Okay, I think people might be surprised, as a pastor of 30 years, the number one call that I would get for someone that wanted to meet with me is on what? Now, you know what the answer is because of what we're talking about today, but if you didn't have any idea, what do you think my assistant would come in and say? If it's a couple, I would say an affair.
If it's a guy, I would say porn. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app.
Our guest today is Family Life Today. Man, my wife knows everything. You've been married to me too long.
Because I've been married to you a long time. I mean, would you have thought that, though, if you didn't know what we're talking about today? I might think that just based on friendships and relationships with women and the pain that I've seen in marriages. Yeah.
And as I think about that, I'm talking about late 80s, 90s to today. Affairs have been a part of marriage from the beginning, and people want to figure out, can we make it? Can we save this thing? And how do I not fall into this?
Can my marriage be protected from an affair? Yeah. We're going to talk about that today with Dave Carter. Dave Carter is, in my mind, the expert on this.
Me too. He's had an affair, but you've written about this and studied this, and man, your books have helped so many couples. Dave, welcome to Family Life Today.
Oh, thanks a lot. I'm looking forward to this. We are too. I mean, you've been talking about this subject since when? I started in 77 when I tracked down my senior pastor who ran off with another woman. Wow. Really? Yeah. Tell us that story. You want to hear the story?
Yeah. I mean, I read it in your book, and I found it fascinating because you had several stories like that that got you to say, I've got to start jumping into this. I would never have decided to do what I'm doing today or what I've done. So actually, I was on a road trip with a bunch of Christian teenagers doing backyard Bible studies and 10 evangelism, that kind of stuff, and came back on a Saturday and went to church early on Sunday morning to run youth ministries and stuff like that. And all through the day, I went home Sunday night after the service broadcast and got a phone call from my senior pastor's wife who's crying hysterically on the phone. Drove over to the parsonage, walked into the house.
Three teenagers were over on that couch hugging themselves, just sobbing. And the wife was at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, and two of those kids had been with me on this mission strip. So we talked a while, and basically I began to think to myself, I know more about this than I think I do.
I didn't know that I knew anything about it. But from there, about 11 o'clock that night, I drove to an apartment building where I used to have Bible studies in the bottom floor every other Thursday night with all the boys in the apartment complex. And I crawled on my hands and knees up to the first floor plate glass window because I was so afraid of being seen and being viewed as somebody. So you're sneaky. Yeah, I'm sneaky.
Yeah, you are. Over there. And I get up that window and look up in that window and look inside and there's not a stitch of furniture in there. I'd just been there two weeks ago. And that was an apartment that a single mom had with two teenage boys.
And that's began to put pieces together in my head. So I went home that night, went to bed, got up early the next morning, went to the school bus stop. Sure enough, there were some of my boys from my Bible study there, I asked them, what happened to such and such? Oh, they moved. What do you mean they moved? Well, they moved. Well, how'd they move?
Oh, where'd they go? They said, well, they wouldn't tell us where they were going, but they had a big U-Haul truck out here. So I immediately knew where the only U-Haul truck store was in town. So I get in my car and I drive the U-Haul truck store, basically.
You're like a spy. No, I'm mad. I'm really angry at this guy.
This is the truth. And so I go to the U-Haul truck store. I said, I think my senior pastor has rented a U-Haul truck.
And can I look at the invoice and make sure all the details are cracked? And he gave them to me. I looked, sure enough, Dallas, Texas. He rented a U-Haul truck to Dallas, Texas. Just took off.
Yeah, just took off. So I drove home, packed a suitcase, drove 90 miles to an airport, bought an airplane ticket, went down to Dallas Fort Worth. And I waited a whole week in a hotel, stood on the, sat in the 14th floor with binoculars watching the U-Haul truck store right down below me. So he didn't show up and I had to go home for a week. But I took his picture down to the U-Haul truck guy and said, he is bringing a truck in here. I know.
And it'll probably be on Monday. And here's my address and phone number. And I want you to call me when you see him. Tell him, you know, God will forgive you if you have to lie. Lie. Just tell him you're going to send him some money.
He's desperate for money. I know that. So get an address for me and call me. So went back home. Monday morning at 10 o'clock, I get a call from this guy down in Dallas, Texas. He said, he's in my office. Okay. I said, how do you know he's got the same picture on in my office as he has on in the picture?
