Here we go again.
A high-ranking alpha male, CIA director David Petraeus — considered “the most respected and decorated soldier of his generation”, according to the front page of the Financial Times — has resigned after having an affair. Not just any affair, but one with a jock/soldier/Harvard grad/author/hottie with whom he was doing six-minute runs in Afghanistan.
His wife of 37 years? Toast.
Take it from someone whose arguably semi-alpha husband was poached: a clarinet-playing, tall, handsome, funny MD who now earns in a month what I make in a (lousy) year.
Like Petraeus, he was gone a lot, working long days and many “on call” overnight shifts at the hospital, long before cellphones, emails or texts could have given me a way to reach out easily. And medical culture, like military, can be damn hard to penetrate, highly protective of its members. When they say people “close ranks”, they mean it.
Petraeus was hotly pursued by Paula Broadwell, a fine-looking high-achieving woman with plenty of determination — despite her own marriage and two children.
Let’s be clear. I’m not defending infidelity. Petraeus was a fool to throw away a stellar career.
His marriage? Who knows?
That’s the dirty secret of the adulterer.
For every shocked, stunned wife (or husband), there is one more honest with herself, who knew things were crappy in their marriage — or knows they chose to marry and have kids with and stay with someone with a weak ego, a man/woman who needs to cat around to feel strong and sexy and desirable.
And a husband physically distant from his wife for long periods of time, a man spending a lot of private time with a woman whose behaviors push all the right buttons, let alone a wife who’s given up on her skills and/or appearance?
Sound the sirens!
The woman my ex-husband is now married to was clearly going to become his second wife. I met her twice, spoke to her once, and felt it. Many of the issues — a la Petraeus/Broadwell — were similar:
– They worked together
– She saw him every single day, well-dressed and well-spoken and high-earning and authoritative, all catnip
– She flattered him deeply
– She was intensely competitive
–They spent a lot of time together away from work; she was a single mother
And, in my case
– She makes three times my income
– She’s highly educated and flatters his intellectual ego
– I was financially dependent on him, which left me essentially powerless to act decisively
My ex made clear to me from the start of our seven-year relationship he wanted to marry a high earner. Not only was I a journalist — a field in which $100K is a lot, (peanuts in medicine) — but I also had to re-boot my career when I left Canada and moved to the U.S., just in time for the 1990 recession, severely curtailing my earning power.
His second wife, with whom he had two more children, is fat, not pretty and dresses, apparently, in the dark. I saw her in my retail job three years ago and she still looked like hell. So it’s not all about looks.
Every marriage has its frayed, weakened bits. Every marriage hits rough spots, some of which last months, or longer.
Which is why, in my second marriage, (13 years together now), Jose and I are very aware that marriage is not forever, that people can and will lose interest, carry toxic secrets or private resentments and stray. Addressing the issues, whatever they are, can be messy and painful — and may well lead to divorce court if both people admit these are utterly un-resolvable.
I spent a lot of years examining which of my own behaviors had allowed my marriage to end so quickly. One of them was simply having married the wrong man, which I knew at the time. I also painfully examined what I might do if I re-married, and I do treat my second husband very differently. An affair, or divorce, is a miserable, frightening wake-up call.
A woman who loses her man to a poacher — and they are poached, as surely as a hunter sights his prey — needs to do a little self-examination as well. Who did she marry? What’s not working between them? Or in the rest of his life?
It’s too easy to call him names and cut his clothes into shreds and call a divorce lawyer.
No matter what happens after an affair comes to light, the cuckold has ask what their role in it was as well.
What say you?