Monday, November 12, 2012

The big "A"

This could be a long one...

I presume you have at least heard about the CIA director, David Petraeus' resignation over a recently discovered extramarital affair.  I actually chuckled when I heard a news report today that his wife was "furious".  Go figure.

What is it with men in positions of power and their need to screw around?  Wait.  Women screw around, too.  Let me rephrase that.  What is with men AND women, that they cannot foster a healthy, open, honest and communicative relationship such that one of them feels the need to secretly seek emotional and/or physical intimacy with someone else?

Upwards of 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.  Many of them involve at least one partner having an unauthorized emotionally intimate or purely physical relationship with another person without their spouse's knowledge or permission. AKA an 'affair'.  I use the 'permission' caveat because there are many people who engage in 'open' relationships and polyamory where there is knowledge and permission to engage in relationships with others either with your partner or just with their OK to do so with others.  That is an entirely different animal and I am not including that as part of this post.

It seems that the men of political stature or celebrity are all too often in the spotlight for their infidelity.  Women think, "What an *sshole, cheating on his wife like that".  Men probably think, "What an *asshole for getting caught!".  I think, everyone loses here.  Petraeus is no more wrong or special than most men or women.  He just happens to be a high ranking US official.  When Presidents can 'get away' with it, why can't the average husband?  No doubt, Petraeus is in good company.  Many men and women have been in his shoes.

Dear Lord, if everyone who had an extramarital affair had to resign from their job, no one would be working!  I guess it would give them more time to screw around.  Or, how about this for an idea, they could work on bettering themselves and their relationships.  Not only that with their significant other, but with everyone.  Right.  No one likes to admit they have a problem.  It's so much easier to be the victim and blame someone else.  Or to accept blame publicly and then repeat the same pattern over and over and over because the cause of the behavior was never identified or addressed.

I get it.  He's the head of the CIA.  It's a potential national security issue.  The FBI found out because some other woman was apparently jealous and sending threatening emails.  Men, newsflash, it'll NEVER be secret.  Women are catty.  They talk to other women.  You will be found out.  It forced his hand.  There is whole fustercluck of issues in and of itself right there.  Wonder who else he's *known* and what they know about what he knows...  I'm sure we'll hear all about it in the coming weeks.

Oh, and his 'poor' wife.  I'm sorry.  I don't feel bad for her.  If she was truly present and was able to engage him in open and honest communication, he wouldn't have strayed.  CIA or not, it's not an excuse for not being present in your marriage.  I'm not blaming either of them.  In fact, this may just be the best gift any couple could get.  What a wake up call.  Yes, it's unfortunate it wasn't identified BEFORE the affair, but it takes two.  Two to make a relationship work. Two to break it.  Their relationship was broken.  If it wasn't, there wouldn't have been an affair. They are both responsible for it.  Sure, I'd be furious too.  I'd also have to wonder why I didn't have a clue or why I didn't pay attention to the signs that were surely there.  I bet you she did know or suspect.  No one knows her story, at least not yet.

I think for most people, the desire to seek a relationship, either physical or emotional, outside of their primary relationship, is largely symptomatic of a much bigger and more serious problem.  Not only with their primary relationship, but with themselves and their ability to be truthful to themselves and their partner.  No one wants to admit their shortcomings.  No one wants to accept responsibility for their role in anything, especially if it's negative.  It's so much easier to go where the appreciation is.  Where the praise is.  Where the love or sexual connection is.  New relationships are all feel good ga-ga days.  All relationships are work eventually.  Work is hard.  It is also infinitely rewarding.

How many people have you heard of or do you know who have had affairs that ended up in a long term relationship with the person they were having the affair with?  How many were forbidden the contact with the person they had the affair with, only to resume 'secret' contact again?  Or who sought a similar relationship after swearing to their spouse they were loyal and would never do it again?  How many people are in relationships where one is 'cheating' and the other one is clueless?  I bet you all know at least one and don't even realize it.

