Faith & Family

Guarding Against Affairs

Close calls are virtually all alike. They begin with an attraction to somebody other than your spouse that causes you to think about your time with this individual simply for the pleasure that it provides you. Maybe you’re having regular meetings with someone of the opposite sex for business, shared interests, or volunteer opportunities.

Somewhere in this phase, a mere friendship ceases and a close call starts. Now you’re saving topics of conversation for this person. Your conversations progress from topics related to your mutual interest to far-ranging ones—and soon into personal issues. You scheme and plan on how to be together more often, for more time, without raising anyone’s suspicions.

These types of relationships easily become close calls. As time goes on, there is mutual admiration and a growing number of shared secrets.

At this point, many folks go into denial about how much the relationship is beginning to mean to them and may get to the final phase before recognizing how close he or she really came to having an affair.

Five Classes of Affairs

Interestingly there are five types of extramarital affairs. Counselors find that these descriptions help them portray for their clients more clearly how an affair developed and ended.

Knowing the details about these types of affairs will help you see just where there might be a risk of falling into an affair.

CLASS 1: One-Night Stand

This type of affair is usually unplanned. It often involves partners who didn’t even know each other prior to the affair. It is done in utmost secrecy, and it often, though not always, results from alcohol consumption. This type of affair is self-serving and contains no emotional involvement or desire to perpetuate closeness. It has all the components of a “first love” type of sexual experience. Our sexually saturated culture feeds especially into this type of affair, and it is the one-night stand that usually results in immediate and intense remorse.

CLASS 2: Entangled Affair

This type of affair develops gradually. The emotional involvement is intense; perhaps there are family-of-origin deficits that contribute to the emotional need that has been fed by this more complex relationship. Such an affair might last for a year or even two. Sexual activity is not immediate, as in a one-night stand, but occurs only later in the relationship, after a friendship is clearly established.

CLASS 3: Sexual Addiction

This behavior is not really an affair. There is no relationship involved. This is a sex-only experience and it is never satisfying. This behavior often starts in childhood or early adolescence with inappropriate sexual exposure. It eventually develops into a ritualistic pattern of acting out. It is not about emotional attachment and it would have happened no matter who the addict might have married. It is always about the addict’s history and never about the spouse providing enough sexual activity.

This behavior is an attempt to self-medicate shame, anxiety, and depression. When women experience these feelings, they tend to eat. When men do so, they act out sexually. Sex is the best antidepressant medication known to males, at least initially. Like alcohol, which feels initially like an antidepressant but with use becomes a depressant, so does compulsive sex.

Being free from sexual addiction usually requires professional and/or intensive therapy to sort through all of the contributions, followed by an ongoing maintenance group such as a twelve-step model. Couples counseling will not be the best option until the addict has a stable sobriety and is able to engage emotionally with the spouse. A betrayed spouse will never move emotionally toward the addict until he or she is convinced that they will not be hurt like this again.

CLASS 4: Add-on Affair

This affair occurs to satisfy a specific void. It develops when an individual shares an emotionally satisfying experience with an acquaintance because their spouse has no interest in participating in this activity. This experience is initially platonic, developing within a hiking club, worship team, or other shared ministry or common leisure pursuit. Because participants in this kind of affair generally do not meet outside of the experience they find so satisfying, they consider the other a friend rather than a lover. They don’t contact or meet at any time other than the shared activity. They don’t have lunches, and they don’t check up on each other. They have no intention of leaving their spouses and family, and often feel they have done nothing wrong. Whatever erotic activity occurs is often infrequent and dissatisfying to one partner, but is provided out of obligation or for the purpose of maintaining the friendship. Invariably, however, in addition to the affair, these relationships rob the marriage of emotional content.

CLASS 5: Reconnection

Class 5 says very little about the state of the marriage. It starts innocently enough, “I wonder whatever happened to . . .” Even when the marriage is close, it is normal to wonder about what happened to those old girlfriends and boyfriends from adolescent years. Many of them were “first loves.” Many more of them broke hearts. And even when things are good between you and your spouse, social media makes it appealing and easy to try and find them!

Why the extreme danger? That earlier time period was fueled by hormones and sexual attraction, parking and making out, and often encompassed one’s first erotic experiences. It contained all the freedom with little or no responsibility. No wonder culture has encouraged efforts to prolong adolescence, now viewed as extending through the mid-twenties! Who wouldn’t be enticed to go back?

Time creates this nostalgia that only intensifies infatuation. Some individuals will even search for first loves from their elementary-age days. Don’t laugh! First affections are rarely forgotten. Contrasted with family ruts, busy schedules, relentless responsibility, tight finances, and seemingly unending chores, it’s no wonder that—even when someone loves their spouse—they can be tempted to go back to find “better times.”

In the past, this desire was often put on hold due to the difficulty of finding and interacting with old flames. Reunions, years apart, were often the only option. Now, within minutes of wondering and searching, you can be emailing, texting, and on FaceTime or Skype with each other, all while commuting, cooking dinner in the kitchen, or sitting in the stands at your daughter’s soccer game.

In Class 5, you don’t have to create a relationship; you have an old familiar one stored in your brain, just waiting to be rekindled. Within the first thirty days of contact, you will begin to think that maybe you married the wrong person. Your spouse certainly doesn’t generate this kind of excitement. In fact, they hardly notice you at times.

If you stay in touch with that individual for an additional thirty days, you will be looking for ways to meet and become more intimate with each other.

Guarding Your Marriage

Close calls will happen. The most powerful way to disarm a close call is to talk to your spouse about the experience. Affair-free, long-lasting marriages have a history of creating multiple magical experiences with each other across the time you’ve been together. You don’t need to go outside your marriage to have fun if the two of you will return to doing what you used to do best.

Stay strong. Stay close. Keep talking. And fully enjoy the time that God is giving you together! 

Taken from: Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. Copyright © 2017 by Dave Carder. Published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois. Used by Permission.


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DAVE CARDER serves as Pastor of Counseling Ministries at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, CA. His specialty is Adultery Recovery and Prevention for which he has appeared on numerous media outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Health, and The Learning Channel, The Tony Robbins Passion Project, Ladies Home Journal, USA Today, The Counseling Connection, and various other magazines and journals. He is the author or co-author of Torn Asunder: Recovering from an Extramarital Affair, Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage and Unlocking Your Family Patterns: Finding Freedom from a Hurtful Past. He holds the Michigan Limited License for Psychology and the California Marital and Family Therapy license and has graduate degrees in Biblical Literature and Counseling Psychology. Dave and his wife, Ronnie, have been married for 49 years, and have four adult children and eight grandchildren. More info is available at[/su_box]


One comment on “Guarding Against Affairs

  1. Awesome post about guarding againist affairs. Definitely some great tips and advice to keep in mind when going through this experience. you have raised some interesting points here and those are very little known to most of us. I really appreciate you for sharing this valuable content.

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