Book Review: Anatomy of an Affair

Affair, Book Review, Marriage

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Book Review: Anatomy of an Affair by Dave Carder

Dave Carder has been a pastor and a counselor for over 40 years. He specializes in adultery recovery and prevention. He is the author of Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair and coauthor of Unlocking Your Family Patterns: Finding Freedom from a Hurtful Past.

I got the privilege of hearing Dave Carder speak at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Nashville this year. So I was thrilled with the idea of getting to review his book Anatomy of an Affair.

The most important thing to remember is that a vast majority of couples don’t enter into a marriage believing they are going to have an affair. Infidelity happens for multiple reasons due to various issues and risk factors. Arm your marriage with this knowledge!

Five classes of Emotional and Sexual Betrayal

Dave starts off the book with helping couples understand the five different types of affairs. While you may think an affair is an affair, that’s not really the case and it’s certainly not the case when a therapist helps a couple repair from an adulterous relationship. Each type of affair has it’s own pattern of progression and emotional involvement. This means the reason the extra-marital relationship took place to begin with is for differing reasons.

Dave then separates the book into three different sections. The book has examples of marriages that Dave has counselled over the years to serve as real-life examples of how easy an affair can take place if a couple is not actively guarding against it.

Section 1: The Risks of Who You Know

Anatomy of an Affair is filled with not only amazing knowledge to protect your marriage but also worksheets and guides for you and your spouse to process together.

Dave discusses the importance of understanding who your Dangerous Partner Profile is. If we are honest with ourselves, there is a certain type of person of the opposite sex that we are attracted to. The book breaks down all of the different aspects of the ‘dangerous partner’ that we need to be aware of. We then need to be aware of the members of the opposite sex that we interact with that fits our profile.

Dave presents a formula that is important to remember High-Risk Factors + Stressors + Dangerous Partner = close call (a situation the may lead to an affair)

The book goes on to describe the risks of having emotionally charged friendships (of the opposite sex) and the danger of reconnecting with an old adolescent romance or secret crush.

Section 2: The Risks Within Your Home

This section is rich with information that will get you and your spouse discussing your family of origin and your marriage in ways you never have before.

Dave focuses on the importance what each spouse has brought to the marriage due to family of origin and personal factors. Some risk factors include a history of infidelity within your family of origin, single/blended families, physical abuse, sexual molestation, early promiscuity, and learning disabilities.

The book also addresses how certain times and behaviors within your marriage are also more dangerous and ripe for affairs. There is then a place within the book for you and your spouse to identify your risks.  This will help you know how to appropriately guard against infidelity.

Dave discusses a marital history satisfaction project that is powerful and informative. The book gives you step by step information on how to fill out the chart. And then you and your spouse will have a wealth of information about your past to protect your future.

Dave also describes three different types of marriages that have higher risks for affairs. He describes them as the Windshield wiper style, dial-tone style, and empty-next style. Each from the outside look great but on the inside may be on the brink of a close-call if a dangerous partner were to enter the picture.

An important aspect of your family of origin that Dave addresses is anger, power, and control. Too often couples bring their past dysfunctional experiencing into their current marriage.

Section 3: The Risk of Remodeling Your Relationship

Dave has a whole chapter on forgiveness, respect and trust. These are vital ingredients to help a couple recover from an affair. The book goes step-by-step in how to approach and achieve each of the aspects.

Another component that Dave discusses in reigniting the passion within your marriage. So often marriages fall into ruts and the relationship becomes mundane. Dave expressed, and I’ve seen this too in working with couples, that so many people who had an affair described it as “exciting”, “fun” and “passionate”.  Well a way to stop an affair from happening is to make sure your marriage doesn’t become stale! But it takes intention and the book gives great examples.

At the end of the book Dave adds a quick quiz to check on the significance of opposite sex friendships, a contract and a Do’s and Don’ts list with the opposite sex.




Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by Moody Publishing in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. 

