Though his political career had only just begun, last week former presidential candidate Herman Cain joined the cadre of politicians who saw his professional aspirations overshadowed by marital issues.
Whether his 43-year marriage to Gloria Cain will suffer a fate similar to political unions marred by infidelity remains to be seen. But regardless of whether his alleged relationship with Ginger White of Dunwoody was sexual in nature or not, the deception alone makes it an affair, said Gerry Lane, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Buckhead.
"What you are getting here is the common thread in all affairs, which is deception," said Lane. "A secret relationship ... is what makes [an affair] exciting."
On Saturday, Cain suspended his bid for the presidency amid allegations of sexual harassment and the particularly damning charge from White, who claimed she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Cain. Cain has denied the charges but acknowledged he and White had a friendship that his wife didn't know about. Still, the damage was done. The alleged infidelity may be a bigger blow to his career than his marriage.
Of the betrayed spouses Lane sees, 80 percent try to repair their marriages after infidelity, he said, but a recent poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press indicates that the public's opinion of a candidate's infidelity is more negative than in 2007. The study also showed that more Republicans (57 percent) than Democrats (42 percent) say they would be less likely to support a candidate who has had an extramarital affair.
"I don't know these people, but it was a secret, powerful, emotional relationship, and now the damage is, the trust is broken," Lane said. Deception, it seems, is an intimacy killer. "If someone is deceiving you, you cannot really have true intimacy or closeness," Lane said. "The person who has had the affair has to become an open book and has to become totally transparent in order to rebuild trust," he said.
And that may hold true whether the person on the receiving end is a spouse or a political constituent.
"I was bothered by the way the allegations were handled, especially when the information came out about Ms. White and that [Cain's] wife didn't know her and didn't know he was giving her money," Atlanta Tea Party co-founder Debbie Dooley said the day Cain announced he was no longer running. "What is that saying? It's not the deed that does you in, it is the denial or the cover-up."
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