Pastor, author, and counsellor Dave Carder has just released his new book, Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them (Moody Publishers). Recent statistics show that in 41% of married couples, either one or both spouses have admitted to infidelity, either physically or emotionally. 74% of men say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught. 68% of women say the same thing.
In Dave Carder's newest release, he highlights case studies, clinical insights, and critical data on marriage and infidelity. Carder guides married couples on affair statistics, reasons couples cheat, types of affairs, and the warning signs of an affair. Marriage is too sacred to be taken casually. Affairs are a very real threat, and they can destroy lives and families. For this reason, Anatomy of an Affair should be on every church leader's and marriage counselor's required reading list, and in the home of every married couple.
Q: Dave, thanks for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about yourself, what led you to this journey of writing?
I got involved in the field of adultery recovery when the 2nd of just 3 pastors that I had known ran off with a woman in our church. I was a fairly recent seminary grad serving as a youth pastor, but decided then and there to go back to graduate school to try and figure out why pastors do this. This last episode was especially painful because I was so close to the pastor and his family of 3 teenagers.
Q: What inspired you to write a book on affairs?
After 7 years of schooling and collecting hours for two state licensure programs, but not finding decent resources helpful for my couples, I decided to write my own book. But publishers weren't interested in the product, calling it a "brown bag book" that interested couples wouldn't buy because of their embarrassment. At that time, there was very little research on treating adultery; you either swept it under the rug or divorced. But I was becoming convinced that adultery was treatable, had definite contributing factors, went thru specific stages of development, could be classified by differential criteria, and required precise guidance for a thorough recovery.
Q: What's the major reason people have affairs?
Research has identified that when men, in particular, go thru high levels of unusual stress, they will view females in their environment as more attractive. This research is called Misattribution of Attraction and was first identified in the 70's. First time affairs are almost always about comfort and distraction. Other components, of course, factor into the choice. Class I usually involves alcohol. Class II arises out of a longstanding platonic friendship. Class III is a compulsive, self-medicating, addictive behavior that often begins prior to puberty thru sexual molestation/exposure. Class IV is a new relationship that develops around a marital void and a shared interest. Class V is a reconnection with an adolescent romance thru social media.
Q: You mentioned three types of vulnerable marital styles in your book. What are they? And why are they dangerous?
Three types of marital styles vulnerable to sexual betrayal are the Intimacy Avoidant, Conflict Avoidant, and Empty Nest. These three types were first identified by Emily Brown in the early 90's, and reflect an emptiness in the marital relationship, a less than satisfying attachment between the spouses, and an emphasis on efficient functioning within the family system. The danger develops as the children are placed in higher priority than the spouse (often as a response to the parent's own painful and dysfunctional family interactions). The loss of fun, spontaneity, sexual teasing, time alone with each other, and available funds for couple enjoyment, all contribute to heightened loneliness in the marriage and vulnerability to another's attention and interest.
Q. What are we to do when we learn our partner has an affair?
Find a therapist who has experience working with infidelity. This recovery process is not standard marital counseling, rather it is focused recovery from the trauma of betrayal. The entire field is only 25 years old, so evidence based treatment is scanty, but there are a number of very helpful books and workbooks available. Take a friend into your confidence, you will need their listening ear on this journey. When couples get stuck in this process it is usually due to an inadequate forgiveness process. You both need to figure out why this happened, at this time, with this person, and your stories need to be very similar if you are to recover well (the betrayer can't have secret scenarios that the betrayed is not aware of). Do not file for divorce until you figure this out, other wise you will take the same vulnerabilities with you into the next relationship.
Q: What's the process of healing for a couple who has experienced an affair?
A couple has to have some good history to fall back on after sexual betrayal; this is not the time to build good history in a bad marriage. But, the good news is the couple might not need as much good history as they might think. Research suggests that if 20% of your marital history is rated highly by both of you simultaneously (in the same time zones) and contiguously (unbroken by bad periods), you will have better than a 90% chance of saving this relationship. In most cases this 20% occurs prior to children arriving in the family. A 5 step model is commonly utilized in recovery; a thorough understanding of your personal and family history that contributed to the betrayal, a full disclosure forgiveness process that requires assignment of feeling words to the request, reestablishment of respect and trust, specific reattachment exercises, and an identification of best practices that you both enjoy, historically and going forward. Some of these practices might have disappeared in the marriage and resurfaced in the affair. They will still have to be reintroduced in the marriage as a part of a new pattern.
Q:. How can one affair proof a marriage?
Initially vows, then rings, and finally hedges, boundaries, doors and windows were suggested as good protections in a marriage. But today's culture is different. Half of Millennials grow up in broken families where vows and rings and boundaries didn't mean what they were supposed to. So today's marriages need additional protections; understanding of your personal risk factors, seasons when your marriage is most vulnerable, your composite of a Dangerous Partner Profile, and the ability to recognize Seductive Personalities who go after married spouses (called mate poaching, this behavior is on the rise and in one recent study of singles, 50% of men and 47% of women acknowledged that they had tried this!) These 21st Century protections are the core content of an Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions develop and how to guard your marriage against them.
Q: Talk about cyber threats to marriages and what couples can do to guard themselves from getting involved.
Sex is everywhere today and the overstimulation of pornography, with resulting desensitization, has required entirely new treatment modalities (evidenced by the lead article and front cover exposure of 5 new husbands who could not be sexually involved with their newly married wives due to lack of arousal caused by heavy use of pornography to date!) Habitual use of porn, massage parlors, sexual chat rooms, prostitutes, etc. is not about the marriage. This individual would have done this no matter who they married. This is an individual, self medicating behavior, requiring sobriety, that stems from wounds in childhood and a marriage won't "fix" it. To get married might provide a two year reprieve from the behavior, but because marital sex is all about relationship and not lust, the individual will relapse and begin acting out again. The biggest threat to marriages in this century started in 1995, when for the first time, one could find romantic partners from adolescence in just a few minutes. What makes this so dangerous is that the infatuation from this relationship is already stored in the brain! It doesn't have to be developed, only rekindled!! In fact, staying in touch with an old girlfriend/boyfriend for 30 days will begin to create confusion about your marriage; "maybe I married the wrong person, my spouse doesn't create this kind of excitement in me." Continue to stay in touch for an additional 30 days, you will begin to plan ways to meet and sleep with them!!!
Q. What's the role of faith in marital protection?
Hopefully, it is very important, but great men of faith have succumbed to sexual betrayal thru the centuries. It was such a problem, that one of the top 5 topics in the Book of Proverbs is warnings against adultery! And of course, the same restriction is on God's Top Ten List in the Ten Commandments. Faith is most powerful in community versus isolation. Accountability groups don't mean that much to me. They are too parental and we all have had plenty of parenting! I like Vulnerability Groups where every participant is equally open and shares their own struggles.