News broke this week that John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth are splitting up, which actually happens in the majority of adultery cases (65%). And since this is such an extreme case, it’s easy to see how – if they weren’t receiving the proper counseling or commitment – this could have happened.
Prior to John Edwards accepting paternity of the daughter he fathered with a woman working on his campaign, his aide had accepted responsibility for this child. On the eve of his aide, Andrew Young, releasing a tell-all memoir (which he’ll be discussing this week on 20/20) that was set to reveal Edwards as the real father – among other admissions and accusations we’ll likely just have to wait to find out about – Edwards himself finally made his guilty admission: that in addition to having an affair he copped to last year, he had also fathered a child.
Denials Give Way To Emotional Issues
These denials, cover-ups, subsequent admissions, more lies and cover-ups and more admissions indicate is likely trying to work through some severely emotional problems. Of course, all affairs and lies are wrong, upsetting and emotionally draining, but it’s likely to get blown out of proportion into an even wider scope when the cycle of stress, lies and affairs is perpetuated by someone in the spotlight - and when more and more drama is piled on as the lies compound.
I think it’s time that we as a society began to look at adultery for what it truly is: an addiction. Just like no other addiction should be excused or justified, so must we demand restitution for infidelity. But looking at it as an addiction or “affair disease” will also help us understand and treat the problem.
We need to stop glamorizing adultery, or – alternatively – bastardizing it. I believe that we CAN cure and forgive adultery (an idea I go into in-depth in my book by the same name). Politicians have high burn out rate and they’re looking to alleviate the pressure and stress – what I call the biochemical craving for connection. This can easily become a self-enforcing cycle: politicians and others of us under a lot of stress are looking for a release from this constant pressure. An illicit affair provides the biochemical connection we’re craving, along with that high and thrill of a new romance. But keeping up the charade only causes more pressure, and so the cycle perpetuates itself.
What Causes Adultery
Adultery can be triggered by feelings of stress, separation and loss. Here again, these are all things Edwards has experienced and – because of his role in the public eye – experienced at an intense degree. The stress of his job not to mention the stress of attempting to run a presidential campaign. The fear of separation from his wife as she battled cancer. The loss of a child he fathered with Elizabeth. This things have all likely played out to their conclusion, resulting in the affair and subsequent attempted cover-up.
One of the things we can learn from the fall from grace is that we need to learn to articulate what we’re feeling before it’s too late. It’s likely that Edwards subconsciously couldn’t handle the idea of losing the election or losing his wife or losing his son – and so he sought a way to cancel out that fear and loss by deciding to cheat. It’s a way of acting out – not talking out – extreme feelings in a person’s life. Don’t make the mistake of acting and not talking – it’s impossible to take back such a decision.