I know it's him. I said, okay, call me back. So he called me back that afternoon and flew back to Dallas. Took a friend with me. We got a rental car, drove over to this house, walked up, knocked on the door. And this single mom screamed when she opened the door and saw me there. So make a long story short, we tried to talk him into coming back.
He wouldn't. And I was crying so hard. I couldn't drive. And my buddy drove us back to the airport.
We turned the car in and as we pulled in, I said, you know, Paul, when we get home, I'm going back to graduate school and I'm going to figure this out because I've only worked for three pastors and two of them have ran off with other women in the church. How old were you at the time, Dave, when you said that? That was in 77. So I would have been 32.
And how many years had you and Ronnie already been married? 11. Okay. Yeah. So that was it.
It was it. I was a great guy. You're a good friend. Oh, we are. We were great friends. So that's why you were so devastated.
Yeah. So I went back to graduate school and started working on this and took courses to get into graduate school in the field of counseling, psychology, and basically long story short, here I am. So you've spent over 40 years. 40 years. As a therapist, you've run a counseling center at Evie Free in Fullerton, California.
You were in Detroit where I was, just down the road for a while. And all these decades, you've been helping couples navigate this topic and doing research on it. Yeah.
I mean, here we are in 2023. Is it different now than it was? Oh, yeah, it is quite a bit different. In what way?
Well, in 1995, the new way started by reaching people on the Internet. So at that point, I would tell you that the old girlfriend and the old boyfriend became the most dangerous person in your life. Before that, it was pretty much a matter of, and we used to say it all the time, first affairs are always about comfort and distraction. And there's reasons why people get involved in adultery in the most cases. So you have to find out what some of those reasons are. It didn't make them do it, but it certainly contributed to the wellness failure, I should say. You know, back in Luke, when Jesus was tempted, after all those temptations, it says in Luke 4, the devil left him for a more opportune time, meaning, you know, we're all strong most of the time, but sometimes we're not.
So we've got to figure out what changed in you and what caused this vulnerability in you. Well, let's talk about, I mean, you write it in your books, The Anatomy of Affair, Torn Asunder. I mean, I remember seeing these books in the 90s. Me too, Dave.
I remember like, thank goodness somebody's written something. Yeah, and as a pastor, it was like something we needed in the church. So you just said many affairs are a result of comfort or distraction.
Explain what that means. Well, it's very soothing. Sex is soothing. God designed five or six different chemicals that all they do is produce soothing, great juices inside of you.
They're built that way. But people who are stressed out, burned out, empty, we use the HALT B acronym, et cetera. Those people are vulnerable to someone being nice, kind, generous, loving, sensitive, et cetera. And then the other thing is distraction. You know, there's nothing to distract you as much as being interested in somebody else. Infatuation is a crazy thing to go through. We all know it happened to us in adolescence. That's why we married that person.
We're crazy about him. So we look for those things. And so in taking a history of a couple with adultery, that's one of the first things you want to find out is what drove this vulnerability. Think in terms of grains of sand that wore down the boundaries that normally would have protected them. Every one of those contributive factors would be insufficient by itself, but cluster together, they take you down.
So the more of those you can find, the more likely you can figure out why this happened at this time with this person. Wow. Interesting. So you and Ronnie have been married 54 years. How many kids? Four. And so as you watch this happen around you with so many friends having affairs, I'm assuming that you started implementing safeguards in your own marriage.
What did that look like? Well, I've always said graduate school helped my marriage more than anything else I've ever done, I think. One of the things Ronnie was always good about, and I was too, but I could get distracted sometimes, was we're having these really great moments together. We get away. With four kids, you got to get away. I began to realize and developed a mantra that really kind of began to kind of manage our behavior, and that is spend money on your marriage. You know, you'll spend it on a reprieve and choose.
Do you hear that, hon? Spend money on your marriage. I do spend money on our marriage, don't we? We do. We do this. We do this. We did used to, but we do now.
And you know, it's interesting when we do a marriage weekend, whether it's Weekend to Remember Family Life or we do Vertical Marriage Weekends, couples will come up and say, this is the first time we've been away in 25 years. Yeah. That's not a good thing.
