about it - you know, the fact that you miss that intimacy. But, um, that’s probably the best thing you can do is - is talk that through and make time - make time. Even though you’re struggling, but maybe husbands, you need to pitch in and do some of that load so your wife is a little more rested.
Dave: There you go.
Jim: And can help meet some of the needs that you have in that regard. I mean, this is all dicey business though, isn’t it?
Dave: Oh, it is. And there’s no formula that works for everybody. But you do have to find your own. And you have to really make sure you work your way through this process. And see it as normal. It’s not bad.
Jim: Yeah. Dave, you talk also about different marriage styles that have higher incidents of close calls. You know, those that lean into an emotional affair - and then it may be a physical affair if it goes that far. What are those characteristics of the weak marriages? And I mean that as a profile - almost a personality profile of the marriage. Describe that for the listeners.
Dave: Well, I want to go backwards, because let’s take the empty-nest marriage first.This is a couple who are married who have focused on their kids. They do everything as a family. They don’t spend any money on the marriage.
Jim: So it’s a child-centric home.
Dave: Yeah. Exactly. And they come into this marriage out of broken family situations. And they often have promised themselves they’re going to do it differently. And everything is - and so the kids leave home. They sit down at the breakfast table. They look across the table and say, “Who in the heck are you?” OK? They don’t even know each other. OK? Twenty-five years have passed. Three or four kids. Great parents, but no marriage. OK?
Dave: And, uh, they are very, very vulnerable. That’s why we see this huge rise in parents divorcing when kids go off to college.
Jim: They call it the graying divorce.
Dave: Yeah, it is.
Dave: Yeah. Then we have the intimacy-avoidant marriage. That - the marriage that doesn’t stay very close. We called the windshield wiper syndrome. You know, they just move the same distance back and forth across the glass, very effective, etc. But they don’t move towards each other. They can’t for all kinds of reasons.
So intimacy-avoidant, you don’t talk about anything personal. It’s all external, etc. Then we have the conflict-avoidant marriage. And this marriage is very appealing to Christians. They feel like this is the highest form of marriage. No conflict. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got different genes, different family of origins, different life experiences. Of course, there’s differences.
Jim: And there should be mild - at least mild conflict on some things.
Jim: Some people will say, “We’ve never argued, Dave. We’ve never had a conflict in our 40-year marriage.”
Dave: We call that dial tone.
Jim: OK. That’s another one.
Jim: Dial tone. Describe that.
Dave: Yeah. Well, that is the conflict-avoidant marriage, where it’s just, no ups and downs, no differences tolerated, we all do everything together.
Jim: Everybody knows the dance steps.
Dave: Everybody knows the dance, yeah.
Jim: And you just do it.
Dave: You do it.
Jim: Can people be happy that way? Are - you’re saying they’re vulnerable.
Dave: Well, they are vulnerable. And this is a great illustration, I think. Somebody told me this one time. It’s like the dark side of the moon. Nobody’s ever been to the dark side of the moon.
But when you are in that kind of a marriage, there is another side of you that your spouse has never touched. And that person will touch that side. And it’s like, you suddenly awaken. You feel like, oh, my gosh. This person understands me. I never knew I - this is a soulmate.
Dave: It’s not.
Jim: That’s when you go to the art class together, or that hiking class - whatever it might be. And, Dave, that’s the danger we’re talking about. You have put this book together - what an incredible resource -Anatomy Of An Affair. And folks, this is one you need, even if your marriage is in a healthy place, regardless of what season you are in your marriage. The kids are still at home. Maybe you’re in that empty nest stage. There are so many great insights in Dave’s book that we want to get it into your hand. And for a gift of any amount, we’ll do that. Um, boy, we just want to make sure you have this information.
John: Yeah, donate and we’ll send a copy ofAnatomy Of An Affair. Our number is 800-232-6459. You can do that online at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Dave, we have really hit, uh, three-quarters of the two-day broadcast. We have, I hope, illuminated the trap. I want to turn now. Let’s talk about some solutions. And one of them is, uh, seeking forgiveness. And why that is key, and how does that play out in your experience counseling these couples?
Dave: Yeah. Well, forgiveness is the core of it. Even all the secular people who work in this field - that my colleagues and such - we all agree that forgiveness is a key. And everybody has some idea of forgiveness. Even Disney has an idea of forgiveness - let it go, you know. So you have to do that. But the thing - when most couples get stuck in recovery and they aren’t able to really restore the marriage, it’s one or two things always - almost always. One, it’s an incomplete forgiveness process, or two, they don’t have enough good history to fall back on to save a marriage. In other words, it’s a bad marriage from the beginning, and this just compounds the badness.
