As many as 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are forty, according to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity. A Christianity Today survey found that 23 percent of the 300 pastors who responded admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry.
In Dave Carder's and Duncan Jaenicke's book, Torn Asunder: Recovering from Extramarital Affairs (Moody), Carder notes that adultery and divorce rates in the evangelical population are nearly the same as the general population in the United States. Being a Christian does not lessen our chances of having an affair. Through his counseling experiences, however, Carder has found several "shared threads" woven throughout the experiences of married couples who become tangled in an affair. These patterns can serve as warning signals that married couples should be alert to.
Forewarned is forearmed. So Marriage Partnership talked to Dave Carder about what to do whether you are contemplating an affair, have experienced an affair, or even if you never expect an affair to impact your own marriage.
What types of affairs do Christians tend to fall into?
All types. There's the "Class One" affair, which is the one-night stand. Then, there is the "Class Two" affair, which is a love relationship that starts as a friendship and grows primarily because of a deficit in the marriage. These often have a powerful emotional connection and involve a shared task or orientation, such as a common ministry or a shared passion. And there is the "Class Three" affair, which involves sexual addiction. Other addictions often go along with it, and many times there is a history of molestation or sexual activity on the part of the person before puberty.
What about the classic "mid-life crisis" people joke about?
We're finding that these types of affairs are happening when men and women are in their late thirties and forties. There's a pattern to them. Usually they happen in a marriage where there is little spousal interaction. Maybe the couple does everything as a family. When the children in the family grow older, the spouses become vulnerable.
Tell us more about emotional affairs. If there's no sex, just the emotional attachment, is it as serious as a sexual affair?
An emotional affair without sex occurs when two parties share their feelings for each other. These affairs are supercharged with emotion. The sound of her voice, the style of his e-mail—they are all loaded. But if you confront them, they'll insist they've done nothing wrong. These secret emotional affairs are powerful influences in the individuals' lives. They often live in a fantasy world, where they imagine what the other party is doing, even while appearing to watch sports on TV or doing some other task.