As you are probably well aware of by now, the news of New York's Governor, Eliot L. Spitzer, being identified as client #9 of a high-priced New York prostitution service on Monday has been putting the issue of infidelity in marriages and partnerships high on everyone's list of "hot topics." And since I often receive questions from some of you wondering how to know if your own spouse or lover is cheating or having an affair, and, if so, what would make them do such a thing, I have decided to address this complex and painful issue in regards to Mr. Spitzer on my blog to try and give some clarity to this subject.
There are no simple answers about what causes infidelity. It varies from case to case. But in Eliot Spitzer's case this is what I think: Mr. Spitzer has a Righteous Sex Shadow. His righteous attacks on everyone from Wall Street to prostitution rings were what brought him the public approval and success he strove for as an Attorney General and then as governor. The public perceived him as ethical and a person of integrity in a sea of less than top-notch political and business powers and they were inspired that the business world and community at large were cleaner because of him.
But often we fail to realize that what we attack in others is what we fear most in ourselves. It is obvious now that Mr. Spitzer was the very thing that he most hated. His righteous attitude and actions were a cover for his own self-hatred of these aspects of himself. Righteous attacks towards the aspect that one hates most about themselves can be the person's attempt (whether conscious or unconscious) to purge or punish that aspect outside of oneself. Of course dirty business practices and illegal activities should be prosecuted-- but had Mr. Spitzer spent time with a good therapist and gotten to the bottom of his own shadow issues I believe he could have done the same job effectively minus the judgmental, righteous attitude and also saved his family, his staff, and his job.
Secondly, we don't know what was going on at home. His wife seems like a lovely person, but we don't know if their sex life was dormant, or if their relationship was emotionally complicated and rocky. It would be nice to hear that he was a man of integrity at home and had discussed that their sex life wasn't fulfilling and that they needed sex therapy. Perhaps they did go and then mutually came to an agreement that they could each experience sexual fulfillment outside the marriage. But with the secret money transfers and the choice of repeated, unsafe sex with prostitutes we can assume that that wasn't the case. Being that conscious to be truly honest with yourself and with your partner takes real courage and integrity.
Like with any power such as money, position, or sex, the way we utilize it will determine its positive or negative outcome in our lives. The inherent power of sex is that it can make us feel alive, creative, pleasure, energy, love, connection, ecstasy, and transcendence. These feelings are so powerful to us because they are the essence of the True Self. Having sex holds the promise of the experience of the true essence of who we are. A conscious relationship to sex leads to empowerment, including having greater physical energy, health, better relationships, and more overall joy.
Or we can act out the shadow of sexual power which is usually developed early in life from family dynamics that were conflicted and constricted around sex. Emotional and physical sex trauma as well as repressive religious and personal beliefs about sex can also cut a person off from having sex as an integral part of their whole self. Instead this person isolates sex from every other part of themselves. This throws one into the sexual ego. The sexual ego craves to experience the True Self also-- that love, pleasure, and openness through sex-- but gets their needs met in sexually disconnected ways and then can't sustain that feeling of wholeness. When you are not grounded in a sense of self-worth, self-love, or good self-esteem you move into ego driving power. Mix that with the incredible high you can have from sex and you have addiction. An unconscious relationship with sex leads to momentary glimpses of true power and then disempowerment.
There are several sexual ego types that rise out of the shadow of sexual power. These include The Superior One, The Survivor, The Powerless Lover, The Sexual High Flyer, etc.
I consider Eliot Spitzer a cross between "The Powerless Lover" and "The High Flyer" sexual ego types. The Powerless Lover ego type is an infidel. He feels powerless to be honest with his lover. But he deeply desires emotional honesty, acceptance, pleasure, and love so he seeks the safety of a stranger or new partner to experience that. The High Flyer gets a rush, a high, and a thrill from deviant, high-risk behavior to feel his power expand. Based on the facts revealed thus far with unsafe sex and secret, large sum bank transfers that he knew could be a tip off, Mr. Spitzer liked the risk and he wanted to get caught.
The only way out of the sexual ego is to establish a relationship with sex that is inclusive of the heart and spirit. This takes a lot of personal work with a therapist to make this kind of transition. But if Mr. Spitzer chooses to he could develop a new relationship with himself and create a healthy and empowered sexuality.
I wish for him and his family healing, his staff ease in their transition to new work or at least to a new governor, and to all the people who have felt disappointed by his choices a call to even greater integrity within, with others, and in our leadership.