But let’s talk about forgiveness. None of us are perfect spouses, and we’ve all injured the marriage over time. And that’s the first level of forgiveness you have to work through - what you’ve contributed to the deterioration of the marriage over time, apart from the sexual issues. And both spouses need to go through that. Both do. Then the second part of the forgiveness process has to do with the actual betrayal. Because it’s not just the sexual component. It’s the fantasy. It’s what you did to your spouse. It’s what you did to your kids. It’s what you did to your reputation. It’s how you cultivated it. All you lied about it. The money you spent on it. The dreams you shared. The places you - it just goes on and on. So it’s a very thorough process.
Jim: And it’s really helpful to the forgiveness process.
Dave: Oh, it is.
Jim: Some people say, “That sounds like too much pain.”
Dave: Oh, when I do this overseas, I always get that kind of reaction. “Hey, you should have thought about that before you did it, you know?” I’ll tell you what pain is. Pain is when that little bride of yours is lying in bed alone knowing you’re out with your girlfriend. That’s pain.
Jim: You know, Dave, seriously talk to that man particularly. And again, it could - the shoe could be on the other foot. I get that. But speak to that person who is only half-heartedly putting forgiveness forward.
Dave: OK. That’s a great lead. I love that. Your spouse that you betrayed has the right to know anything and everything they wanna know about your betrayal. If you want respect - you want their respect - and you want their trust, then they got to feel like you don’t hold any secrets.
Jim: Dave, let me, let me tease this out a little bit because in the Word, you know, the Lord says he hates divorce.
Jim: And then He gives a way out. And this is the ONE way. Um, I would think safety, rationally is also if you have abuse occurring, physical abuse, abandonment- it can be debated, but those are also in that arena.
Jim: However, God is very specific in his Scripture, in His Word that when it comes to adultery and betrayal and infidelity, this is the reason that you can divorce. Talk about God’s heart in that regard. Go a little deeper that way. Forget the practicality for a minute. Just talk about what God is experiencing when He sees his children doing this.
Dave: Oh, marriage is an illustration of God the Father and Israel, Jesus and the church, I mean-
Jim: It’s the metaphor.
Dave: It is. It is. And it never is a lot of hard work, it’s always presented in a joyous, attachment, fellowship, connection-- it’s not like you’re grinding it out every day, you know, type of thing. And there are some marriages who do that, who practice that kind of stuff. But the one thing the betrayed spouse, Jim, has to get- the betrayed spouse has to feel that her husband or his wife, gets what they did to me. That’s when we do the extended forgiveness letter, that’s where they prove it.
Jim: That’s where that healing starts.
Dave: That’s where it comes from.
Jim: When that betrayed spouse feels they’re understood.
Dave: You get it, yeah, yeah.
Jim: That they’re not just gaming me, they’re not playing me.
Dave: Yup, that’s right.
Jim: Cause I’ve been played so far. I get that; I can understand that sense of betrayal. Dave, you mentioned the history - that if a marriage has been troubled from the beginning, that has no history to build or rebuild if there’s been a break of trust. Let’s assume - and I would want you to describe a healthier history that something negative has happened, that betrayal, that breaking of trust. What can couples do to look back on the history and begin to build? You mentioned that in the book - kind of going back to your history together to find the good things, the good boulders that can lay a new foundation for your relationship. Describe those boulders. What do they look like?
Dave: Well, it might be a little surprising to you, but there’s great research out there to indicate that if 20 percent - you don’t need a whole lot of great history, but if just 20 percent of your marital history is ranked highly by both of you simultaneous in the same time zone and continuous - not broken by bad periods - you have better than a 92 percent chance of saving your marriage after adultery and sexual betrayal.
Jim: Wow. That’s incredible.
Dave: Ninety-two percent.
Jim: So you can go back to those good times.
Dave: Good times.
Jim: Describe how you do that in your counseling. How do you get them to remember those? Because they’re in the fit of rage right now.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jim: Yeah, I remember when we used to laugh a lot. So what? I’m not laughing now. Right?
Dave: Exactly, yeah, you got it. OK, so what - one of the exercises we do in the re-attachment process, after the forgiveness letter, of course, is each of you make a list of your eight best experiences. It can happen while you’re dating, but it cannot include other couples. It cannot include children. It cannot include your wedding day.
Jim: So best experiences together.
Dave: Together - just the two of you, OK? She builds a list. He builds a list. Most couples that really are inclined to save their marriage, they will have somewhere between three and five that match. So let’s say they have four. She gets five, he gets six, she gets seven, he gets eight. Those are your eight greatest experiences. Those are what sealed you together. Those are what compelled you to stay together. And you need to go back and repeat those. I tell my couples, “When you leave me, in the first 18 months after you say goodbye to me, I want you to practice every one of those. Because those are what you did best, and you got in trouble by stopping what you do best. You quit doing what you do best.”
