By | November 19, 2012 32 Comments

Gen. David Petraeus scandal displays the range of human misbehavior

I’ve been incredulously half-following the media reports of the scandal involving General David Petraeus; his paramour Paula Broadwell; Jill Kelley, whose complaint about harassing emails touched off the investigation; Natalie Khawam, Kelley’s twin sister who was embroiled in a nasty custody fight; General John Allen, who allegedly sent “flirtatious” emails to Kelley; and a shirtless FBI agent.

This story is so convoluted that it’s tough to follow all the characters and allegations. I found a really good summary on, complete with updates as the story got thicker and thicker:

The David Petraeus Scandal, Explained

I thought there must be a lesson in this story somewhere for Lovefraud readers. But what might it be?

Perhaps it is simply that human beings are capable of a wide range of bad and/or stupid behavior, not all of it sociopathic.  So here are a few key points that we can draw from the tawdry mess:

1. Smart people are capable of doing stupid things.

Gen. David Petraeus was not only a highly decorated military man credited with “saving” America’s war effort in Iraq, he was also a Princeton Ph.D. Yet he was willing to risk his entire career on an extramarital affair. Some may argue that powerful people have been engaging in sexual liaisons for millennia and it’s nobody’s business. Regardless, Petraeus had to know that if the affair were discovered, the media would have a field day and his legacy would be ruined. That’s exactly what happened.

2. Power corrupts. 

Powerful people tend to believe that they can do what they want and get away with anything. Those in the orbit of powerful people like to flaunt their access. Others want to associate with powerful people, and will go into debt throwing lavish parties to gain the access, well, because they like power too, even if it’s only by association. But there comes a point where power leads to trouble, as many people in this story have discovered.

3. Nothing is truly private.

Petraeus was sending emails to Broadwell, Broadwell was allegedly sending threatening emails to Kelley and Kelley was exchanging “flirtatious messages” with Allen. Now we all know. And the twins, Kelley and Khawam, are both heavily in debt and have multiple lawsuits filed against them. All of their dirty laundry has become the fodder for the voracious media machine. Nothing on the Internet dies. And when records are public—or even if they aren’t—someone will find them.

So what conclusions can we draw?

All human behavior is on a continuum. The right amount of power and aggression can lead to successful military career—too much power and aggression can lead to murder. The right amount of libido leads to a healthy intimate relationship—too much leads to recklessness, promiscuity and coercive sex. A certain amount of risk taking leads to financial growth—too much leads to debt, foreclosure and lawsuits.

In the end, I suppose the lesson of this saga is that people are complicated, life is messy, and we should all be wary of unintended consequences.

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of

I think most of the players in this saga have too many traits on the upper end of the narcissism or sociopath continuum. It doesn’t seem to be about stupid mistakes a couple of people made, as much as it was about very calculated actions by quite a few who felt entitled and above the rules, and then were shocked that their true colors were glaringly exposed to the whole world.


I agree, I am just waiting for them to come out with a reality tv show …..I read where Petraeus will get 12,000 a month pension for life. And Paula Broad Well has already been offered 12 million to right a book…it’s sick imo..


Donna, thank you for this article.

Power corrupts – always, and without fail. There are no “wise kings,” out there, anymore. There’s no “Solomon” who is just and able. What we have instead of wisdom is haughty arrogance.

Without fail, power corrupts. Ew………..that ANY of these players is being offered monetary compensation for their personal misdeeds makes me sick.

Brightest blessings


Petraeus hired a lawyer; Broadwell hired a PR firm.

How do you spell “narcissist”?

Ox Drover

I think #2 is the BIGGIE in this situation. The narcissism brought on by power and access to power by association produces the sense of entitlement that allows these people to over come any moral compass they had in order to do whatever it is that rings their chimes.

Excess humility is not an attribute of many military generals or world leaders that I have ever read about, and I don’t think that Petraeus was overly hampered by an excess of humility or excess morality in this situation. Plus, we don’t know that this was his “first” episode of infidelity either….or Broadwell’s. She is also a married woman with young children.

As for Kelly—well, I don’t guess it ever occurred to her that an FBI investigation might bring out any dirt from the corners of her own life or the life of her sister, but it did.

