An interesting letter, which may or may not relate to Petraeus (Update: NYT says it's unrelated)

A letter from an anonymous NYT reader to "Ethicist" writer Chuck Klosterman, titled "MY WIFE’S LOVER"—

My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Read the rest. Published: July 13, 2012. (via @blakehounshell)

Update: Not related, says NYT magazine editor Hugo Lindgren.


  1. I don’t even see the dilemma here.  Just leave because it’s obvious the wife doesn’t care enough about the marriage in the first place.

    1. Leaving creates a reason to investigate, and the Streisand Effect takes over the rest. If this actually is about Petraeus, you don’t just blow up an affair by the head of the CIA like he’s just the postman coming around too often while you’re at work. 

      1. I didn’t say he had to “blow up an affair”, all he had to do was pack his bags and tell his wife he was leaving.

        I had this discussion with my wife way before we were married (she brought it up because of a paper she was writing).  I pretty much told her I have a zero tolerance policy on cheating, that if she cheated I would assume she no longer cares about our relationship and would leave.  There would be no taking her back, no anything, she made her choice.  Like many things in life, cheating is not something that “just happens”…we are all adults.

        1. Ser bcsizemo…

          From my take on various friends and acquaintances, hearsay, and from my personal experience, your post nails it. Gathering the courage to GTFO, that’s the hard part, even when everything and everybody says Save Yourself. Fear and Inertia. Fear and Greed. Like the Stock Market.
          As for Gen. Betrayus, the affair may have been with his biographer.However, I wonder if Betrayus might have engineered the Benghazi fiasco in an attempt to discredit our prezzy, but his cunning plan was discovered, and Gen. BetrayUS, for the sake of expediency, was offered the easy way out — admitting to a (known to spooks) affair that would not have been an issue had the General not tried to screw his Commander in Chief, and worse, screw the majority of his fellows and pervert the already perverted way we pick our leaders.

          Tinfoil hat? No. Tungsten Foil.

          /I’m not promoting this as anything but something that crossed my mind for about ten seconds. I think Occam’s razor best explains things, and from what’s filtering down, I bet dollars to doughnuts that the General’s mistress is his biographer.

          Tungsten Foil.

          1. Because Muslim terror cells are usually obedient to American generals. I’ll bet he was behind Sandy as well – the bastard!

          2. Petraeus has had enormous experience getting similar groups to work for him, in Iraq and Afghanistan (Sons of Iraq etc). So does the CIA, for that matter (eg: the Mujahideen). I have no idea if the theory is true, but its not something that Petraeus would find hard to organise.

          3. I agree, and to clarify, I don’t believe at all that Benghazi was a conspiracy. I was just having a bit of fun.

          4. Actually, it was the Romney campaign behind Sandy – fortunately it backfired. How’d they do it? One word: Magnets

          5. Benghazi only works as a fiasco if you’re predisposed to hating Obama.  Four people tragically died, and it was conflated to be a massive tragedy of impeachable offence. It’s a dangerous area, and these sort of incidents happen regardless of who’s president.  Compared to the marine barrack bombing or the Iraq war, it doesn’t really rank. 

          6. I agree, with you on all points. FTR, I don’t actually think the Gen. or his peeps had anything to do with Benghazi.

      2. Frankly, I’d go public with it immediately, for fear of getting Ricin Krispies for breakfast some morning.

        Put it this way – if your life starts turning into a 1970’s paranoia movie, do you want to be played by James Coburn, or by Elliott Gould?

        1.  Jon Cusak, so it still may go Rom Com, and I might end up being with an attractive spy that I’m actually much more compatible with.

  2. Has the CIA ever been described as ‘a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership’? (with a straight face, at least)

    This has to be about somebody else…

  3. “My unfaithful wife is also enjoying great career success because she wrote a popular biography of this great moral and ethical giant, the title of which I’ll paraphrase as ‘Balls Deep.'”

  4. Our culture is so screwed up.  Instead of handling affairs like adults, we freak out and treat it like an OMG!!!! big scandal!!111!!  

    It isn’t a big deal.  It happens ALL the fucking time.  There is an affair in almost all long term relationships.  Humans are just not wired for exclusive monogamy.  We simply suck at it.  We go out and screw other humans even in cultures where the punishment is death.  We do monogamish okay, but straight up monogamy?  We blow at it.  Get over it and plan accordingly.

    The right thing to do would be to have a culture where you can hash this shit out.  Do you still love the woman and does she still love you?  Can you be okay with her having a boy friend on the side?  Great!  Set up some ground rules and carry on living.  Can’t live it?  Great, tell her it is your way or the highway.  Are you sure you can’t find an accommodation?   Is she done with you and are you now still married because you are locked up in property and titles?  Great, start untangling and move on.

    The fact that an affair, something 90% of the humans in the US have been on one side or another of, is going to put Petraeus to the curb is just stupid.

    1. He was a dickhead in his position anyway. If the administration wants to invent some stupid affair for them all to save face rather than it look like the rest of the re-election washouts, well that comes as no surprise (I’ve been watching “Boss”). At least he’s out.

