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David Schnarch
Dr. David Schnarch


New ideas, important thoughts, and assorted musings


Why Rich and Powerful People Cheat

Part 1 of 4: The Seductiveness of Power and Money

By Dr. David Schnarch

Author of Intimacy & Desire and Passionate Marriage

Politicians, high-visibility celebrities and successful business people (and everyday couples) fly-in for the Crucible Intensive Therapy Program at the Marriage & Family Health Center in Evergreen Colorado. Often they are in the same situation as Tiger Woods, having had multiple affairs. Why do people do this?

Many people think sex with lots of women is a side benefit that comes with being powerful, whether that power is political, economic, or social. That has been the case throughout history. The difference between 200 hundred years ago and now is not morals, it’s the media.
  • Sometimes extremely successful people are thrill-seeking risk takers. They like to “roll the dice” for very high stakes.
  • Sometimes they’re simply self-destructive, having to push the limit until things fall apart.
  • Some like secretive clandestine sex and the charge of getting away with something.
Imagine you’re a 33 year old billionaire (don’t you wish). You have no limitations on what you can buy, who you can reach out to, and what you can do. You’ve achieved more success and fame than you ever imagined. It’s hard to keep your emotional balance, presuming you had it to begin with.

Many highly successful people have huge capacities to compartmentalize risky, unethical and eve illegal behavior, (which may have contributed to their success). Some aren’t capable of guilt or shame, but those who are often don't feel this until they get caught. It’s like their brain has gone to sleep.

A Different Realty

The rich and powerful travel in an exclusive world, a different reality

Your entourage forms a protective buffer around you, pumps up your ego, and insulates you from daily reality and responsibilities. You begin to believe the rules don’t apply to you. Other people bend the rules for you because you are a celebrity. You see how hollow many people are, because they sell themselves out to you. You begin to believe everyone is a sham and not who they claim to be. You live in a world where everyone uses everyone. You convince yourself through personal experience that people are craven and everyone can be bought. It’s not long before you lose respect for the very people who admire you.

You are surrounded by other wealthy people who are getting away with things, too. There is an arrogance that often comes with power. You feel you can do things that mere mortals are forbidden to do. You live a life of luxury, excess, and hedonism that most of us can only imagine. The aura of power surrounding you makes you feel immune from consequences. There's a sense, “I won't get caught." You see other wealthy people living a façade in public and a different life in private. The key to pulling this off becomes keeping your public and private life as separate as possible, and creating an image that shields you from closer scrutiny.

Highly successful and wealthy people also often have two characteristics that further encourage affairs:
  1. They are often extremely competitive people, to whom extramarital sex is about "scoring" and "collecting trophies."
  2. They are frequently driven by a huge need to get a positive reflected sense of self from others.

 

In Part 2 we'll consider other reasons why the rich and powerful cheat: They are just like everyone else.