Therapy That Works...

Letterman's Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letterman’s Infidelity

October 7, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News 

David Letterman’s startling admission of infidelity with co-workers once again raises the difficult question of why so many powerful men cheat. Former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, former presidential candidate John Edwards and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford are just a few public figures who have been in the news for marital infidelity.

Why do so many powerful men have affairs?

Huge Egos: Unfortunately, huge power is often accompanied by a huge ego. Powerful men are often experts at manipulating others into admiring and catering to them. Female subordinates find power intoxicating in men and are often willing participants. They disregard the fact that this is an affair and they are being used.

Thrill of the Forbidden Enticing: Affairs are a grand source of narcissism and flattery for both parties. Many powerful men become addicted to the thrill of the forbidden and become serial cheaters. They enjoy exercising their ability to acquire the sexual favors of others “just because they can.” They consider themselves entitled to extramarital activities.

Collateral Damage: They often fail to think of the emotional consequences to their own partner or to the affair partner since the affair is “all about them.” Anyone else’s feelings are simply collateral damage. Impulsivity, self indulgence, egotism mixed with a penchant for rationalizing can push many men into crossing the line.

Most of the marital couples in my office want to understand how these kinds of affairs begin and under what circumstances:

“I Met Her at Work:” Today's workplace is the most fertile breeding ground for affairs. Forty six percent of unfaithful wives and sixty two percent of unfaithful husbands have an affair with someone they met through their work.

Men Like to Look: Men are more turned on than women by visual stimuli. Affairs begin in the mind and the office setting now offers an abundance of beautiful, young, and attentive people with whom we spend the bulk of our waking hours.

Attraction Versus Adrenaline: Very few activities are more captivating than working hard together to achieve common goals. The pressures of teamwork and shared deadlines lead to that adrenaline rush. Sexual chemistry flourishes in high-pressure situations. Many of us misinterpret that sexual “rush” as attraction.

Most couples don’t understand how affairs can happen if they are “happily married.”

You can regard yourself as “happily married” but you may be misleading yourself. A lot of men and women who stray consider themselves victims of their insensitive spouse or imprisoned in a marriage that has grown more companionable than romantic. Such excuses are rationalizations for cheating. Remember that having an affair means that you are choosing to lie deliberately and systematically. No amount of marital neglect or incompatibility is a sufficient justification for this kind of betrayal. Leave your marriage before you cheat.

You may be wondering how affairs have changed over the years:

Infidelity has changed over the last ten years with more good people in marriages straying. They unwittingly form deep, passionate connections with people at work or in the neighborhood before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. In one study, 82% of 200 unfaithful partners were described as "just a friend” in the beginning. But let’s be honest, at some point you said “yes” when you should have said “no.”

A common belief is that infidelity automatically leads to divorce.

However, cheating is not an automatic death knell for your marriage. However, according to this latest poll, cheating is responsible for around 54% of divorces. In the end, most unfaithful people want to stay in their marriages and work hard to revive them. Almost seventy percent of Americans don’t want to lose their partner with men being a little more worried than women.

If you or your partner have strayed, here are some of the steps you should take:

Stop All Contact with the Affair Partner: Remember, history creates interest which creates opportunity. Stop all contact with the affair partner. Avoid at all costs any risky situations that could compromise your judgment. Remind yourself that just because there has been an attraction to this person, it does not mean that you are married to the wrong person.

Emotional Accountability: The number one predictor of marital survival following infidelity is the ability of the betrayer to be emotionally accountable.

Here are the steps of Emotional Accountability:

Remorse, Reparations and Restitution: He must be able to take responsibility for what he did and how he hurt his partner and his commitment to the marriage. Remorse now becomes a verb.

Acknowledging the Affair: They must be willing to repeatedly acknowledge their actions and to provide all details to help their partner’s healing.

Pledging to a New Transparent Marriage: He must pledge unyielding commitment to a new, transparent marriage. Reinvented marriages are often among the most successful since each partner has worked hard to rebuild the alliance.

For more information on Dr. Gearing, please go to


The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Ellis, B.J. and D. Symons. 1990. “Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach.” The Journal of Sex Research 27: 527-555.

Recent Posts