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The Petraeus Affair, Why Powerful Men Cheat

The affair between retired Army General, David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell is just a piece of a national scandal that is becoming more layered by the minute.

Now, General John R. Allen who was to be nominated to be NATO Supreme Allied Commander is being put on hold for sending emails to Ms. Kelley (another piece of this national embarrassment) that are being reported as alleged borderline cybersex.

As we continue to learn about all of the players in this story, one question seems to be on everyone’s mind…why do these powerful men risk everything, both personally and professionally, to cheat?

Part of this answer lies in one specific word in the question…”risk.” More often than not, high-powered men became so because of their overt confidence and risk taking. These are the kind of men who see what they want and get it. While at the top of their game, their self-assurance and willingness to take a chance expands leading them to what appears to be incredibly senseless human mistakes.

The other piece of the answer lies in the biology of men.

Men are “wired” to spread their seed and procreate the species. According to the particular man and his level of testosterone, this can be a very power instinctual factor. Some men have more control over this instinct than others. However, when you are a man with great power, the number of willing women significantly increases, creating a greater level of self-control with a sound moral compass.

Further components to this question have to do with personality types, self-esteem, relationship problems, and sexual addiction. For instance, a narcissistic personality type is more likely to cheat because they feel “special” and “above it all.” On the other hand, if a man, powerful or not, has a low self-esteem and is presented with attention and admiration from a women, he may fall prey to those good feelings it brings. Finally, just as there are addictions to alcohol and drugs there is an addiction to sex. In this case, it is not so much about creating and sustaining and affair but the “high” received from the encounter itself.

The other question being asked is, “Once these powerful men cheat is it possible to rebuild their marriage?”

Absolutely! As long as he and his partner are both willing to authentically do the work necessary to heal the relationship.

For some, an infidelity is the end of the relationship, no questions asked. However, for others who are willing to move past it in order to keep their marriage together, the good news is that they can. Over the last fifteen years I have helped couples work through this process and come through it stronger and happier than ever before. This journey is not easy. It takes time, effort, and patience; however it can be done!


Bree Maresca-Kramer is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.