Oh great, another politician caught cheating on his wife. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s longtime affair was exposed last week after he returned home from an ambiguous holiday. Although aides claimed the gov had been hiking the Appalachian Trail, it turned out he had flown to South America to meet his Argentine mistress instead.
Sanford is just one in a long line of high-powered public servants caught with his pants down. John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, and Bill Clinton also had extramarital relations, even though their wives were brilliant, supportive women and their marriages appeared rock solid. But for these educated public servants to risk so much for a piece of tail, their marriages must have really stunk, right?
Not necessarily. In a recent article, The New York Times reported that one of the strongest risk factors for infidelity “exists not inside the marriage but outside: opportunity.”
Male politicians certainly have opportunity. They travel, they meet a lot of people, they have power, they’re charismatic - women are attracted to them. According to Elizabeth Edwards, her husband’s relationship with Rielle Hunter began when the videographer told John Edwards, “You are so hot.” Not the most original line, but apparently it worked.
If even strong marriages are vulnerable to cheating, what’s a spouse to do? According to infidelity researcher and author Peggy Vaughan, the key to preventing affairs is for partners to honestly talk about their feelings of attraction to other people. According to Vaughan, discussing these attractions actually decreases the likelihood of acting on them, and “shedding the cold light of day on secret desires goes a long way toward diminishing their power.”
For the sake of my marriage, I’ll open up about my attractions to other guys. I confess, I did think the guy who hung our bathroom wallpaper was kind of cute. And as soon as my husband returns from his week-long business trip to Mexico, we’ll have a nice, honest discussion about it.
For more on cheating pols, check out my blog post from last year about Silda Spitzer.