While she got “threatening” e mails telling her to stay away from the general, I find it difficult to believe that she was TRULY FRIGHTENED by these e mails, frightened enough to get the FBI involved???…and makes me wonder if she didn’t know who sent them and why and just wanted to stir up some drama, never thinking it might bring her own house of cards tumbling down.

Ahhhh, the webs we weave……

Ox Drover

This quote from that article

Many leaders—not just in the military, but in politics, medicine, the corporate world, all realms of life—have a talent for compartmentalization. Still, there are limits to how far the human psyche can be stretched. It should be no surprise that, sometimes, when people assume such a lofty helm and such extreme levers of power, the sense of self-supremacy that goes with the job can extend to other realms of life.

I think sums it all up….back again to #2….you can’t be a big shot politician (state or world leader) or general without being enough of a narcissist to think you are “special” and being “special” can make your own rules….as long as you don’t get caught…and of course being so SMART, you are not going to get caught….well, until you are caught of course and then you stand before the nation screaming and pointing your finger at the television camera and saying (in spite of the EVIDENCE to the contrary) “I did NOT have sex with that woman,…. Monica….”

At least Petraeus was enough of a stand up man to admit what he did and at least say “sorry.”


The article got “the sense of self-supremacy that goes with the job can extend to other realms of life” backwards.

It’s the sense of self-supremacy that led the person to the career choice and into the job.

Einsenhower was supposed to be a caring individual. Before my time so I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’ve seen him pointed out from time to time as a general who was keen on negotiations to reduce the killing and war efforts.

Years ago I read that the CIA selects psychopaths for their assassin jobs after a thorough evaluation of their personalities and found them indifferent to killing. I don’t know if that’s a fact, but it was printed and I did read it.


When I was in college, a “friend” of mine set me up to go out with a Navy pilot. Having been raised in a military family, I was familiar with the boast and swagger, but I had never had much association with pilots. Well……

Each of these men (only a male squadron, then) had the most attractive wives or girlfriends, the fastest imported vehicles, the most elaborate and expensive stereo equipment, etc., etc., etc. I mean that the whole scenario was laughable!

At the awards banquet that I went to, it then became all about who could flirt with their comrades’ wifes/girlfriends the most effectively, who could drink whom under the table, and so forth. It was more than I could EVER have tolerated, and I never went out with that pilot, again.

Officers who go through the military systems via West Point or Annapolis are taught that they are the best of the best of the best. They are taught extreme arrogance and also experience extreme humliiations.

Oh, boy…….what an ugly mess this has turned out to be. There is no “honor,” anymore, if there ever really WAS “honor,” before.

Brightest blessings


Thanks, Donna. I hadn’t heard that. Makes sense to me.

Ox Drover

Yea, Donna, I read the same thing about psychopaths not making good “special ops” operatives. I can’t remember WHERE I read it though (CRS!!!) But it makes sense to me too because of the lack of impulse control higher level psychopaths exhibit.

The thing about the high level of Narcissism that most “high level” generals, CIA agents, politicians, etc. though that actually makes them “suited” for their jobs, if taken to the level of psychopathy, makes them loose cannons and NOT suited for their jobs.

Eisenhower had a mistress when he was in England, it was his female driver. It was apparently an “open secret” during the war, but kept tightly under wraps by the media during his presidency. Just as the media knew about John Kennedy’s womanizing and kept the lid on it, so they did with Dwight’s womanizing. Apparently though his was not quite as slimy as JFK’s was with sneaking Marilyn Monroe in the back door of the White House when Jackie was away.


Absolutely Spot On DONNA.
Spaths tend to “go rogue”, putting EVERYONE in danger. Good snipers are actually calm grounded men, and yes, it’s messes them up. Please everyone, we NEED our government to fund Psyche programs for our returning soldiers. PTSD is HUGE.


This article in Newsday is in line with what many of us on on the forum seem to think is Petraeus’ problem.

“Shlaes: Was David Petraeus ensnared by narcissism?
November 12, 2012 by AMITY SHLAES

It was her six-minute mile that did it. Or her youth. That’s the assumption about the choice by David Petraeus, America’s most revered military statesman, to pursue an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, who co-wrote a biography of him.

