It is happening to me – I am getting sucked in. I want to know every detail of what the e-mails between GEN Petraeus and his hottie biographer, Paula Broadwell, said. I want to compare Mrs. Petraues and Paula Broadwell and understand why he cheated. This is like watching the fallout of a nasty accident on the highway, but so much more personal. Ever since I read about the extramarital affair of a man whom I had previously respected greatly, I am being psychologically eaten alive.
I finally realized why – I am taking this personally. When I read about how this 40-year-old Broadwell buddied up with GEN Petraeus in the hills of Afghanistan while running six-minute miles alongside him I seethed. It was salt in the wound when I found out that Mrs. Broadwell herself has two young children. What gets me, if I am going to be perfectly honest, is that my life began just like Mrs. Broadwell’s life. I was a Princeton-educated young Army officer who could impress everyone by running with the boys. I too, would have loved to train for ironmans and ascend the military ranks in order to lead our nation in a time of war. But, wait, I got married, I had a baby. Furthermore, my husband and I wouldn’t have seen each other for two full years in 2004 and 2005 if we had deployed with our respective units to Iraq. Becoming a wife and then a mother changed everything for me. Even when turning my back on ambition was excruciatingly difficult and even felt foreign, I had to make sacrifices in order to create the family we deserved.
Instead of charging for more personal accolades, I pulled out. Pulled out in the most drastic, non-contracepting, homeschooling way possible. So now I am Mrs. Petraeus. She pulled out for her family 25 years before I made the choice. Holly Petraeus gave up all her personal ambition 30 years ago in order to provide the stability that her husband and children would need as he climbed the ranks of an Army at war. I will admire this woman to the grave.
My husband told me that several of his co-workers were commenting that Holly Petraeus had gained too much weight and that is why the Broadwell infidelity was so easy for Petraeus. Um, excuse me, barf. I am terrified by all of this. Is virtue not attractive? Is the selfless life required of a woman to agree to stay at home in support of a working man worth nothing? Are we going to lose out to the women who jet off to Afghanistan six times in a year, train for an Ironman and have lovely toned arms at age 40. We don’t get to hear much about who is providing the childcare for Mrs. Broadwell’s sons. Their dad is a radiologist who works in a city medical group, so there are many times when the boys had to be cared for by someone other than their mother for extended periods. Yet it seems she gets rewarded for sacrificing time with her children on the altar of selfish pursuits? GEN Petraeus wanted his kids well-cared-for, but it no longer matters to him for other families.
I try to console myself that, of course, I married a better man. I did. But, I never thought Petraeus was that bad. We military folk enjoyed having a scholar-leader as our policy-maker. I have enjoyed knowing my husband was enacting his policies while on mission support in Afghanistan, but this? It terrifies me that every man is susceptible to this. I know we are comprised of spirit and flesh and that men see flesh. Men love flesh. I know the Church has great wisdom in Her stance on not limiting family size, but that sure is not going to help me keep a hot bod for my husband. I am really in a tailspin here. What if I am busy mixing fingerpaint, nursing and baking muffins, while there is some hot, toned woman swooning over my pilot husband at the hangar? I am quasi-seriously entertaining thoughts of hiring a babysitter for three hours an afternoon in order to train for some ironman so that my husband won’t cheat on me. That will work right?
But, all tongue-and-cheekiness aside- what safeguards a marriage? We are on different faith trajectories from our husbands, but aside from prayer how do we keep this toxicity out of our home? Is a job that involves so much travel simply out of the question? Today’s soldiers have little choice on that matter, and, consequently their wives don’t either. Do I have to console myself that I must make all the right decisions for the health of our family and home, even if it will make me unattractive in this world? If my marriage falls apart when I haven’t had time to get makeup on before 1800 when he walks in the door, do I console myself that I did the best I could and I will be rewarded in the next life… after I finish raising our 8 children alone that is? I am nuts. Talk me down, friends.