For more of my book reviews check out posts on A Life Long Love, The Five Love Languages, Curious Faith, Captivating, and Made to Crave.

God bless!


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About Melissa

Melissa is a Christian mental health therapist, wife and mommy of two. She works with children, teens, adults, and couples to better manage their distress and hopefully become closer to God in the process.

22 comments on “Book Review: Anatomy of an Affair

    • Given the name, it’s not necessarily a book couples gravitate towards because of the potential stigma attached. I wanted to review it to help others realize just how relevant it is to all marriages. Thank you for reading and commenting! God bless!

    • Your welcome! I’m glad the review was beneficial! I think the title may be a bit off putting for some people but it really is a book for all couples to read! Thank you for stopping by and commenting! God bless!

  1. It seems like spouses shouldn’t think about what type of person they are attracted to, but instead, ask God to give them delight in their own spouse. I don’t like spouses who point out who they are attracted to, as if they were open sexually to those people. It doesn’t occur to me to think that way, since my husband is the one that is for me. Why pick out the kind of man I would be attracted to if my husband didn’t matter? It would open my mind to infidelity for the first time, and I would never ever want that to happen!

    • I see your concern, Susan and I completely agree with asking God to give them delight in their own spouse. Recognizing warning signs or dangerous situations is not okaying the situation to happen but rather doing so to guard yourself from the situation. It’s about checking the marriage to see where issues may arise and then arm yourself against it. Thank you for sharing your insights! God bless!

  2. does he discuss the devastation of pron on a relationship? Somehow we do not see this as the “affair” it really is.
    With the internet, the access is amazing and young boys are brought it by friends and fathers. It is crippling to any relationship with real humans

    • Pornography is viewed as a sex addiction which Dave Carder does describe as one of the classifications of affairs. Sex addiction needs to be dealt with prior to marriage counseling. The addicted person needs to be sober and seeking other supports before marriage counseling is going to be effective. Pornography absolutely is devastating! It has been turned into ‘normal’ by the mainstream exposure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. God bless!

  3. There were some interesting points shared here. I do believe the simple way to avoid an affair is to make Christ first in our lives. If a husband and wife are right with God (saved and truly reading and studying God’s word and obeying it) then it is much easier to be right with each other. Knowledge and wisdom in applying God’s word is key also. Some Christians end up putting “ministry” or the “church” before their family’s needs. There is some discernment needed.

    • Tracy you’re right, the best route in all aspects of our life is to put Christ first! We would also be wise to understand in what ways we are weak and/or susceptible to temptation so we can avoid them as we are called to flee!

  4. Sounds like a good book! At first, I thought, my hubby and I haven’t had issues like this, but there’s always a first time for everything. We are just one thought away, one action away and Satan is all too happy to help destroy a relationship!

    • Thank you for your comment, Julie! This is such a great point. It is important that we are aware of all of the potential ways Satan could attempt to lure us from God and our relationships that He holds dear! Thank you again for reading and commenting! God bless!

    • It is a good read and not one that I think many “healthy” marriages would read which is why I wanted to review the book to bring to light the importance. Thank you for reading and commenting! God bless!

    • I agree! There are many great marriage books that I think newlyweds would benefit from. Thank you for reading and commenting! God bless!

  5. His formula is interesting, and the fact that he included learning disabilities in the list of risk factors intriguing. Makes me want to thumb through the book myself! 🙂

    • At first glance, the inclusion of learning disabilities seems extreme, however, often individuals with learning disabilities have had struggles throughout childhood. They often have gotten into trouble for situations beyond control. Because of this there can be an increased desire (whether recognized or not) to be accepted. That can lead to high-risk situations outside of marriage. Also, individuals with learning disabilities tend to struggle with impulse control. Also a risk factor. Thank you for reading and commenting! God bless!

    • Thank you Leigh! It is a beneficial book. Especially in that most couples don’t think about potential threats to their marriage in this way. Thank you for stopping by and sharing! God bless!

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