Can’t the famous be dissatisfied? Of course, they can. And they can find what they’re missing elsewhere — whether they seek it out or just run into it. And, yes, they can do this despite a public stand against infidelity.
We all fall down; and we all put our foot in our mouth. We don’t do it in the headlines, which is more humbling, but maybe it’s also more liberating.
When you live through your worst nightmare — being caught with your pants down abroad or in the Oval Office — and survive, you realize that you can survive anything. What’s left to be afraid of? And it’s purging, even noble, to openly confess and apologize. Maybe that helps to answer the other question we ask: How do they get through the public embarrassment?
The last time I saw Bill Clinton, I was both surprised and impressed that so many still love the man. He engages us, because he seems to truly see us; he endears us because he’s real. Perhaps the ones who don’t confess are the ones who suffer the most, or put a gun to their head.
Why do we cheat, though? Is it as simple as thinking we can get more of what we want elsewhere? Essentially! And although it’s not obvious that “successful” people are missing anything, they can be missing plenty.
Satisfaction in relationships is mostly based on intimacy — knowing and connecting with each other behaviorally, intellectually, sexually, emotionally and spiritually — and that can be tough to pull off when “outsiders” are constantly vying for your attention.
The other two commitment variables (satisfaction being the first), based on a model by the late Caryl Rusbult, professor of psychology, are quality of alternatives and investment. We commit, which is an ongoing decision, based on all three variables.
When we’re satisfied, the grass on the other side of the fence doesn’t lure us, and we continue to invest in our relationship, which helps to ensure our satisfaction. And when we’re not satisfied, our grass can seem less worthy of investment, while the grass on the other side of the fence seems awfully lush and inviting.
People, especially men, with power (bless their hearts) have attractive alternatives for getting their needs met.
What about investment, though? Don’t men of stature have more to lose when they walk away from a relationship? We all have the time and effort we’ve poured into a relationship, an “estate” to divide, family — especially when children are involved — and a circle of friends to consider. Public figures also have public opinion to consider.
They can lose the public’s confidence even when they manage, usually under exacerbated duress, to keep their relationship intact. Fortunately, the possibility of losing what’s dearest to them offers perspective and a chance to reframe priorities.
One of the biggest problems is that we often choose to cheat while in what George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, calls a “hot” state, without an eye toward future consequences.
Interestingly, some regret making a decision from an emotional state that they wouldn’t have made in a “cold” one; others are grateful that they “freed” themselves however they were able to.
When we cheat on a partner, we cheat on ourselves. But it’s also possible to cheat ourselves, or be untrue to ourselves, by staying in an unhealthy relationship.
The best way to avoid cheating is to make a commitment you’d choose to make from both a hot state and a cold one. When your heart and mind are in sync, you’re more apt to continue to invest, which is your best shot at continued satisfaction and quality of partner.