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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

General Petraeus, Marriage and the 800 Lbs Gorilla...

General David Petraeus... 
I sometimes wonder what I would do if my wife was unfaithful.

For the pop psychiatrists out there, no, it’s not due to insecurities about my robust figure and I don’t have a self-fulfilling prophesy. Moreover, it's not because she has given me any indication or, I think, would ever betray me that way. Then again, Edward Sumner, Richard Gere’s character in Unfaithful, didn’t think so either (and, let’s just say, I’m no Richard Gere; I don't like gerbils!).

But, the reason the thought has crossed my mind, aside from the fact that a couple of friends have gone through this, is that it would be a true test of my faith.

I mean, we made a commitment before God, family and friends that we were in it for the long haul; in good times and in bad until death do us part.

I realize it's a romantic notion, which considering that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce in today's society, many people have forgotten. But, after one failed marriage myself, and having learned a little about the meaning of a sacramental marriage over the past few years, I can't. (Besides what’s the limit on Church allotted annulments?)

Anyway, I think it's easier for a man to think about his own improprieties then to consider what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot but it's an unfortunate consequence of women's liberation, the economics of family life, where women are forced to work outside the home, whether they want to or not, and the permissiveness of the culture, which has accepted, if not promoted, women and men to forget commitment and seek personal gratification; both professionally and personally.

We’ve become a culture obsessed and nurtured with “looking out for number one”; or as a song my younger daughter dances to in her jazz competition team, “You know it’s all about me.” (I always tell her it's actually about God and she rolls her eyes at me and says, "I know dad!")

Although my wife is not that shallow (or selfish, for that matter), and her loyalties to our family are deeper than, she would say, mine are to the New York Mets (I know, sad; comparing a spouse with a baseball team but if you know how bad the Mets are and consider that I still root for them, you would realize how loyal I am!), I still think about the impact and upheaval infidelity would have on our lives, especially on our daughters and son, who are impressionable.

By the way, one of the first things my wife told me early into our marriage is that she would never forgive me if I cheated on her. Was it a bluff? I rather not find out!  But, as I have heard friends say, any man who is not grounded on God and family and doesn't surround himself with friends who are on the same page is a sitting duck.  (And today, possibly the same could be said about women)

In any case, I think about whether my faith would carry me through it. Would I remain faithful to my beliefs? Would I get angry at, not just my wife, but at God? Would I try to get even? Or, would I put my pain, ego and pride aside, forgive (in due time) and fight for my marriage and family?

I'd like to think that I am man enough to do the latter. (Maybe barely, although let's keep this between us.  I rather not give any ideas, just in case!)

The reason for my digression, into possibly the abyss of any marriage, is that, as most people learned last week, David Petraeus, the former Director of the CIA, a four-star general, decorated war hero, and man of discipline, respect and integrity, who most considered an exemplary husband of 38 years and father of two adult children, resigned abruptly after admitting to having had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, who is also a married mother of two young sons, ages 6 and 4.

Did either jilted spouse suspect something was going on?  Well, despite The Eagles' famous lyrics, "There ain't no way to hide your lying eyes," only they can answer that.

But, the fact is that the sex scandal, which the media can't seem to get enough of, appears to be snowballing daily with information about threatening emails, possible access to classified information, an FBI investigation, the death of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, in Benghazi, the involvement of another decorated general and an FBI agent sending inappropriate emails to a socialite with connections to Petraeus, and through it all are two families who have been hit by, what probably feels like, a stealth bomb, whose casualties remain to be sorted.

Unfortunately, it's getting less uncommon.  It seems that almost every week, we hear of a sex scandal involving a married politician, sports hero, celebrity or regular Joe or Jane that was caught having an affair.  It destroys many marriages, families and lives; especially of innocent children, who never asked to be raised in a broken home because that is the easy way out for many couples.

As for Petraeus and Broadwell, getting through this will not be easy.  Once trust is broken in a marriage it takes a monumental effort to restore.  It will be incumbent on each of them to make amends with their spouse.  But, it is possible, as long as there is sincere repentance, forgiveness and time to heal, which, at least for me, despite my doubts, I couldn't imagine would be possible without God.

Hopefully, notwithstanding the occasional wonderment, I'll never have to…

What would you do?  (And, I don't mean your knee-jerk reaction)

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