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

Original Air Date 07/21/2011

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Pastor and author Dave Carder explains how couples can guard against inappropriate intimacy in relationships outside of their marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: Our guest on today's "Focus on the Family: is Pastor Dave Carder and he shares one of the leading causes of infidelity in marriage.


Pastor 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[s]. And we always say this at the end: "What was he thinking?" When it is, he wasn't. That person is under the influence of a mood-altering substance. They are stone drunk.

End of Excerpt

John: You'll hear more about infatuation and the seemingly innocent steps that can lead up to it on today's "Focus" broadcast with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: I'm excited about today's program, John, because I believe it will literally save marriages. And we're gonna be talking about how to avoid infidelity. And you know, most of us don't wake up in the morning and decide, "I'm gonna go out and ruin my marriage today." It doesn't start like that. These things happen slowly in a series of small steps, as you said.

And what we want to do today is throw up some yellow flags for couples who may not be experiencing that intimacy in their own marriage and may be in jeopardy of loving their marriage if they're not careful. And today's guest, Dave Carder, has studied infidelity for over 30 years and he has some amazing insights.

For example, in a study of 4,000 pastors, 21 percent admitted being sexually indiscreet and of those, almost every single man said they had been blindsided. They didn't see it coming. So, we're gonna hear how affairs start, based on information Dave has gathered counseling church couples through their first-time experience with infidelity.

John: Well, Dave's information is really sobering, Jim, because he's talking about couples who share that same moral foundation and values that we have. He's talking to us. And we've seen this happen among our friends and family. I think everyone knows a couple that's divorcing and we find out later that an affair had been going on. And so, Dave is gonna help us roll back the tape and see how the marriage first began unraveling.

Jim: And let me say, if you're not married, keep listening. These yellow flags and in some cases, red flags, can help you not get caught up in an inappropriate friendship with a married man or woman. It's good advice for you if you're single.

John: Well, Pastor Dave Carder oversees a counseling ministry at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California. He's been on the broadcast before and he's spent 30 years studying this. You'll hear what prompted that kind of laser focus on this particular issue in just a moment.

Dave is the author of the book, Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage. And he and his wife, Ronnie, have four adult children and eight grandchildren. Here now, Dave Carder, speaking at a Smart Marriage conference on today's "Focus on the Family."


Dave: It's August, 1977 and I know many of you were not alive, but in that process, I was driving a school bus as a recently graduate [sic] of seminary. I was a youth pastor at the time and I was comin' back from Jersey Shore, where I'd taken a bunch of kids—40 of 'em to be exact—to do a missions 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 out of the car and sneakin' up to an apartment building in the middle of the night is not exactly the best thing for a pastor to do.

So, anyway, I get out of 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, havin' a Bible study with a bunch of boys in this apartment." And 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 the school bus stop and maybe they can tell me what happened to this family."

Sure enough, the next morning I come back. A couple of those boys are there. I start talkin' 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 goin'?" "They wouldn't tell us."

I said, "I know where a U-Haul truck store is. I hop back in my car. I drive to the neighboring 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 is in the days before it became it became an issue to look at other people's contracts, etc. So, he just threw the whole set of invoices at me. I started thumbing through 'em 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 comin' 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 airport, buy a ticket, take my binoculars (Laughter), fly to that neighboring city (Applause), okay. Okay. I'm tellin' you the truth. I fly to that big city 2,000 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. (Applause)

Now I want to tell you somethin'. Don't run from me, okay? (Laughter) 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. (Laughter)

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, workin' 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." (Laughter and Applause)

So, I left a picture of my senior pastor (Laughter) 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, "He's in my office. I know it's the right guy." And I'm starting whispering, too. I'm 2,000 miles away, okay. (Laughter) But I start 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," okay.

So, I whispered back, I said, "Tell him you gotta send him some money, okay? And get an address, just I don't care what you have to say." He called me back about 15 minutes and he has an address.

I go home and get my suitcase, drive 90 miles (Laughter) 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 sittin' 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 in September, I was enrolled, taking prerequisite courses. Now that's when I started on this mission of tryin' 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 I just could not believe, even though this had happened to me twice. Both of the seniors pastors I had worked with had ran off [sic] 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, 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 began to think about close calls. That's when I began to work on where do these surprise infidelities come from? I'm not talking about people who were out fishin', who have character flaws. I'm not talkin' 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 talkin' about.

Now in our culture, we have a lot of interesting experiences working—men and women together. So, before I dive into this, I want to say very clearly, I am not against having in my case, female friends or maybe in your case, male friends. I'm not against it. I don't want to 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 kinda take a look at it.

How does this happen? What is a "close-call" friendship? What kind of a set up 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 goin' 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 began to realize, these people sound like people, these people who have these affairs, they sound like people who maybe have become addicted, who'd 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 statement. People have died for infatuation. People have given up kingdoms for infatuation.

Infatuation will cause you to do crazy things, okay(Laughter), crazy things. 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 a m I talkin' 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 out of those kind of friendships that inappropriate relationships often are built.

Program Note:

John: You're listening to Pastor Dave Carder on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. And in a few moments, Dave will share a list of risky behaviors to avoid. Now he's compiled over his 30 years of counseling couples. And in fact, we're gonna post that list online and we'll have an article that Dave wrote and while you're there, get today's audio and request Dave's book, as well, called Close Calls. All of that at Let's go ahead and return now. Here's Dave Carder on "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note

Dave: 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 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 of 10 years. And I'm talking about old girlfriends and old boyfriends. Now I want to tell you what I've come to believe about this. If you were at a difficult spot in your personal life, if you are at a difficult spot in your marriage and you were 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 the things that are just wearing you out and you suddenly have a thought to contact Susie or Bill. I wonder how they're doin'.

