Why politicians cheat


In an ideal world, politics and cheating would never be mentioned in the same breath. Because, politics is about implementation of best ideas for the progress and well-being of the society/state, and cheating refers to way out of unpleasant situations by dishonest means. Unfortunately, politicians have a history of featuring heavily in all forms of cheating including that in marital affairs.

Getting married is a natural outcome of falling in love if we are lucky. But marriage can be hard work, as it requires falling in love frequently with the same person. Exceptions are those who believe, “Marriage is like wine, and it cannot be properly judged until the second glass”.

In Roman times, the lower classes had ‘free’ marriages where the bride’s father delivered her to the groom while wealthy Romans signed documents to declare their union. In Pakistan, you may say, “I do”, up to four times despite Quranic injunction making it impossible to keep more than one wife at a time. Some prominent politicians, as we know, have made skillful use of this license. A number of married politicians are playing the field as if there is no tomorrow. Still unsatisfied, a significant number among them have found creative ways of getting hitched more than once without letting anyone know.

A ‘secret marriage’ scandal between two prominent politicians broke out recently; more scoops are on their way. The question is, why do politicians often get caught with their pants down?

Let us start with the Tony Blair theory. He opines that an affair invites the free-bird impulse, which releases politicians from the prison of self-control. Then there is the encounter, which is so exciting, naughty, and lacking in self-control. One is suddenly transported out of the world of intrigue, endless machinations and the serious piled on the serious, to a remote desert island of pleasure. One becomes a different person, if only for an instant, until returned to reality.

Politicians also suffer from narcissism (self-love) as an occupation hazard. This is not surprising because they have to have enormous egos and ambitions to get to the top. When deeply in love with themselves, they need constant doses of flattery and adulation from sycophants who massage their egos. With an inflated ego, they start believing that rules do not apply to them and they can get away with anything. This sense of power makes politicians take risks, break promises, cut corners and manipulate others including their wives.

Narcissim is an occupational hazard for politicians. This is hardly surprising given that enormous egos and ambition are imperative to getting to the top

As they get older, some politicians start feeling insecure. Deep down, they start developing doubts – they feel too old, too fat, too poor or too stupid to be desirable to anyone. They often feel bored and lonely in their milieu. They use flirting, watching porn and “sexting” as ways to feel better and reassure themselves that they are still worthwhile. They also feel the urge to prove to themselves that they are still attractive. They go looking for proof of this from outside their marriage.

Like normal population, psychological problems are equally distributed among politicians. Some of them are known to suffer from anxiety, depression, addiction and personality disorders. Therefore, they are unable or unwilling to fully commit to another person. Their promiscuity could be explained by their early traumatic experiences (e.g., abuse, neglect), influence or withdrawal effects of drug and alcohol abuse, and/or emotional dysregulation. They might be seeking sexual activity outside marriage to disassociate or self medicate for their underlying emotional conflict or pain. If they have psychopathic traits, they might view monogamy as something to be worked around rather than be embraced.

Having an affair is much more creative than the sex act itself. Some politicians feel that their wives do not appreciate what they have become or their need to evolve further. When someone sees them and experiences them in a different way – they feel alive. This may be an illusion, but feels very real to them. Their sexual/romantic activities, often without precautions, are sometimes about wanting to be ‘caught’ – to send a message to the wife that they want out. However, evidence suggests that there is no shortage of women who think cheating is ‘disgusting’, until they fall for a man that likes them back; but isn’t willing to leave his wife for them.

Call me old fashioned, but there are only two people on board in a relationship; the boat sinks if there is an extra passenger. Everyone wants a wife who is beautiful, cultured, economical, and a great cook – but the law only allows one. I am aware of the quasi-religious arguments in favour of secret marriages but I challenge the believers to check with the ladies at home first. If the debris of married life has severed ties between your dreams and reality; it is better to move on. You and I may transgress as members of the public, but an adulterous politician doesn’t only betray his family but also the public’s trust. It raises serious questions about his judgment, character and integrity as a leader who is supposed to be a role model for the society.

The writer is a consultant psychiatrist and visiting professor based in London. He tweets @AamerSarfraz

Published in Daily Times, July 20th, 2017.