I mean, I'm glad you got away. You need to do this every year, right? And I would say at certain seasons of life, you might even need to do it more frequently. And some seasons of life, maybe not so much. Like?
Yeah. Well, let's just say you're able to do things without the kids just because of the nature of the beast. Maybe you got teenagers or they're off to college or you're kind of an empty nester. So you might not need so many of those, but when you've got little ones and you both are chugging along at 24-7, you know, you have got to say no to this and go away.
You got to find yourselves again. You get lost in trying to raise your children. You're teaching them all the wrong things. They think they're the most important thing in this marriage and they're not.
Okay. They're close, but they're not the most nice. Well, especially as a mom, it's easy to make them the priority.
Oh, it is. One, they're so demanding and then you feel guilty if you're gone. And if you're a working mom, then you're going to leave again. You feel even more guilty. But I think you're right to spend money. I love that.
Well, I mean, go on a date. Go away. Exactly.
Here's a great example. You don't know this, Dave, but sitting behind you is Justin Adams at our audio board. He, in fact, he built the whole thing in there. But Bruce Goff is normally sitting there. Guess where he is?
As our audio engineer. He is away with his wife, little kids. They're gone. I mean, they're home.
Three young daughters. And they're away for five days. That is a great thing for them to be doing, right?
It is a great thing for them to be doing. I mean, every marriage needs to do that. And I know a lot of us say, we can't do it.
It's going to cost too much. I can't get it. I'm not going to leave my kids. You have to.
When your memories end, your memories together end when your first baby's born, you're done. Wow. Okay. You're done? You're done. You've spent the next few years raising your kids and probably becoming great parents. But come the time the last child leaves, you'll sit down at the breakfast table and look across and say, who are you?
Or even, I don't even know you or like you. On our 25th wedding anniversary, David prayed for a free trip to Mexico. And God answered that prayer. We had a free trip to Mexico. Someone got married, wanted us to go, asked me to go to Mexico. They wanted us to do their wedding. And they didn't know I'd been praying for months because I'm a cheapy.
So I was like, you got to make this free. And we ended up in Mexico. But I remember we sat on that beach looking out over the ocean, holding hands. And I remember saying to Dave, I would marry you again, knowing everything about you, going through everything we've gone through.
I would still choose you. And we also said, we need to do this every year. And we've done it every year since.
Let's go back there. I know there's couples listening and they're like, I want to protect my marriage. So you've already given me some things I need to do.
You mentioned earlier, and I use it across the cult. I know what you mean. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bored.
And I've never heard the B. So talk about that a little bit because couples need to understand that's when they're going to be weak, right? That's when you're vulnerable.
That's when Jesus was vulnerable in temptation. So the hunger, the sense of emptiness, the urge to do something. I got to find something, a craving, if you will. The feeling that I got to fill something up.
Angry, when you're irritated, frustrated, you have nobody to share it with, you keep it all inside. It kind of, you lay awake at night, et cetera. Lonely when you're all alone, you know, alcoholics call the bottle a woman.
I heard that in AA for years. So it's a sense of comfort for you. When you're exhausted, tired, worn out, at your wits end, hanging by a thread, you know, if somebody can rescue you, great. And you tell yourself, I can't do this.
I need somebody or something. Or when you're bored, plain old bored. We started adding bored to that list when the internet came in, because that is one of the big drivers in pornography.
Today it's a click away. It's the thing that's so disgusting and disappointing and disturbing really. Yeah. One of the things you said in both your books about affairs is a lot of affairs happen because the marriage loses fun, loses joy. What does that mean? Because I mean, I love what you said, because I've always said to Dan, I'm going to write a book someday called You Need to Have an Affair with Your Spouse, you know, and I remember I pitched that once to a publisher, they're like, that's a terrible book.
No, no, no, no, with your spouse, because the things that an affair brings, I don't know this, but I've heard are the things you lack in your marriage. So I read that in your book. I'm like, okay, you wrote that years ago. Explain that. Okay.
So let me kind of do it from the back door. One of the things that we forget to do and need to do is to build experiences in our relationship that generate infatuation, generate feelings for each other. Love is a feeling and we try to make it go away and say, well, it's passive. It's not necessary. It is necessary. It's the icing.