Jim: You know, Dave, the crazy thing when you see this over and over again, and you have described this in such great detail and the patterns of human behavior. Um, it’s gotta be frustrating that we step in the same puddle all the time. You’ve got to go, “Wow. Why does this happen, Lord? Why do us - as human beings, why are we so - if I could say it - why are we so stupid?”
Dave: Because predictability is always a higher value than pain-free living. So if you can predict what’s going to happen, even if it’s hurtful, you’ll do it.
Jim: Rather than a healthier thing.
Dave: That’s right. Because you don’t think about the outcome of that one.
Jim: That is amazing.
Jim: What are some of the other ways we can protect our marriages? We’ve hit a few, but give me a rapid-fire...
Dave: I’m gonna give you a great one. So get yourself a little notebook with a wire spiral across the top. She gets one. He gets one. And every day - the research is based on 30 straight days. Each day, every day for 30 straight days, you can’t work ahead. You wake up in the morning and you look for something you like about your spouse. And then you write two or three sentences in your little book why you like it. And that night before you go to bed while you’re laying in bed looking up at the ceiling, each of you thank God for that quality in your spouse. It can be simple. Some - maybe he takes a shower today. That’s really nice, OK?
Jim: (Laughter) Start basic.
Dave: Yeah, basic. You don’t...
John: Low bar there.
Dave: One of the things I did when first time my wife and I did this - my wife has a great smile. And I said, I like seeing your smile when I first come home at night. I like seeing you smile at me when our eyes meet across a crowded room. And I like seeing you smile at me after we’ve had a big disagreement. So I prayed that prayer, dear God, thank you for giving my wife such a great smile.
Jim: Out loud?
Dave: Out loud.
Jim: So she can hear.
Dave: So she can hear it. And you don’t tell each other until at night. So every - for 30 days, you know your spouse is looking, watching, figuring out what they like about you.
Jim: I love that. That right there is a good place to stop, I think...
John: A great takeaway, yeah.
Jim: And, uh, Dave, this has been so wonderful, so insightful, really. And I - I hope everyone has benefited. I can’t imagine that if you have thought about these things, or maybe you’re in that, uh, stage of either emotional attachment or any of the things that Dave has described these last couple of days. This is the greatest help for you right now. This is the safety line coming out to you to say, “Don’t jump in that pool or that ocean of affairs. Don’t do it. Stay on the ship of your marriage where you can weather these things.” Dave, again, so good and so insightful. Thank you so much for that.
To the listener, If you’re in this spot, don’t back up. To what Dave just said, risk moving forward. Uh, talk to one of our counselors here at Focus on the Family. If you and your wife can do it and you’re in a struggle, and maybe even signed the divorce papers, which is common. We have Hope Restored. It’s a marriage-intensive. For four days, you come and, yes, they will beat you up emotionally. They will get to the bottom of a lot of what’s been causing you to have a terrible marriage. And 81 percent of those couples - two years after the, uh, investment, uh, you will be still married and doing much better. I can’t make a better guarantee than that. You know, 19 percent of time, it’s not going to happen. But that’s worth counting on. And I hope you’ll take us up on any of those things. Certainly, get a copy of Dave’s book. Order it through Focus on the Family. And, uh, I believe in it so much, for a gift of any amount, we’ll send it to you is our way of saying, thank you for supporting the ministry, the broadcast and those expenses to help so many.
John: And our number is 800-232-6459. Online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Hey, Dave, uh, given the cultural stuff that’s going on, uh, we’re going to say goodbye right now, but let’s carry this conversation online. And folks can come and listen in. Uh, ‘cause I want to talk very directly about what’s happening in the culture of those areas of power like the media, Hollywood, politicians that are falling left and right over the last few months. Let’s have a little more discussion about what’s going on there. Can we do it?
Dave: I’d love to.
Jim: All right.
John: Well, join us next time as Brant Hansen reflects about the goodness of God in his life.
Brant Hansen: Do you believe God’s in control of your life or not? Can you ever just enjoy Him? And realize just how good He is and that the work’s done. The work’s done.
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Dave CarderView Bio
Dave Carder is the pastor of counseling ministries at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton located in Fullerton, Calif. He holds graduate degrees in biblical literature and in marital and family therapy and is a clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Dave has authored several books including Torn Asunder and Secrets of Your Family Tree. He and his wife, Ronnie, have four adult children and eight grandchildren. Learn more about Dave by visiting his website: www.davecarder.com.