After the announcement last week from Petraeus that he would resign his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency because of the relationship, television and the Internet have been alive with descriptions of the physical allure of Broadwell, who is 20 years younger than Petraeus.

But a woman’s age or the time in which she runs a mile are probably not the primary explanations for Petraeus’ actions, just as they weren’t necessarily the main reasons that John Edwards or Jack Welch, for example, pursued their affairs. Age or looks matter, yet only secondarily.

The force driving all these gents is probably something stronger than sex. What likely drives them is narcissism.

In myth, Narcissus was the hunter so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissism occurs in modern life when an individual suffers from a need for affirmation of his or her own importance.

All successful people nurse some vanities. But to a serious narcissist, flattery becomes crucial to survival. He will be drawn to anyone who makes him like what he sees in the mirror. Narcissists gravitate especially toward anyone who supplies that flattery reliably or, even better, assures the narcissistic feed, providing something that elicits praise from others.

“All In,” Broadwell’s adulatory biography of Petraeus, was a media event that delivered multiple moments of gratification.

Edwards’ choice of a mistress was a video maker who was filming his presidential campaign, Rielle Hunter.

Welch chose business editor Suzy Wetlaufer. She could help Welch spread Welch, the brand, post-General Electric, better than anyone. These women aren’t arm candy. They are mirrors or cameras.

Many theorists these days find some benefit in narcissistic leadership. Narcissists don’t have to be unfaithful. And they are often notable for great talent. Their desperation to produce the work that wins mega-recognition can pull forward a whole company.

In “The Productive Narcissist,” author Michael Maccoby argues that the egotism of executives such as Welch helps them undertake great projects and make their companies advance. Translate Maccoby’s concept over to the military, and the theory fits as well: Petraeus’ self-esteem gave him the courage to wage the controversial surge of troops in Iraq.

But narcissism has a dark side: It skews the judgment of the narcissist. With the news of his affair, against the rules of soldiering, Petraeus has already tarnished his incredible feats. It is this poor wager, and not the affair itself, that so many Petraeus fans resent.

There is evidence that similar damage can be wrought by narcissists in business. The presence of a narcissistic CEO tends to mean a company enjoys a lower return on assets than others, according to scholars Charles Ham, Nicholas Seybert and Sean Wang. Companies led by narcissists pay lower dividends to shareholders. They acquire too many companies due to the leader’s vain assumption that he or she can add value. The silent tragedy at many companies is the growth forgone due to the vanity of chief executives and another mirror, the board of directors.

To categorize someone who has achieved as much as Petraeus has feels wrong. Yet it isn’t a bad idea to try to understand narcissism — or vanity, the Victorian label many of us prefer.

Although most of us hesitate to diminish our heroes with labels, we can be assured that others quickly pick up the vulnerability of the narcissist and won’t hesitate to exploit it. At the CIA or in the corner office, the boss who doesn’t recognize his own narcissism and combat it is ceasing to be worthy of his rank. He is a leader on his way to becoming just another case.”


ew………it’s all so unseemly………

kim frederick

And just as food for thought, I think the fact that these high powered men get caught in affairs is evidence of their narcissism. Simply having an affair may be a real red-flag, but getting caught implies entitlement, being above the rules, displaying his prize to the envious eyes of other pigs, his grandiosity, thinking he is above getting caught, lack of empathy for his wife and family….I could go on and on.

speaking of food…
what’s a spath’s favorite food?
A narcissist.

I read that once from a self-professed spath at sociopath world. She was going on and on about how easy the narcissist is to manipulate.



Kim Frederick, interesting that you brought that up about getting caught. I fervently believe that the exspath wanted to end the marriage, but he was too much of a coward to do it, so he set himself up to be caught, and then blamed ME for his violent interests! Seriously! ROTFLMAO!!!! He told me, to my face, that it was MY fault that he was interested in violent bondage and I threw that insult right back into his face and said, “Nobody just wakes up, one morning, and decides that they’re going to give bondage, gential torture and mutiliation, and veilded necrophilia a try. THIS is something that has been escalating for YEARS, so don’t you try to saddle ME with YOUR issues!” So, knowing my aversion to porn and violent sex, he must’ve known that I’d end the marriage, at some point.