It's the energy. It's the whatever you want to call it on the marriage, okay? So I'll give you a little exercise, but the key to it in the recovery from the affair is the time, you know, when you begin to do this. But when couples are on the downhill side of recovery from an affair, and certainly for couples who haven't been involved in an affair, here's a great fun exercise. We call them eight grades. You each privately make a list of your eight greatest experiences apart from your children and without friends.
Oh, this is good. Okay. You can't include your marriage, but you can include your honeymoon. Now if you're on a family vacation and your kids are with you, but you had a dinner alone like at Disney where we are, that's fine. No kids.
No kids can be available. First you each have made your list, do it in pencil because you will change it. After you each are finished, you get together and you merge the list. The ones that match, three or four are pretty common. Then she gets five, you get six, she gets seven, you get eight.
Now Orange County, three years ago, the average cost for a divorce was $36,000. So divide eight into 36. You could spend $4,500 on each one of those eight items and you will be miles ahead of what you end up with after going through them.
So one of the recovery points is when you leave counseling, I want you to do one of those every so many months. And most of them are not expensive items. Many times they're very simple things. You can include even experiences in your dating relationships as you look back.
So just come up with your list of eight greats. And the reason we do this is the very same reason why girlfriends and boyfriends are so dangerous is because the infatuation is stored in your brain from that first time you did that experience. And we're trying to stimulate that and bring that to your conscious thought. So when you go back and do something that was really a highlight in your relationship and you sit on that beach or whatever it is, you think back to the first time. And it's refreshing. It's invigorating. And you experience those feelings again.
You do. Give us an example of what one of yours and Ronnie's would be. One time when we were dating, we did a walk on a railroad track that was kind of in disarray.
They weren't using it. And we walked into a park. And when I was, I was a boy scout, so I was the quartermaster. So I got used to cooking for the group and troop and everything else. So anyway, I put two steaks, baked potatoes, wrapped in foil, took the lighter along. We found a place. We built a little fireplace, a little wood place. I had one of these portable fold-out grates. Long story short, I cooked us two baked potatoes and two steaks on that grill out in the middle of nowhere. And it sealed it, baby. She married me. It worked.
I would, too. That's kind of this cool, romantic, rustic. I mean, one comes to your mind.
If you think of eight grates for us, do it right now. Like before we were married? Okay, this is the first year of our marriage. We went up into the mountains in Colorado. We were being trained for crew.
This is seriously a memory? We decided to go up in the mountains with a tent. We borrowed a tent.
Oh, I got some of those. You're going to love this. You know what I decided to do? Let's fast while we're up in 10,000 feet altitude. The best part of camping is eating, so we're not even eating. But I can remember, we're starving.
It's beautiful. It was cold. And then we decided, we're breaking the fast. We are so bored.
So we go fishing, because it's the only way we're going to get any food. Here's my memory. And I caught nothing. That's what I remember.
I caught nothing. We got in a car and drove home. But here's my memory. I remember sitting on a rock in the absolute gorgeous mountains with this big lake, and you had your guitar.
Yeah. And I remember you just worshipping, and I was like, look at our life. This is amazing. And that was just this great—what's one of yours?
That was not even close to top eight. I'm like, that is what you remember. I remember driving to Manhattan from Detroit right before a football season, because with the Lions, I had a lot of work coming up. And just going to Broadway plays and eating in restaurants and driving home. And a lot of it was the drive.
But we had to spend some money. Let me ask you this, Dave, because that's one side of it. Bringing joy and fun back. The other side, because I'm thinking there's couples listening, it's like, how do we protect ourselves? Especially in this day and age. We got the internet.
You get like old boyfriend, girlfriends, Facebook, you name it. Not saying those things are bad, but we've got a different world to protect ourselves from. Let me ask you this real quick. Billy Graham rule. Yeah.
Do you agree with it or not? I mean, men not really spending time alone with women that aren't their wife. That doesn't fly today, you know?
I know. But remember, every Monday, men and women who are colleagues at work, get on planes, drive to a customer in another city, take them out to expensive restaurants. You have all the alcohol you want.