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. Sixty days from start to finish and you'll be sleepin' 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 doubly difficult.

Now when we talk about these friendships and these relationship[s], just kinda spell 'em 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 kinda 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 will 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 'em.

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 a very interesting 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. "You know, she was sharing this story," or "I shared some things." And the next one is the friend shares relationship difficulties. And now you're off the business relationship or off the hobby or the interest or whatever else and now you're on to really personal stuff.

Fourth, when you begin to anticipate seeing this person more than going home and seeing your spouse, you are slidin' sideways. People used to talk about, I've heard people say in sessions, "You know, it's just the anticipation of goin' to work and seein' them and having conversation with them or having a cup of coffee with them," etc. You can do this. It's just very easy.

You know, we see our spouses at the two worst times of the day: in the morning, when we're tryin' to get out the door, get the kids fed, get the books together, making sure everybody's happy, got their lunch, the shoes they need for the baseball practices or the karate clothes; it's terrible. 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 their right mind and who has 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 want to keep saying to you, it's easy.

You begin to provide special treats for this friend. There is nothing wrong with this. I want to say over and over, it's how it all kind of collects and builds, but you provide special treats. You're buyin' some mints at the store and you think, "You know, Bill really likes those. I'll get him a box of 'em."

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'ya doin'? Did you sleep okay last night?" Now when was the last time you ever asked your spouse that, okay? Or you check in with them. Sometimes you're just grateful that we made it to another day or another month. You don't really do this easily or often enough.

You might even fantasize about marriage with this friend, just fantasy, just thinkin' about it, not plannin' it or anything like that, but just fantasizing about it. 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.

No. 9, you begin to spend more alone time with the friend than with the spouse. And you say, "No way." Oh, yes, this happens easy if you're on a softball team, a coed volleyball team. If you're on a worship team at some church and you're singing at rehearsals and if you're in a mission, feedin' the poor, or if you're 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: We're working our way through a list of 19 dangerous behaviors for husbands and wives with Pastor Dave Carder on today's "Focus on the Family." And we'll hear the rest of that list next time.

Jim: You know, John, a few minutes ago Dave mentioned the need to have some boundaries with respect to old relationships. And the brain wiring is such that those feelings of infatuation are actually stored, ready to rekindle the thrill of that romance perhaps from high school or college. They're like dormant virus. They're just in your body waiting.

John: I thought that was pretty interesting.

Jim: Yeah, it was and that's something you need to protect against. Jean and I try to do that by not doing the social media thing with high school friends. I'm connected to only the guys that I knew at the time, two really good buddies from sports. And those are great safeguards to put in place so that the old flames, those dormant memories aren't rekindled and an unwanted romance is started.

John: Well, there are times in any marriage where you've kind of hit a dry season and I think it's probably then, Jim, when those stored memories come into the forefront and people start to ask themselves, "Gee, it was so good back them. I wonder if ..." And certainly, that's a dangerous path to go down. As Dave is saying, we've gotta guard against that.

Jim: Yeah and the Bible tells us to guard our heart and to take every thought captive and that's important for all of us, no matter who you are or what you're doing. Whether you're married or single, it's important to guard out heart.

John, Dave mentioned the dangerous partner profile and we'll flesh that out tomorrow, but let's post a summary online along with the list of 19 dangerous behaviors. I think it's important for people to see exactly what we're talkin' about.

John: Yeah, I'd agree Jim.

Jim: Also our research shows that over 350 marriages a day are being saved by our efforts here at Focus on the Family. And I want to thank you for standing in the gap with us financially, prayerfully and making it possible for these marriages to be saved. And your support, it helps us provide counseling services, resources and our newly acquired National Institute of Marriage [NIM]. And that's a program for those couples who are literally at the end of their rope. In fact, here's a recent success story from NIM.

"We tried it all and nothing seemed to work. The divorce papers were filled out. The parenting and financial plans had already been agreed upon. It seems like we were working on a two-dimensional plane. The experience at NIM brought it to 4-D, like a Disney ride with sights, smells and sound. It made all the difference and it saved our marriage."

John: What a great story and what a vivid description of the impact that the National Institute of Marriage is having on couples. It's like having a revival in your marriage.

Jim: Well, an even better, these are changes that last. They aren't fleeting. And let me say, those couples who were on the brink of divorce say that the National Institute of Marriage restored their relationships and almost 85 percent of these couples say they are still happily married. That's incredible. That's success. And in Canada, we have something called The Kerith [Creek] retreat center and that is just starting to expand and respond to needs for our friends there in Canada.

But we need you to partner with us financially to make all of these options available. We cannot do it alone. Your gift can literally help save a marriage. And when you make a generous donation of any amount to Focus on the Family, we'll send you a copy of Dave Carder's book, Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage. Call us today.

John: And the number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can find out more about these resources and donating to Focus on the Family at our website, If you'd prefer to drop a check in the mail, our address is 8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920. And when you're online, you'll find a link to our National Institute of Marriage.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. You'll continue to hear about preventing infidelity, as we share trusted advice to help you and your family thrive.

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Dave Carder

View 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: