FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Why do Affairs Happen?

with Dave Carder | April 20, 2009
Play Pause

Marital affairs are breaking up marriages in record numbers. All this week on the broadcast, Dave Carder, a pastor and author of the book Torn Asunder, will tell you how to affair-proof your marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Marital affairs are breaking up marriages in record numbers. All this week on the broadcast, Dave Carder, a pastor and author of the book Torn Asunder, will tell you how to affair-proof your marriage.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Marital affairs are breaking up marriages in record numbers.

MP3 Download Transcript

Why do Affairs Happen?

With Dave Carder
April 20, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Dave: Forty percent of Christian marriages will have an affair in their marriage before the partners reach the age of 40. 

Bob: This is Dave Carder.

Dave: Now, it might be a one-night stand, but it has happened in 40 percent of Christian marriages.  So next time you go to your church look around and just start counting the numbers off.  And the sad thing is when couples go through this, they feel like they're the only one.  It's the biggest, most shameful secret they've ever experienced.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 20th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to talk today about how a marriage can survive when there has been infidelity and about how you begin to rebuild trust.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  Before we dive into what we're going to talk about this week, for the last several weeks we've been encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to attend one of our spring Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences and, I'll tell you, we've been hearing so many wonderful reports back from folks who have attended a conference this spring, and there have been thousands of couples who have already been to one of our conferences.

We wanted to do something to encourage those listeners who have been thinking about going to one of these conferences to stop thinking about it and go ahead and register.  So this week and next week if you will register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, when you pay for a regular registration, we're going to give you a second registration for free.  That means that if you register at the regular price, your spouse attends with you at no cost.

All the information about this is available on our website,, or you can 1-800-FLTODAY for more information if you need to know when the conference is going to be in a city near where you live, dates and location – call us or go online, and the information is available there.  But if you want to take advantage of this special offer, you've got to do two things.  First, you've got to register before the end of the month, and let me encourage you to do it quickly because in some locations we're starting to fill up the ballroom.

And then, second, you have to mention that you are a listener to FamilyLife Today.  So if you're registering online at, as you fill out the registration form, when you get to the keycode box on the form, just type in my name, "Bob," and you will automatically qualify for the special rate or call 1-800-FLTODAY, we can get you registered over the phone and just mention you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you head about the special offer and, again, you buy one registration at the regular price, and the second registration is free.

If you have any questions or if you need more information, online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and we hope you'll make plans not just to think about attending a conference but to attend an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.  And what we're going to be talking about this week really fits that theme, Dennis. You saw this article about the new book that's come, didn't you? 

Dennis: You're talking about The LA Times article?

Bob: The book about the guide to etiquette if you're going to have an affair.

Dennis: That's right.

Bob: I could not believe this deal.

Dennis: I don't even want to give the name of this book on our radio program, lest someone think we're promoting it – we're not.  It is a book about how to go about having proper etiquette if you're going to have an affair.  Okay, this is a great culture in which we are ministering today.

Bob: Part of the problem is that folks do not understand in this culture that there is a divinely placed connection between the soul and the body, and that you cannot simply engage in some kind of bodily activity without it impacting your soul, your heart, and your mind.  It goes deep and leave profound wounds and scars.

Dennis: It does, Bob.  In fact, I think what most people don't realize is that the God of the Universe created us, and He put certain laws into effect that when we break them, we end up being the ones who get hurt the greatest.

Well, we have a guest today in the studio – in fact, over the next few days, who I am really looking forward to interacting with.  He has written what I believe is the best book to help people stay out of affairs or recover from an affair that's on the market today.  His name is Dave Carder, and, Dave, I want to welcome you back to FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Well, thanks so much.  I'm looking forward to this.

Dennis: Dave was one of our first guinea – guests – back in 1993.  Bob and I were starting out, and we actually interviewed you, Dave, by phone from your office at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California – Chuck Swindoll's former church.  In fact, was Chuck there?

Dave: He was.

Dennis: At that point when we interviewed you?

Dave: He was and stayed there another year or so.

Dennis: Dave is the assistant pastor of that church.  He and his wife, Ronnie, live in Southern California, have four children, and they have grandchildren being born even as we speak.

Well, this book, "Torn Asunder," Dave, you have to have had enormous response from this.  This really has come from your counseling ministry at First E Free, right?

Dave: It has, but the start of this book occurred back in 1977 when my senior pastor ran off with one of the women in the church. 

Dennis: Now, we want to make sure everybody knows that was not Chuck.

Dave: No, it wasn't.

Dennis: Okay.

Bob: Man.

Dave: And on the way to the airport after confronting him in another state in the southern part of the United States when he refused to come home, I said to my friend, "I'm going to go back to graduate school, and I'm going to figure out why guys do this," because this was the second pastor I had worked with who had left his family. 

And I don't know a whole lot more over the last 23, 25 years, but what I have learned I put in that book to help couples.

Bob: Well, you do know a whole lot more because you've continued to work with thousands of couples who have come in and said, "Our marriage has been devastated by this," and you've helped many of those couples find the right path to healing and to forgiveness.  I think we've got to start off today, Dennis, by acknowledging that an affair can do great damage to a marriage but not irreparable damage to a marriage.  It is possible to go through an affair and to wind up, months or years later, with a marriage that is whole and satisfying and that honors and glorifies God.

Dennis: And I want to say at the beginning, this series of broadcasts we're going to do all this week – this series is for three groups of people – the first group are those who are satisfied in their marriage.  They're not being tempted to have an affair.  This is a great series for you to listen to just to keep the home fires burning and to be encouraged and to also watch for the danger signs in your own life.

Secondly, this is a series for those who are being tempted, and when we did this interview of you a number of years ago, Dave, that's what shocked me – were the number of letters and e-mails, because we've re-aired the series a number of times that have come from listeners who were in the throes of being tempted.

The third group are those who are trapped, they're ensnared, and they need hope and, as Bob mentioned, they need healing.  We're going to provide that hope and healing because this is really the purpose of this book – to guide someone out of the trap and to help bring them back to full reconciliation and restoration in the marriage relationship.

Dave, you talk about how cheating has become an equal opportunity sport.

Dave: It has.  The fastest-growing rate of infidelity in America is among young married women – married seven years or less.  There are lots of opportunities in the workplace, in Christian ministry circles, in the environments these young women are in, and they succumb.

Bob: Well, it's growing among that group, but it's not exclusive to that?

Dave: No, not at all.

Bob:  Affairs happen anytime in a marriage relationship.  You really can't pinpoint it and say "These are the trouble spots," because it could happen anyplace, couldn't it?

Dave:  Well, it could, but one of the things we say is 40 percent of Christian marriages will have an affair in their marriage before the partners reach the age of 40.

Dennis: Now, wait a second – Christian marriages?

Dave: Christian marriages – so next time you go to your church look around and just start counting the numbers off of couples …

Dennis: Now, are you talking about an affair on the Internet that is simply an emotional affair of the heart, or are you talking about a full-blown physical, sexual affair?

Dave: I'm talking about a full-blown affair.  I'm talking about a face-to-face connection with somebody that's live.  Now, it might be a one-night stand, but it has happened in 40 percent of Christian marriages.  Depending on which survey you read, some of them are even higher than that.

Bob:  You differentiate between different kinds of affairs.  What are those kinds?

Dave: Well, early on, when I first got into this field, the church basically treat all infidelity the same, and if someone was crying or weeping and admitted they were wrong, we took them right back into fellowship, et cetera, and didn't really process the differentiation.  Basically, we would look at a Class I affair, which is a one-night stand, kind of like a David and Bathsheba thing.  The second one would be a very emotionally entangled affair – a great friendship, a platonic relationship that was non-sexual, maybe for months and even years before it became sexual and inappropriate.  Class III would be what we call sexually compulsive or sexually addicted.

The Class IV infidelity is really developing out of a loss or a singular marital deficit.  Let me give an illustration – here is a wife who likes to sing, and her husband doesn't care for music, and she's really into music, and she's on a worship team and everything else.  Well, she joins that worship team, and she develops a relationship with someone and pretty soon it becomes inappropriate.  Neither spouse plans to leave their spouse or family.  They don't go to hotels; they don't go on expensive dates; they never even go out to dinner.  But they have an inappropriate relationship built around a singular experience that's very satisfying to both of them.

Bob: Then when you talk about it as an inappropriate relationship, you're saying that they have had some sexual connection.

Dave: Well, some erotic connection or some kind of an emotional connection where they're robbing the marriage of any kind of emotional contact.  They're beginning to save conversational topics, relationships, things like that, to talk with this other person about and won't talk with the spouse.

Bob: In that Class IV situation, I mean, all of us will acknowledge that our mates cannot, and we shouldn't expect our mates to meet all of our needs, but there's a difference between that statement and saying, "So, I will now look to another person of the opposite sex to fill in the gaps."

Dave: Exactly, because it will always lead to someplace you won't like, and it always will mean something to one partner that it doesn't mean to the other.  It means more to one of them.

Dennis: I'll never forget, a number of years ago we interviewed a woman who had written an article for a major Christian publication where she had confessed to this Class IV affair.  Now, it never – her affair did not become sexual, but it was clearly what you're describing. 

She was a writer, and she connected at a university with a man, and it was fascinating to listen to her talk to how these two people from – both from godly backgrounds – slowly slipped off into a snare where they both knew where it was headed.  And she finally had to write a letter to him saying, "You and I both know where this is headed, and it can't go there because the people" – and at this point, she'd been married, I think, for more than 25 years – "the people that we love the most will be hurt the deepest.

Dave: This is a soulmate experience.

Dennis: Yes, it was, that describes it.

Dave: It's an affinity that's almost supernatural.

Dennis: And the reason, Dave, that I think it's so important to talk about this is this is where most affairs being.

Dave: It is.

Dennis: And as we air this series this week, a part of what we're trying to call people away from is some are one step away from that emotional affair, or they're foot is even in the air – they're headed there.

Dave: They don't recognize it.

Dennis: And they may recognize it by the end of the week, and we are calling them to turn around and to flee immorality.

Bob: Let me ask you a question about that Class I affair that you talked about – the one-night stand.  That's, frankly, hard for me to imagine how that happens for a guy or for a gal.  Is this just a – "I let my guard down one night?"  Or – it sounds like there's got to be something in the background of this person where they really have not settled, in their own heart and mind, moral convictions about fidelity in marriage.

Dave: Well, it can be a variety of things, but let's talk about it from three different vantage points.  First of all, one of the acronyms we use to help people recognize when they're getting into trouble is called HALT-B – h-a-l-t-hyphen-B – hungry, angry, lonely, tired and bored, and in a one-night stand, several of those are involved.  Almost all of them center around food.  Most affairs start with food.  So if you take a guy on a business trip, and he's eating supper by himself, and he's hungry, and he's maybe frustrated with the day's activities, and he's lonely, and he's tired, and he has nothing to look forward to that evening, he has five emotional states all converging upon one point in time that will cause him to really – could cause him to break out of his boundaries that he's put there to protect himself.

Bob: The woman who participates in that same kind of a one-night stand – is she a businesswoman as well?

Dave: Oftentimes, right.  She could, though, also be someone who is very involved in ministry somewhere, and she and this guy decide to go out and grab a bite to eat, maybe they grab a cup of coffee after rehearsal or after a planning session for the teenage ministry they both share and both have a heart and passion for.  And, pretty soon, those come to mean too much, and those five mood states are critical to identifying a red light.

Bob: Hungry, angry, lonely, tired and bored.

Dave: HALT-B.

Dennis: And is this the most common type of affair?

Dave: No, no, I would not call it the most common type of affair.

Dennis: So a one-night stand is not the largest group?

Dave: No.  The one-night stand is consummated sexually that night.  That's one of the things that differentiates it from a Class II and a Class IV.  It's full of passion, it's spontaneous, it's unplanned, it's circumstantial – meaning it depends on where those people are.  It often centers around alcohol, and it's often at a great distance away from your home base. 

Dennis: Which one is the most common?

Dave: Well, the most common, probably, for me in working with couples to recover from infidelity, would be the Class II affair, or the Class IV, where they had a good marriage, and this friendship gradually emerged, over time, and just swept one of the partners off their feet.  And they want to save the marriage, and they love their kids, and they're committed to Christ, and that would be the most common for me.  Class I's oftentimes don't get disclosed.

Dennis: But they were emotionally entangled with someone of the opposite sex, maybe in the choir, as we talked about, in a prayer group …

Dave: Exactly.

Dennis: I think sometimes within the church, because of the mystique and the profound emotion of the spiritual dimension of our lives, a prayer group, a Bible study group, even a couples group, can become a place where – well, it can become fertile ground for an affair to spring forth.

Dave: Dennis, I agree with you.  I think more couples are together the more likely there is to be an affair.  Statistically, I can't prove that.  I am looking for that.  You hear about these couples who go on vacations together all the time, or you hear about these couples who run couple Bible studies, and that's where a lot of these pairings take place – is in that innocuous setting.

Bob: Now, you say that, and I think about these close friends of ours, and we spend a lot of time doing stuff with them, and I hear that, and I go, "Well, I better call them and tell them we can't do stuff together anymore; we can't go out to dinner anymore, because I want to keep my guard up."  How do we protect ourselves with the reality that that can happen and yet the desire that neither of us wants it to happen, but we don't want to say we can't go out to dinner, we can't take our families on vacation together?

Dave: There are two boundaries that get crossed in these kinds of emotional relationships that will lead to sexual activity.  The first one is when you share your feelings mutually with somebody else.  If you say, "I really like you, I really admire you, there are times I think I'm in love with you.  If I hadn't married my husband, I would be marrying you."  If you say something like that, you're on really thin ice.

Dennis: Or what about if one person shares with another, "I'm having problems in my marriage."

Dave: That's the second one – you took it right out of my mouth.  When you start complaining about your relationship to a third party, you are also on that very thin ice.

Dennis: That knits the hearts together.

Dave: It does.

Dennis: And creates a combustible chemical reaction.

Dave: Way above and beyond what the partners would anticipate at that point in time.  They don't even recognize how dangerous that situation really is.

Dennis: And then they hide it from one another.

Dave: Well, and they often justify it because "I'm trying to help him have a better marriage with his wife" or, you know, "He asked me about a female perspective on something, and I'm trying to give that to him," and so the two of them are building an affinity as they deal with a common problem, and the problem is the other wife.

Dennis: I have to ask you this question, because we've talked about four different types of affairs.  I want to ask you a big-picture question – what's the motivation behind all of them?  Why do people have affairs?

Dave: I used to think it was all about sex.  It's not.  Most infidelity is about what we call the five As in nurturance  – adoration, accommodation, admiration, affection, and the other skips my mind, but there are five of them in there, and the whole sense of emotional nurturance and care, and that's what happens in marriages.  We get so busy we stop taking care of each other.  We get so busy, we stop having fun with each other.  There are so many demands we quit spending money on our marriage.  It's not a good use of funds, so to speak, and, boy, that sets the stage, and – boom – people are in trouble.

Bob: A number of years ago Jerry Jenkins wrote a book that, at that time, was called "Hedges."  I think they changed the title to "Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It," but I remember that book being a great sober warning to couples who are together to say, "You better put some boundaries around your marriage so that you don't wind up needing Dave Carder's book five years from now  And I know you're a supporter of married couples having some rules.  At FamilyLife, for example, we have, as policy, that a man and a woman don't meet in a closed-door office; the door needs to stay open.  And if you should be traveling with somebody of the opposite sex, you don't share a rental car on your way to some – if you've got to get two rental cars or somebody's got to take a taxi, that's what you do.

Those kinds of boundaries – sometimes you look at them and go, "That just doesn't make sense," when you're traveling somewhere, but you need to keep some hedges set up, don't you?

Dennis: Yeah, it makes sense.

Dave: And not just for you as the spouse doing the traveling but for the reassurance it provides the spouse that stays home.

Dennis: Yeah, yeah, and I just want to address our three groups here at the conclusion of our broadcast.  Number one, if you have a good marriage, or even if your marriage is struggling, and you're not being tempted to have an affair, guard your heart.  Proverbs, chapter 4, talks about guarding your heart for "from it flow the wellsprings of life."  Don't give in; don't take the first step. 

Secondly are those who are being tempted mentally and emotionally, who perhaps haven't had a full-blown affair, a Class I or a Class III, but they are moving towards the consummation of that relationship.  Step away, turn and flee from all those things you get from that relationship.

And the third, if you've been deceived, and you're trapped, you need to repent, and you need to get Dave's book and find out the process that you go through.  And I just want to speak to you – all three groups.  This book is a needed book in the Christian culture today for two reasons. 

First of all, for personal reasons for people who are being tempted or who are in the midst of it but, secondly, this is a resource book for every married couple, every pastor, every counselor, that he ought to use to counsel those who are ensnared and who do need hope and help and healing to get out of that relationship.

Bob: And we'd hope that some of our listeners might, in addition to getting the book, sponsor someone to attend a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.  Of course, right now we're making the conference available at a special rate for FamilyLife Today listeners.  If you wanted to scholarship someone to go; if you wanted to pay someone's way, you buy one registration, the second registration comes at no cost, it's absolutely free. 

So – if you know someone who is in this kind of a situation, if you know somebody whose marriage has been rocked by infidelity, and maybe it happened a year ago or two years ago – if they've not been to a weekend away to really focus on their marriage, concentrate on their marriage, trust me, this issue is still having impact in their marriage today.

If you can scholarship them to attend, if you can pay their way to attend a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, call us and get them registered or go online at and, again, this special offer is for FamilyLife Today listeners, and it's good through the end of April.  So we need to hear from you before April 30th.  When you register and buy one registration at the regular price, you'll get the second registration at no cost, absolutely free, so you're paying for one spouse, and the other spouse attends for free.

All the details are available online at, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  If you register online, make sure you put my name, "Bob," in the keycode box on the registration form.  That way you can take advantage of the special offer or just call 1-800-FLTODAY, mention that you heard about the special offer on FamilyLife Today, and you'll qualify, and you'll be able to purchase one registration and get the other registration for free.

The website again,, and the phone number is 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Again, there is information on our website about Dave's book, which is called "Torn Asunder," and the companion workbook, and we'd encourage you, if you've gone through this in your own marriage or if you know someone who has, get these resources and put them to work.  We think you'll find them very helpful.

Now, tomorrow we're going to talk more about this subject of adultery and infidelity, and we're going to find out what Dave Carder thinks you need to do if there was unfaithfulness a long time ago, and your spouse doesn't know anything about it.  Do you bring it up or do you leave it buried?  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you.  However, there is a cost to transcribe, create, and produce them for our website.  If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.