You take them to sporting events and concerts and everything. And then you go back to the same hotel. That is corporate dating. One of the things to remember about that, and I'm going to come back to your question is this behavior is called ego dystonic, meaning it's contrary to a person's individual values and stated beliefs. In some cultures it's not, but in a Christian man or woman, most of them would say adultery is wrong.
And it is on God's top 10 list, okay? So when they act out like that, it really fractures them very, very deeply on the inside. So how can you protect yourself is the question. Well, you have to be honest with yourself. A lot of this starts with texting, going back, getting in touch. I wonder whatever happened to Susie.
My wife is useless and she'll tell you. Susie is an old high school girlfriend, so I always use Susie. Is that a real name or made up?
No, it's a real name. So you get on the internet and you start looking for them pretty soon. It's just kind of casual and you're texting and they got three kids.
I got three kids. Oh yeah. So it starts innocently. It starts innocently. But that infatuation you had for that person is locked into your brain.
You never forget the person you kiss passionately unless you are really promiscuous, made out with you. It's there. It's all there. Are you a car guy? Oh yeah. Okay. So I seen you in high school. I saw you in the next Plymouth. Okay. Okay. I sold.
I hate myself. But anyway, it was a great car. And so here in Barrett Jackson, maybe, I don't know, six, seven years ago, something like that, after the 2008 crash, I'm watching the auction and here comes this Plymouth Belvedere across the auction block, just almost identical to what I drove. And I thought that car sold for almost $200,000. And the guy that bought it, when he got in that car and started that up and drove that off, that car was rocking with that big cam in it.
He was 16 Dragon Main Street. Okay. That's what he was doing. Okay. He just paid a lot for it. Yeah.
Okay. Now that's what happens with old girlfriends and boyfriends. And if you stay in touch with them for 30 days, you will feel confused about the person that you marry because your spouse had stopped generating those kinds of feelings in you. And if you stay with them another 30 days, you will find ways to meet and have sex.
It'll sweep you right off your feet. That's why I didn't let Ann's old boyfriend, who ended up playing for the Detroit Lions, come to the Detroit Lions Bible study. He came to our front door. I'm like, you're not coming into this house. I let him in. But I did have a thought as he got to the front door, like, I don't want this guy in my Bible study. Fortunately, he was only with the team two weeks and they cut him, but that was fine. But I had that feeling like, of course I love him.
I want to lead him to Christ. But there was a protective part of me like, you don't need to be around this guy. And I don't need to be around my old girlfriends. All of us have downturns in our marriage.
I mean, and that might be in one of those vulnerable times, just like the devil come back and try to tempt Jesus. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dave Carter on Family Life Today. Ann's got some homework for couples coming up in just a minute.
Stick around and see if you think it's a good idea for you and your spouse. But first, Dave Carter has written a book called Anatomy of an Affair. How affairs, attractions, and addictions develop and how to guard your marriage against them. You can get a copy as our thanks when you help reach more families by giving at familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329.
That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. We know you've heard us talk about Weekend to Remember a lot and how transformative it can be for your marriage. But really, even though we plan out so much of it, our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways can truly be what you make it. You can sign up now at familylifetoday.com and click on the Weekend to Remember link. Now is the perfect time because today is the last day we'll be offering half price on registrations. Whether you go with hopes to redeem your marriage or for maintaining or even just a weekend away together, the conversations between you and your spouse can change everything about your marriage for years to come. Okay, so what are you waiting for?
Go find a location near you at familylifetoday.com and click on the Weekend to Remember link. Okay, here's Anne with a practical next step after listening to today's conversation. This will be a great podcast to share with your spouse.
Just to say, hey, I listened to this today. Let's talk about this when we get home or sometime. We're just going to date and talk about how we're doing. Do we have any protection going on in our marriage? And have we had fun or have we spent money? Yeah, there's two sides. Yeah, or have we spent money?
Let's make a list and say, what are we going to do to add some of the feelings we had before and what are we going to do to protect? Is that right? Yeah. Yup. Yeah.
So maybe you're in a situation where it's confirmed you were betrayed. Listen, you're not alone. And tomorrow on Family Life Today, Dave and Anne Wilson bring back Dave Carter to talk about all the things you need to do right now. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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