What Happened to Holly Petraeus Is Every Aging Wife's Biggest Fear

Rant 64

Poor Holly Petraeus. Not only do you find out your husband of 38 years, resigned CIA director General David Petraeus, is cheating on you with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a woman 20 years your junior, but you find it out in the most incredibly public way. And then you're basically blamed for it. No one is accusing Holly of being a bad wife, oh no. David has described her as "the greatest source of support, wise counsel, and love that any soldier could have." They've been married for 38 years. But, um, look at her. Says one commenter on an article about her: "She looks like an old granny." Says another: "She looks like his great-grandmother ... She should be at least 75 pounds lighter ... I blame it on her appearance." Are we really surprised by this?

This is the gut reaction when any cheating scandal happens. Blame it on the wife. What did she do to make her husband unhappy? Did she stop sleeping with him? Was she too involved with the kids? Did she "let herself go"?

Women judge other women this way. The idea that, 40 years into a marriage, the man you've built your life with may suddenly replace you with a younger version is so scary that we build up an array of defenses to counteract our fear. This couldn't happen to me because I'm keeping myself up. This couldn't happen to me because I'll keep him happy.

The woman David cheated with is attractive, fit, and has biceps that look like they could go a few rounds with Cameron Diaz. Hmm, goes our minds. Well, of course he cheated. Look at the mistress. Look at the wife.

If a beautiful woman gets cheated on -- and there are plenty of them, like Elin Nordegren, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Elizabeth Hurley, or Christie Brinkley, to name a few -- then our minds zip around to find other reasons the man strayed: She seems like a psycho bitch. She's too concerned about her appearance and not any fun. She's older than he is. She didn't want children. She was too involved with her career.

We don't look to the man, look to him to be a responsible human being who, if he's sexually unhappy, should talk to his wife about it -- because we fear this would simply fail. We look to the women because keeping yourself trim, or getting plastic surgery, or remaining a sexual dynamo after children and decades somehow seems more "controllable" than expecting another human being to respect boundaries. We can control ourselves -- we can't control others. And that basic truism terrifies us into denial and excuses. Maybe we just don't want to admit the stark truth: Forty years of monogamy is very difficult, I don't care who you are. (Not an excuse, but a reality.)

Holly, who has her own career as the assistant director of service members affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, doesn't seem to be blaming herself, or her gray hair, or her weight. She is said to be angry about the affair. Reportedly David Petraeus himself said of his wife's reaction, "Furious would be an understatement."

She has every right to be furious. And every right not to self blame.

Do you think Holly's looks are at least partly to blame for her husband's cheating? Should looks matter in cheating?


Image via Getty

in the news, marriage, cheating


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fleur... fleurdelys3110

It's so sad that this is many women's first reaction to finding out about an affair. I am embarrassed for Holly Petraeus....

Ankles Ankles

I feel so bad for her. As a military wife I can't imagine the sacrifices she made for his career, especially being a 4 star general and this is how he repays her. Makes me hate him That much more

Todd Vrancic

A spouse who is prone to cheating will do so no matter what his/her partner looks like or what his/her partner's personality is like.  An alcoholic will drink because it's raining or to celebrate the fact the sun came out.

nonmember avatar Lisa

My heart goes out to Holy and her kids. No matter what the ages of their children they will all have a changed relationship with their father. This is not something that has anything to do with them. This is about Mr. Patraeus and his ego. People have choices in life and he made a very poor choice in getting involved in Paula Broadwell. Mr. Patraeus has certainly made his wife feel horrible and will have to live with that. She can forgive him but their marriage will never be the same. He has shown a side of himself that was foreign to the family. She will always question and learn to guard herself. Affairs always leave lasting damage. Has anyone asked how the husband of Paula is handling this? He has to be dealing with the pain of it all as well.

Leila Romero

Not at all! Holly is not to blame, after all those years , her Husband disrespected her, HE"S AN ASSHOLE!!! Holly's look is not the problem, it's her husband sickness- CHEATING< LIAR DISRESPECTFUL and can't be trusted as a Head of a CIA.. For that mistrss - SHE'S GONNA GET A KARMA, SHE's UGLY , SHE'S NOT PRETTY< She's GONNA GET OLD and UGLY, WRINKLEY worst than HOLLY LOL

nonmember avatar Pam

Come on guys! With all due respect to the General's wife, she could use a makeover, big time. I tried to find pictures of her own mother on the web (married to General Knowlton) for comparison, but no luck. There are a lot of hot 60 plus year old women out there, so I wonder why she wants to have the appearance that she does.

I hope an image and fitness coach get's a hold of her and turns her into a hot chick. It looks like she hasn't been passionate in a long time,and that is a shame - she was a very pretty girl as a young woman.

I'm not excusing her husband or blaming her. I'm just working on solutions.

Aeris... AerisKate

I always look at the man. Whenever I would watch those stupid cheating shows on t.v., besides asking myself why in the heck I was watching them, I would always question why the women would get mad at the "other woman" like it was all her fault.  Get mad at the dang man - he is the cheater!!!

pupuk... pupukeawahine

I bet he fell for her in the first place because she was intelligent, down to earth and real, and women were taught to hide those things back in the day (I'm 55, I know).  But I was (am) intelligent, earthy, etc., and some men really liked it, they didn't have to play the game with me like they did with the other sort.  I was attractive, and I'm sure Holly was too, and time does change that.  Looking at this picture, he looks like the one who dyes his hair, not her!  I've sort of "let myself go" in recent years, and I am still attractive to men of a certain age--believe me, older men look for much more than looks--are you fun? Intelligent?  Drama-free?  Happy?  If so, you'll find lots of men attracted to you as you age, and those a decade younger, as well.  Plus, I don't think the other woman in this is all that beautiful, physically.  I think people, especially women, put the blame on Holly because blaming the victim makes it seem less like it could happen to you . . . such as, if you keep yourself trim, dye your hair, get contacts, etc., that's all it takes to keep your man.  I've kept mine 35 years strong, and he's the better looking of the two of us.  I have a lot more to offer than just looks.

piggy... piggy11721

My husband loves me at my worst, if not more, than when I am at my best. I am a lucky woman. Holly however, is not so lucky. My heart goes out to her for dedicating her life to an ass. She is beautiful for being bed. Pam, not everyone puts their value in how they look.

piggy... piggy11721

Beautiful for being her....I meant

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