A Cheater On The Ugly Truths of the David Petraeus Affair
I usually hate writing about relationship stories making national headlines, but I can’t resist writing about this whole General David Petraeus scandal. Once again, we have a very human story that most people will be talking about in very inumane ways. Commentators will throw out numbers while offering up science and analytical thought about male infidelity, patriarchal societies, etc; relationship psychologists will chip in with studies done about men in power, etc.
I will end up screaming at televisions and think pieces because no one, absolutely no one, will get down to the nitty gritty, bare-boned facts about why such a thing happened.
Anyone who is honest will tell you people cheat everyday. The only reason it’s a big deal is because one of the main characters involved is a high-ranking official in the public eye. What people don’t want to say, because they want to sound smart about this sort of thing, is the truths behind this scandal are not that deep. But they are ugly and difficult to express without sounding like a complete jerk.
So allow me to be the jerk.
I am going to try to talk about this thing from the vantage point of a person who has cheated. To be clear, I don’t stick out my chest with pride when I say I’ve cheated, but I must say it so people reading this can understand I’m not talking about something I know nothing about. True, I’ve never been married, but I have been in a committed relationship and slept with another woman while in that relationship. Married or not, that’s wrong, I know that for a fact.
But here is the ugly truth about why things like this happen. It is not to justify or excuse anything, it’s just my attempt to break this thing down in a very basic, human, way.
Ugly Truth No. 1: Paula Broadwell is young and beautiful
Here is a picture of Petraeus and his wife, Holly Petraeus, then and now.
Here is a picture of Petraeus with his mistress, who co-authored the general’s biography.
Never ever forget, most men are visual creatures who respond to what they see before they respond to what they feel. Also, some facts about this particular scandal: When Broadwell was working on Petraeus’s autobiography, part of the research process entailed her being embedded with him in Afghanistan for two years. Outside of Broadwell, how many fine women, do you think were walking around Afghanistan?
Ugly Truth #2: This was deeper than sex
Cheating and having an affair are two totally different things. Cheating can be defined in terms of isolated incidents. You’re out of town for the weekend, hit it off with some good-looking stranger, extend the night until the morning, and leave like nothing ever happened. But Petraeus and Broadwell were spending time together in ways that went beyond Saturday love. To wit, here is the New York Post on their relationship
CIA officers long had expressed concern about Broadwell’s unprecedented access to the director. She frequently visited the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., to meet Petraeus in his office, accompanied him on morning runs around the CIA grounds and often attended public functions as his guest, according to two former intelligence officials.
Clearly the nature of Broadwell and Petraeus’s relationship was more than skin deep. You know why you ask someone to go running with you and attend events with you? Because the only thing more enjoyable than doing the things you enjoy is doing them with someone who enjoys them too. Sure you might keep the person on the side close because the sex is good or exciting, but when that wears off, why are they still around? Because you actually care about them.
This Petraeus scandal has all the makings of an affair and that’s why it can’t be so easily pigeonholed into something like what happened with Bill Clinton who just wanted to get topped off while he was in the Oval. Petraeus probably spent whole nights with Broadwell without doing anything more than cuddling with her.
Ugly Truth #3: Women cheat too
I completely understand the sexy name in this whole scandal belongs to David Petraeus, and so he is the reason this story has the legs that it does. But I hope as the story develops, there is a good amount of focus on Broadwell’s behavior and the motives behind it.
For all intents and purposes, this woman had a very cushy situation herself. She had the loving husband and the two kids, and she has put all of that in jeopardy. Why? People have said Petraeus cheated because he could, which answers absolutely nothing because obviously Broadwell could too, and I’m sure we wouldn’t be so flippant as to her reasons why. Was Petraeus’s power that seductive? Was Broadwell’s husband that bad of a guy? What made her run in the arms of another man when she had a man at home?
I don’t need to read analytic articles to know why he did it. But I would like to read some analysis as to what lead Broadwell to cheat on her husband.
Ugly Truth #4: Men aren’t that bad at cheating
A common criticism against Petraeus has been his getting caught. All weekend my Twitter timeline was buzzing with the question as to how the head of the Central Intelligence Agency could get caught cheating.
What people seem to overlook is Petraeus and Broadwell knew each other for years. YEARS! If you’re able to get away with it for years without getting caught, and you’re as high profile of a figure as Petraeus is, I’d say you’ve done a pretty good job of covering it up. And what’s crazy is, it’s not like he kept her hidden. He performed the Jedi Mind Trick of cheating which is hiding out in the open.
The idea that men are bad at cheating is overblown. Truth be told, most men are pretty damn good at it, but if they continue to do it, they’re eventually going to lose because it’s a numbers game. I’m not proud to say this, but I’ve cheated way more times than I’ve been caught and I’m a dummy compared to Petraeus. Saying the man who has cheated for years before getting caught is a bad cheater is like saying the multi-million dollar drug dealer who gets arrested for drug dealing is a bad drug dealer.
One other thing to consider: Petraeus’s wife didn’t catch him cheating. The FBI caught him cheating. Read that last sentence again: The FBI caught him cheating. According to the Post story, Broadwell’s emails were being investigated by the FBI (more on that in a second), which tipped them to what was happening with Petraeus. Considering those circumstances, most men will get caught.
To the dude who says, “How does the head of the CIA get caught cheating?” Ask them if they’ve ever been caught cheating. If they haven’t, it’s probably because they never cheated. Most men can easily get caught cheating because of what their building security guard saw. Bring the FBI into it, and it’s game over before it’s even started.
Ugly Truth #5: It’s easier to control an army of men than an emotional woman
From the Post story:
A senior U.S. military official says the author who had an affair with David Petraeus sent harassing emails to a woman who was a “social liaison” to military bases in Tampa, Fla.
The official says 37-year-old Jill Kelley in Tampa, Fla., received the emails from Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell that triggered an FBI investigation.
The FBI probe began several months ago with a complaint against Broadwell. That investigation led to Broadwell’s email account, which uncovered the relationship with Petraeus.
All of what you just read is a textbook example of an emotional woman who may or may not be insecure but definitely felt threatened. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s because Jill Kelley looks like this (third woman on the right).
If you ask me, that’s a pretty good looking woman; at the least, on par with Broadwell, So naturally, Broadwell felt threatened by her, and when I say naturally, I mean it in a very diplomatic way, because let’s face it, most men are also threatened by the presence of another good looking man no matter how good looking they are themselves, but I digress….
As Katt Williams once said, “self-esteem is esteem of your m****f**** self.” There was nothing Petraeus could do to make Broadwell feel like Kelley was not a threat. Once Broadwell went rogue, Petraeus’s fate was sealed.
Petraeus can lead an army full of men into war zones in the Middle East because he was trained to do so. He also possesses the intangible qualities most leaders of men possess. But Petraeus learned the hard way, when it comes to matters of the heart, there is no chain of command and there is no rank and file. Broadwell followed what most people follow when they’re in love, she followed her gut and now Petraeus has a war on the homefront that he is not prepared to fight.
UPDATE: Since yesterday, I have gotten a lot of flack for Truth #1. The most common rebuttal I’ve heard is, “It doesn’t matter how his wife looks, Petraeus would have cheated anyway.” Whenever women tell me this I get so frustrated.
Saying Petraeus would have cheated no matter how his wife looked is basically saying, if Broadwell was his actual wife and the mistress was Paula, he would’ve cheated on Broadwell with Paula. Now go back and look at those pictures and tell me you believe that would actually happen. Seriously. Don’t use your brain, use your eyes and explain to me how the idea that looks had NOTHING to do with this makes any sense.