Which brings me to the long-con defrauding. He was aware of his proclivities long before we ever even met, so he kept that nasty, vile secret hidden until he could snag me and take my personal finances. Wow…..just……wow.

ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!! Oh, my…….LOLOL

kim frederick

I couldn’t agree more, Skylar.
I made an exotic soup a couple of days ago: West African spicy peanut soup with chicken. It is made with tomatoes, curry powder, and sweet potatos. It was good. I shared with my daughter, then froze the rest. Am looking on-line, today for a new recipe…nothing strikes my fancy, yet.
Won’t be able to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with my family, because I have to work, so, am going to enjoy cooking something hot, healthy, and tasty for myself today.

kim frederick

Yeah, Truthy. I think my X wanted to be caught, too, because NO ONE is THAT careless, if they value their marriage. He had scratches down his back and a hickey on his neck. I found underwear in my bed. Pulled long black hairs of his dress whites, and answered hang-up calls.
I went on line to investigate “men and affairs” and came across, “the exit affair” and you are exactly right. It is a strategy to end a relationship by a coward who won’t take responsibility, and so dumps an affair in his spouses lap, so she will end it. Really, really slimy.

you gave me mimetic envy with that soup description. 😛

The exit affair. What an interesting concept.

Truthy, it did seem to me that he wanted you to become like him and when you didn’t engage in his sick and sadistic behavior, he set you up so that you would lash out violently.

This is the “genius” of the spath. They are so well acquainted with the emotions they slime us with. Though they never feel them, they do know them well.

My spath did everything he could to make me feel envy and that life was unfair. He went so far as to let my house rot and then somehow convinced the minion drug customers to build a new house next door to me, (actually 2 and they sold one to his brother). He convinced the other neighbor to build a new porch. And at the end, the other neighbor was bragging about what a good deal they got on their new roof. All of these were his minions.

It would not surprise me to find out that he paid them thousands to have that done, just so they could brag about it to me, who had none of those things.

What he couldn’t figure out, was why it didn’t work. Because I don’t care about material things very much and because I don’t feel envy…. well except for the soup!!


“kim frederick says:

And just as food for thought, I think the fact that these high powered men get caught in affairs is evidence of their narcissism. Simply having an affair may be a real red-flag, but getting caught implies entitlement, being above the rules, displaying his prize to the envious eyes of other pigs, his grandiosity, thinking he is above getting caught, lack of empathy for his wife and family”.I could go on and on.”

I hear ya, Kim! This whole Petraeus & Broadwell fiasco has so many parallels to my husband. He’s a narcissist, although he wasn’t a 4 star General lol. I think narcissists all use the same playbook, too.

Skylar – his mistress is a psychopath. I can laugh now about how easily she ensnared him, but it confused the heck out of me until I realized what he is and how sociopaths/psychopaths operate. At least I get some satisfaction over how she used and abused him – similar to Broadwell, but she doesn’t have the same credentials. Like Paula, she just blatantly lies or inflates them. I agree that narcissists are a spath’s favorite food. 😀


Question – from time to time here, I’ve seen people mention that the Ps lurk on this site picking up pointers about us and what we know.

Does anybody know of anyone doing any research into sites posted by self-proclaimed narcissists? Can they discern anything notable once (and if) they can get past the proclamations of self-importance?

Are there any sites by Ps telling Ps how to be Ps?

Just wondering how the other side looks and what it promotes about itself.

I don’t want to go looking myself. I suspect I’d get triggered. It’s not worth it for me, but I would be interested in knowing what somebody else has discovered or concluded.



I don’t think P’s need to be told how to be Ps. I think it comes naturally. And we can see evil all around us – IMHO they do seem to recognize another spath.

But there is a website where some congregate. Why, I have no idea.




A year or so ago I stumbled across a website run by a self-professed narcissist about why he was so wonderful and the rest of us weren’t. It was an obnoxious read.

I’m sure Ps don’t need to be taught, but being the narcissists that they are, there has got to be at least one or two of them taking upon themselves to instruct the rest of the world how to do it right.