Sure, some of those affairs work out, they leave their spouses and marry each other.  Statistically they are even more likely to get divorced or 'cheat' on their spouse than first marriages or those who did not marry the person they had the affair with.  Some are truly able and willing to change or come clean and restore their relationship with the partner they cheated on.  Most, sadly, are not.  If their 'issues' are not worked out, they are destined to repeat the pattern.  It's sad.

We, by nature, as humans, long for intimacy and physical connection.   Both men and women need and want physical and emotional intimacy.  We long to be wanted, appreciated, touched, loved and respected.  If we don't get it from one partner, we tend to seek it from another.

It's a two way street.  You've got to give as good as you get and vice versa.  Life has a way of getting routine, mundane, busy.  It's easy to drift apart.  Those wonderful and blissful new relationship days don't last forever.  Misunderstandings and mis-communications, or non-communication abounds.  It's easy to fall into old patterns and those can be destructive.  Feelings are hurt.  Wounds are created, often, unbeknownst to the spouse/partner because they are not informed.  The desire to fill the gap where they feel the physical or emotional intimacy is lacking often drives one or both partners to seek what's perceived to be missing from their relationship elsewhere.  Perhaps into the arms or just the ears of someone else who makes them feel heard and appreciated.  Perhaps to the internet for emotional chatting/ego stroking or sexual gratification.  Perhaps to a strip club, escort service or a Web site where they can find other people who also want to 'cheat' (yes, they have those) and have their physical and/or emotional needs met in a perceived 'safe' way.  The options are endless.

In the end, once the infidelity is discovered, that person is typically filled with remorse.  They feel badly that they've hurt their family.  They feel badly that they've abused their power.  Petraeus was said to be 'devastated'.  Yes, I'm sure he is. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?  They feel badly that they were so foolish as to get caught (or think that no one would find out) as they are to have allowed themselves to indulge the transgression in the first place.  It's a crossroad.  A wonderful opportunity to do the work on what lead them there in the first place.  To heal.  To grow.  To change.

Or not.  Again, it's work.  Painful, difficult and time consuming work.

So where does he go now?  What does anyone who has broken a vow of trust, fidelity and respect do with themselves in a situation where their spouse, their family, their co-workers perhaps even an entire community or nation has been blindsided and hurt?  When trust has been eroded?  Who has lost his lover, his job, his pride and quite possibly his wife and family?

My advice, Mr. and Mrs. Petraeus, and to anyone else in this situation, 'outed' or not, is to indulge in individual retreats for at least a weekend.  ALONE.  Be introspective.  Not about each other, about yourselves.  Take a good, hard, long look at YOU.  Dance with your demons. Find your truth.  Admit your mistakes, your positive and negative traits.  Then take the time to examine your relationship with each other, with those who came before your marriage, with those since your marriage.  What drives you?  Why?  What do you want?  Who do you want?  Why?

Only once you've confronted your demons, uncovered your truth and are willing to speak, live and honor it, only then can you have any hope of repairing your relationship with each other.  Then you must take what you've learned about yourselves and share it with each other.  Openly, honestly and without assigning blame, for you are both party to the breakdown of your marriage.  Figure out if you can communicate.  Figure out if you want to.  Be honest.  Completely honest with yourself and with each other.  Figure out if that which brought you together in the first place is strong, real, right and worthy enough of bringing you back to each other again.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it is not.  Neither of you are any different right now than any other couple in the same situation.  Fame and position of power mean nothing right now.  You are a husband and wife or committed partners who need to figure their s*it out.  End of story.  No one can do it for you.

The media would be wise to focus only on the impact on the CIA role he played.  The consumer wants to know the dirt on his affair.  We love a train wreck.  We should be far more interested in whether or not our FBI and CIA are doing their jobs proficiently than who the director was screwing around with.

Adultery used to be a 'bad' thing.  No one slaps a bit scarlet A on anyone these days.  If they did, the makers of the scarlet A's would make a fortune!  It's almost as commonplace as the cold virus.

I sure as hell hope we find our way back to love, respect, honesty and honor.  Communication is the key.  Truth.  One must know it, own it, speak it and live it.  It's not easy.

Nothing worth doing ever is.





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