Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Petraeus Affair: How we can deal with another public scandal

According to David Petraeus' ex-spokesman, the retired army general who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting to being unfaithful, “deeply regrets and knows how much pain this has caused his family.” 
And of course, those of us who have walked in his wife Holly Petraeus' shoes are undoubtedly thinking..."oh really!" I highly doubt it. He might know how much pain it's causing him, having to resign from a job in which he's routinely celebrated, even having a now-infamous biography written about him.
He might know how horrible it feels to watch a loyal and supportive powerhouse wife deal with betrayal. Though publicly she's "furious", I suspect that privately she's brought to her knees – though I doubt for long.
But I don't think he knows how much pain this has caused.
I, however, do. I not only can imagine but know the excruciating moment when those gnawing gut feelings that something's not right are confirmed and I wish I could turn back the clock and un-know it. I know the shock of discovering that not only was the other woman sleeping with my husband, I was unwittingly in collusion – offering up support and the occasional meal, inviting her into my home. Just like Holly Petraeus.
And, perhaps, just like you.
So it's tempting to read everything you can, watch the news reports, listen to radio analysis. Tempting...but are we really learning anything we need to know? 
Our view of the world is altered after betrayal. It feels unsafe. Everyone a potential enemy. Even now, close to six years past D-Day, I find myself veering into conspiracy theory territory. That nice woman I met at my kids' school? What if she's trying to be my friend to get to my husband! What if they're laughing behind my back at my idiocy? 
I no longer just assume that things are what they seem to be. 
Like the soldiers that Holly Petraeus and her husband championed, returning home to a world that will never look the same, betrayed wives have to seek out their safe place. I talk often of post-betrayal as post-trauma...and the experts back me up. Because of that, we need to protect ourselves from triggers. And learn to recognize when we're being triggered. What's happening now, no matter how much it might look like your betrayal, is Holly's. 
We know affairs happen. Reading obsessively about this one doesn't make an affair any more or less likely than it already was.
We'd do better to leave the scandal to the vultures picking over the titillating details, and get back to focussing on our own lives. And offering up our support and compassion to Holly.
Welcome, Holly, to the club.


  1. This whole Petraeus affair has taken an ironic spin for me. A very old friend of my FWH is my friend on Facebook. He is an academic Liberal. We often debate politics.
    His newest rant is "Why do Americans penalize men for having affairs? Petraeus' sex life has nothing to do with his job performance." He believes that just because someone lies about sex, it does not mean they will lie about anything else.
    I wish I could just block his ass and let it go, but that's just not how I roll. I have been all over his FB page about this one, but what I haven't told him is this....maybe he should talk to his sister. She can speak to the issue of lies and character. She was my FWH's first affair 15 years ago. She was married at the time, too.
    Wonder if he would think that behavior was OK?

    1. Sure there are people who cheat on their spouses who wouldn't cheat on their taxes, for example. But it's safe to say that those who are able to cheat on their spouses are more able to cheat/lie in other parts of their lives. In legal parlance, it shows a pattern of behaviour.
      Speaking specifically about Petraeus, there's a new report noting that Petraeus often wouldn't back down, even when confronted with evidence that he was lying about what was happening in Afghanistan. Here's the passage:

      ...But NATO in Afghanistan, with Petraeus at its head, would seldom admit mistakes.

      In one widely publicized incident, Petraeus continued to insist that an airstrike that killed 17 people had targeted the right person, even after it had been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the supposed target was still alive and well, and that those killed had been election workers on a campaign trip.

      In PBS’ “Frontline” program, correspondent Stephen Grey asked the general pointblank: “Can I just ask you how that operation came into being, what made you think this was the man that you were targeting?”
      “Petraeus was caught red-handed getting it wrong and still would not back down,” said Strick. “He was intent on allowing the operation to have the appearance of success, in order to give the United States the opportunity to leave Afghanistan while saving face.”

      Me again. So...there you go. He's able to lie to his wife...and reporters. I'm not suggesting he didn't do a lot of important work. That's not the point here. Just that people who lie...lie. And not necessarily in only one area of their life.

      If you want to read the whole story, it's here: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121115/david-petraeus-myth-military-afghanistan-iraq-war

    2. I find it ironic that the media and the military excoriate Jill Kelley for being an "influence peddler" but do not hold Paula Broadwell to the same standard. My husband's OW made a career of gathering influence (padding her own reputation as an "expert") by association with him (and others) as an acknowledged expert in his job. It came to a head when she was inviting herself to customer meetings and I insisted he did NOT need to attend. "But the Customer expects me there." Ok, then SHE does not need to be there. Either she's the expert she presents herself as (and didn't need his handholding) or she isn't (in which case, SHE shouldn't be there at all). It took him a long time to see that she was not an innocent party and was using him for her own advancement in addition to the affair.

    3. I've certainly read accounts of Broadwell's lack of journalistic integrity (for starters!). No legitimate biographers think her methods were acceptable.
      But nonetheless I see your point. People are too often dazzled and misled by smart and devious women (men, too, of course). Hats off to you for recognizing your husband's situation for what it was. It took me far too long to recognize that the OW in my case was equally devious...and longer still for my husband to do something about it.
      There will always be people willing to do anything for their own gain. But it's on us to protect ourselves.


  2. I am just wondering how Holly is doing...and when I googled her all I want to know is how is she doing.

    But instead I came across more of people commenting why David cheated. There was a blogger who commented this "look at her(Holly) and Paula and anyone can tell you why David cheated"

    That is one the cruelist thing anyone can say to Holly now...I hope Holly isn't reading any of those thing.

    Comments like this makes me extremely furious. And I have to remind myself again that my husband did not cheat because the OW takes care of her physical better than I did.



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