Truthspeak wrote:

“He told me, to my face, that it was MY fault that he was interested in violent bondage and I threw that insult right back into his face and said, “Nobody just wakes up, one morning, and decides that they’re going to give bondage, gential torture and mutiliation, and veilded necrophilia a try. THIS is something that has been escalating for YEARS, so don’t you try to saddle ME with YOUR issues!” So, knowing my aversion to porn and violent sex, he must’ve known that I’d end the marriage, at some point.

Which brings me to the long-con defrauding. He was aware of his proclivities long before we ever even met, so he kept that nasty, vile secret hidden until he could snag me and take my personal finances. Wow”..just—wow.”

My situation *exactly* – – – thank you soooo much for sharing your truth. This has helped me so much !!! Moving closer and closer to my own freedom.

And the post from Christine about narcissism. More and more clarity to help us “see” what is really going on. I am so grateful for LF and the amazing folks here !! Thank you !!!!!!!


OpalRose, it’s good to “see” you – Happy Thanksgiving to you.

The thing that the exspath was counting upon, OpalRose, was that I would continue making decisions based upon a strong shame-core and fear. I had no job, no income, and no means to support myself, and I was very, very sick when he left, and all of the utilities were at least 3 months in arrears – not to mention that the house was in foreclosure acceleration a full month before this discovery, and I didn’t even know about it. So, I was seriously under the proverbial financial gun when he left. And, he took all access to our joint finances, drained the account, and left me with change in a jar.

So, they COUNT on us to fall back into patterns that they’ve either observed, or machinated for us. They count on us to “REact” rather than stop, slow down, and review our options. He was counting on me to continue the sham of a marriage out of fear, alone. When I didn’t, he wanted to punish me in every way possible. Which he most certainly accomplished, but he didn’t kill me with his own hands or by proxy. So, no matter HOW much he took from me, I got out with my soul and resolve.

Yepper, LoveFraud has been an incredible source of information, wisdom, and unconditional support and encouragement. Thank GOD for this site, eh?

Brightest blessings


G1S, I just lost my response.

There are many, many, many sites out there that are maintained by self-proclaimed P’s, N’s, & Spaths. Some of them DO provide step-by-step “instructions” on how to target and discard an individual for a variety of reasons: sex, money, etc. Of course, there’s no “supportive” discussions because most of these sites are monitored by the disordered, so forums aren’t necessarily “allowed” by these people. They just want to look at the site statistics, every day, and see the number of hits they get.

As for why spaths may lurk on this site, it doesn’t matter. What is written and exspressed by readers who are being honest and truthful isn’t of much help to them except to stroke their own disordered egos if they recognize the particulars of a reader’s given situation. Seriously – the exspath would have to be DAFT not to recognize himself by my descriptions, so he may come to this site in the hope that I’m posting of being in an eternal meltdown. Well, I”m not. And, that’s that.

Brightest blessings and Happy Thanksgiving

I hear a bit of news…. Saying Petraeus screwed around on Holly, because… Well look at her. She doesn’t take care of herself. It really makes me sad to hear that kind of talk. She is an accomplished lovely gal who took care of the children. Occasionally I would say to my old expath, “you take care of the kids the way I do, all the housework, cook, clean, etc and let’s see how great you look. Paula wasn’t looking after her kids . She was gone a LOT. She was running 6 min miles and turning tricks in bed. Garbage! Neither of them is gorgeous . Plus , I am sure Holly felt the distancing and that always tugs at the self worth and confidence of any normal woman.



We have talked about this before. It wasn’t because of Holly’s looks. If that’s the case, why do all the beautiful Hollywood people cheat on each other? I think it goes much deeper than that. It’s about him, not about her. I have a best friend who is four months shy of 50 years old, has four kids (one who is profoundly retarded) and she still looks fantastic! It can be done. A lot of it is genetics and a lot is how we take care of ourselves. Despite the kids and all that, a person has to MAKE time and it can be done. It’s all about priorities. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it can be done. Not every 50 or 60 year old woman looks old and fat.

Ox Drover

Interesting article

At least 30 per cent of military commanders fired over the past eight years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook



I saw the same article this morning. I’m not surprised in the slightest…actually when I saw it, I just said to myself…no kidding. Sad, but true.

Lovefraud is being upgraded. Comments and forum posts are temporarily disabled. Dismiss

Send this to a friend