Should Holly Petraeus Divorce David?

Dear Ms. Petraeus,

Like everyone else I was shocked to hear the news of your husband’s resignation as head of the CIA because of his extramarital affair.

No doubt you were reeling in shock, disbelief--and then, perhaps, anger! Any spouse who has discovered an affair of the other spouse can empathize with you right now. I hope you are getting lots of support from friends and family, but if I may, here are a couple of suggestions:

Take time to process your feelings. Don’t decide today, or tomorrow, whether or not you want to save your marriage. Although this does not make your pain any less, you are not the first nor will you be the last spouse to have to deal with infidelity.

That is why there are dozens of books that offer advice and guidance. Here are two that have received good reviews: Unfaithful: Hope and Healing After Infidelity by Gary Shriver and Mona Shriver (Nov 1, 2009). Surviving Your Worst Nightmare: A Guide for the Betrayed by Patti Snodgrass (Jul 11, 2011)

And here is one for your husband: How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair: A Compact Manual for the Unfaithful by Linda J. MacDonald M.S. (Nov 24, 2010)

I hope that that you have a good therapist to talk to about this, either on your own or with your husband. Both of you have a lot invested in this relationship and by all public accounts, you are a partner who is his equal. You do not sound like the type of women who will say, “he did me wrong and I want to hurt him at any cost.” You could do that, and who would blame you?

But your children will be hurt and the anger will last a lifetime. If you do decide to get a divorce, you may want to seek out an attorney who is skilled and knowledgeable in the complexities of a divorce with military service, as there are unique tax and retirement issues from his time in the military. Perhaps, if you do decide to work through this, why not write a book aimed at military families?

How to deal with the emotional toll of long separations and the reality of divorce from your perspective? That is one way for you to make something good come out of this terrible situation that you did not create, but find yourself in. I personally never wanted a divorce, but after several attempts at marital counseling and years of his unacceptable behavior, I decided to divorce my X.

Only after I initiated the legal proceedings, did I discover that the X was involved in some kind of inappropriate relationship with another person. It was a shock to me and others. I have no regrets with my decision, even though the X has continued to battle me in the courts for almost 10 years!

Good luck, Ms. Petraeus! If half of what we read in the papers is true, it seems that your husband has the decency to admit his mistakes and take responsibility for it. That should count for something. I hope you are able to work through this for a stronger bond.

Best of luck!



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  • Post divorce women typically fare better on the happiness scale. She'll have to weigh her options, get help and do some soul searching, but when you're in your 50's and 60's I see fewer and fewer women willing to "put up with" their spouses inappropriate behavior. People will blame Holly for "letting herself go", she shouldn't listen to them, those people are speaking from an insecure place, perhaps a "too close to home" sort of thing. Good luck to her!

  • I agree with you!

    It is terrible that folks are saying that her appearance makes this her fault!
    Let's see what Paula looks like at 60!


  • The best revenge Holly Petraeus can do now is to make a sex tape with a young & good-looking Taliban guy. Her husband will be pissed off. She will then become famous and may even end up dating Kanye West.

  • This may be a very unpopular position but Holly, dear, why not get to the gym? Start exercising and look like someone who wants to present themselves as a healthy, fit woman? Your husband values physical fitness. Should you consider making yourself as attractive as possible? It's a competitive world out there..,,look good and feel good about yourself! But then again, who knows what goes on behind closed doors? Maybe you have been in a "loveless" marriage for a long time? Maybe this affair is symptomatic of much that is wrong in your relationship? Buck up.. Take control. Get a new look and energy about your own power.

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    In reply to Mere:

    Actually, Holly Patraeus looks just fine for her age. She isn't fat, she has a sweet face and they look just fine together. If I had any response to the looks thing it would be more along the lines of update hair and get clothes that fit. She is wearing clothes that are too big for her.

  • In reply to Helen Major:

    Good observations. And maybe go and get some makeup advice?
    Have a Merry Christmas!

  • A "competitive world out there"? Really? So "it" goes to the hardest body? The guy has proven himself to be weak willed. No, no one knows what's going on behind closed doors, but, at the very least, save the kids the pain and humiliation and get a divorce first. And what about the women? One woman is married to a good looking guy. What was her excuse? I'm sure Holly will be embraced by all no matter what her decision is regarding her marriage. He, however, will go down in history as the guy who couldn't keep it in his pants, and ruined his career. That used to be a badge of honor, but things are rapidly changing. Now he just looks like a desperate, long in the tooth perv!

  • I am so glad you didn't mention her appearance, that just makes me nuts. He's no prize, just a bunch of ego. I think she should divorce him, surely she is used to living on her own by now? But it's her decision to make. Nice post.
    If I could talk to Mrs. P I would say, I should have divorced my ex years before I did. Life not only went on, it went on way better than before!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:


    You are so right! She has been on her own for years--- basically.

    I wish that she could tap into a network of women who have gone through a divorce and feel better for it, like you!

    Thank you,

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    Does anyone actually believe that Paula and Jill look like they do naturally???? Of course not!! They have had lots of work done. If you live in today's world, you have your hair colored and styled, loose weight, and dress fashionably, not just for him, but for your own self respect. Holly looks like David's mother. I know he did her wrong and all that, but you have to compete to keep your spouse in today's world. If you don't keep your spouse happy, there is a whole line of people waiting in line who would be glad to do it for you.

  • In reply to Rachel Rivera:

    Agreed! Maybe she gave up on taking care of herself since her husband was not around to validate her, to compliment her?

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    I asked a friend of mine, who used to be a driver for the military brass, if it was even possible that a 4-star general could be a babe in the wood regarding sex. His answer? The man saw T & A, liked what he saw, arranged to keep her conveniently close for action. He was 20 years older than she was and he had done it before. Believe me." I don't think Holly was ever in the equation. And I think it is important that she realize that.

  • In reply to Helen Major:

    I think you have nailed it on the head!

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