      If it’s cover, the affair story is just using us against ourselves anyway. Heck, we probably can’t avoid it, as it’s the only story being told. Well, except for Fox, who is all over it being aftereffects from Benghazi. I’m not sure that Benghazi was that big a deal, except for its timing, but hey, those guys play hard ball. Don’t fuck with the strategy.

    2. Rindan is right.
      You have to look at it this way; if you truly love your wife, then don’t you want her to be happy? You don’t actually own her. The thought of saying that she cannot sleep with anyone else is purely vanity and insecurity. If you love them, you would want them happy, no matter what that means. The only betrayal that exit is the one that society says you should place on infidelity.
      And the fact is if you can’t handle it, for one reason or another, then you should move on. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself, and not what society believes is right. And the fact is, if you like the guy, wouldn’t it stand to reason that your wife would find the same quality in him as you do? Why would you deny her the right to love another? Do you deny her the right to love your kids, her first boyfriend, or her friends?
      The problem with society is that they still think that marrying someone means to own them. That is what marriage originally was, that is where the tradition of the father giving his daughter away to the husband came from. It was a transfer of ownership. This is no longer the case. And society needs to understand that.

      1. As far as Petraeus is concerned, I don’t know whether resigning for an affair was an appropriate thing to do (there WAS the point that having affairs opened one to the risk of blackmail and security issues). I don’t really care that much either way to be honest.

        But I don’t think it’s the mere concept of polyamourous relations that makes people look down on cheating, it is largely the deception (that’s why it’s called ‘cheating’).

        It also doesn’t have that much to do with ‘ownership’, it’s about honesty and trust. It also has a lot to do with availability and commitment: An engaged relationship, especially if there are children involved, requires a LOT of time and investment. I mean, realistically (in many lifestyles anyway), by the time you factor in career and such, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for quality time, romance and family. Divide that by several lovers and you’ve got a really complex work/life/love management task on your hands. If one can have several lovers, keeping them ALL properly informed and fulfilled AND if he/she can also manage to be invested in ALL of these lovers less glamourous/sexy needs (emotional support, health care if one is ill, child-rearing, intimate- yet non sexual- companionship, etc…), then, hey, party on!!

        I agree that it’s pointless to expect ALL people to be monogamous if it’s not their personality. But there should be honesty and communication in all types of relationships.

      2. It’s way more murky than ownership.  You want them to be happy, but you also want them to want you to be happy. There is a point at which every person in every relationship (romantic or otherwise) will say to themselves “The emotional energy I’m investing in this person is not being reciprocated in a way that’s fulfilling; I need to move on.”  

        This could happen an hour into a cross-country plane flight, or after 20 years of marriage; but the overall process is the same.

        Not wanting to be treated like shit doesn’t mean you’re instantiating the patriarchy.

      3. You’re missing the point, and the point is _honesty_.

        We’re married and you feel the irrepressible need to have a sexual relation with another man/woman? No problem, you tell me _before_ the fact so I can evaluate and decide if it’s “ok, I can live with that” or “if you do that, I’m outta here” and accordingly you can decide if the new relationship is more important than the old one or not.

        If you go behind my back, you’re just a despicable excuse for a human being.

        IMHO, of course.

      4. You’re missing the point, and the point is _honesty_.

        We’re married and you feel the irrepressible need to have a sexual relation with another man/woman? No problem, you tell me _before_ the fact so I can evaluate and decide if it’s “ok, I can live with that” or “if you do that, I’m outta here” and accordingly you can decide if the new relationship is more important than the old one or not.

        If you go behind my back, you’re just a despicable excuse for a human being.

        IMHO, of course.

    3. Sad though, on principle.

      The man isn’t obviously vulnerable to blackmail after seemingly easily admitting to the affair, and publicly at that. 
      My guess on why a resignation would be necessary is that there would be an outcry to have him resign anyway, which would make things messier.

  5. The bit I can’t understand is why the Head of the CIA resigned? If having an affair is the worst thing he is doing, he obviously isn’t doing his job right.

    1. The reasoning is that if someone has a secret like this, and if they care enough to keep that secret, they could be blackmailed into providing services or rendering aid to anyone who knows that secret, including foreign powers.

      1. That’s true. Though I’d really love to see more people take Obama’s cue and ignore attempted extortion. 

        “Gen. Petraeus! Someone has a photo of you with your lover!”
        “Whatevs” *sips matcha*

    2. This isn’t just a case of Petraeus picking up some woman in a bar in Brussels – there was an active FBI investigation that involved this woman, and at least the suggestion that she had access to his email. It’s not clear whether she was the target of the FBI investigation or not, or what kind of access she had, but either way it significantly impugns  the reputation of the office of the head of the CIA to be having an affair under these circumstances, and suggests some really poor judgment.

      I think in the coming days we’ll hear more about how extensive this was and how Petraeus may have given “improper access” to her, whether that’s in the form of email access, access to documents or just pillow talk. 

  6. “I halfway suspect you’re writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what’s really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person). That’s not ethical, either.”

    But, Hey we are happy to help you along by printing your unethical letter.

  7. Good book on attitudes towards marital infidelity in several countries (the Amazon summary is horrible, the book isn’t):

  8. Can anyone say “Clinton Global Initiative”?

    After all, the simplest explanation is usually the right one…

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