Hormonal Rages

Social Issues

So Gov. Sanford admits to having an affair. Gov. Sanford, I note, was born in 1960, which would make him 50 next year.

I bring up his age because recently we’ve seen the usual women-and-their-raging hormones drivel from some troglodytes objecting to another woman on the Supreme Court. When are we going to start worrying about the instability of middle-aged men?

I realize that anecdotes are not data. However, I have never personally met a woman of menopausal age — and I’m past that point myself — who who blew off her life because of hot flashes. But I’ve known, and have known of, a number of men aged 45-60 whose lives crashed and burned because of an affair. In some cases they didn’t just throw away their marriages; they also lost jobs and wrecked careers. Relationships with children, friends and other family members were irreparably strained or even severed.

Yes, I’m sure there are examples of older women who behaved just as foolishly, but it seems to be much less common. We women tend to go through our self-destruct phase when we’re much younger.

I remember one of my former college professors who left a wife, two children, and a tenured college faculty position to run off with a student, who then dumped him a few months later. Another academic of my acquaintance burned a plum position at a prestigious university and years of hard-won professional contacts when he left his wife for a student. A man I used to call a good friend lost every one of his friends after he abruptly left his wife (also a good friend) for a younger woman. Yes, the younger women were involved in the affairs, too, but they had nothing to lose.

Think about all the well-known politicians who either wrecked their careers or compromised their offices because they got caught messing around. What’s often remarkable to me is how reckless their behavior can be when so much is at stake in their lives, their ambitions, their work. In some cases they aren’t just taking chances with their own lives; they are taking chances with their countries. Yet they can’t seem to help themselves.

I realize that most men — I don’t think — go down this path. But it happens often enough that I wonder why we don’t make an issue of the potential instability of middle-aged men.

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  1. felicity  •  Jun 24, 2009 @4:45 pm

    As Sanford was listing the people whom he had ‘hurt’ by having his (well-deserved affair?) he mentioned his mistress first, followed by constituents, wife, sons…And how about chosing Father’s Day weekend to screw, cry (and get an awfully good tan) in the company of his mistress (for whom he feels very sorry.)

    His and every other aging man’s illicit affairs are nothing more than ego trips.

  2. uncledad  •  Jun 24, 2009 @4:48 pm


    Come on maha don’t you know only women have hormones!

    The early punditry on this once again amazes me. I’ve heard: he lied to his staff he should resign, he had the guts to admit his failings, having affair will not affect his ability to govern, etc. Aside from the pure hypocrisy (when compared to the Lewinski affair), how about the man was derelict in his duties as Governor. His job is to be the CEO of the state. The man just disappears for 5 days no contact with anyone, nobody’s in charge of the state, that is the outrage. How many of us could blow off work for 5 days and still have a job when we return? I know I would have to come up with a much better excuse than “I was cheating on my wife”. Oh those republican family values seem only a distant memory these days, ha ha ha weeeeeeeee.

  3. maha  •  Jun 24, 2009 @4:57 pm

    Indeed, at the very least Sanford should have thought of better excuses for disappearing to Argentina for a week. How about, “the dog peed on my GPS?”

  4. freD  •  Jun 24, 2009 @5:15 pm

    My corp-exec uncle was on a roll by his mid-40’s, climbing to bigger and better everything – except for his wife, who was aging and putting on weight. He went on an impulsive cross-country fling with some shiny young thing, and after a couple years, came back with absolutely nothing.

    I think winning streaks engender complacency – as in: If you don’t use (once useful) parts of your brain, you risk losing them. I also generally don’t trust anybody who has lots of natural charm and chutzpah and has never been through a major life challenge. I usually find that the moral character tends to be a bit, um, unexercised, with those types.

  5. uncledad  •  Jun 24, 2009 @5:19 pm

    If Sanford resigns who’s next, Ensign, Vitter? I’m sure they are offering prayers and words of encouragement for the good governor to hang in there!

  6. Marilyn  •  Jun 24, 2009 @5:31 pm

    Of course there was a woman involved, did anyone really think there wasn’t.

  7. D.R. Marvel  •  Jun 24, 2009 @5:36 pm

    C’mon Maha, you just don’t get it…

    The only reason middle-aged men have affairs with younger, slimmer, more agreeable women is because they need a break from their menopausal Ol’ Ladies…


  8. gordon  •  Jun 24, 2009 @5:37 pm

    In the cases I have observed, it is some variant of “I’ve worked like hell for 30 years to get here, and I’m still not happy” (or “… and look what I missed out on”).

    Sanford delivered the best mea culpa I’ve ever seen from a politician. If he’s really kissing his political career goodbye, I’ll let him go quietly.

  9. joanr16  •  Jun 24, 2009 @6:02 pm

    and get an awfully good tan

    Sanford always looks like that. I think he uses the same brand of tan-in-a-bottle, but a couple shades less orange, than John Boehner.

    they need a break from their menopausal Ol’ Ladies…

    GRR! ARRGGGH! WHYIOUGHTA…!! *brandishes soup ladle threateningly*

    Seriously, though, there’s just no telling with some people. I wonder about the secret thoughts my 50-year-old brother must have. He has a spouse of 22 years, two teenaged kids, and a neurotic beagle. He’s marvelously well-behaved, especially considering he’s related to me. A few years ago, I asked him what his dream car would be; rather than naming some “penis car,” as I would’ve expected, he said wistfully, “A VW Beetle… cause there’d only be room in it for me.”

  10. grannyeagle  •  Jun 24, 2009 @6:54 pm

    Marilyn: Of course all us older folks were suspicious that there was a woman but then it is unfair to judge the poor guy without evidence.

    D.R. Marvel: I can understand needing a break from a menopausal ol’ lady but when do the menopausal ladies get a break from their childish men who are only driven by something hanging between their legs?

    I’m with Maha, deliver us from the potential instability of middle-aged men who take such stupid risks and damage so many lives, especially their children. And please stop electing them to governing offices.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 24, 2009 @6:58 pm

    As a single, 50+ male, I totslly understand and wish I had the resources to do what he did.
    But, younger, attractive women, are not exactly knocking on this unemployed man’s door (nor are any others, unfortunately). So, I never had the chance to throw away a wife, kid’s, and a political career.
    Maybe in another life… (Just kidding, I think…).

    PS: Yes, I guess I’m a pig!

  12. gypsy howell  •  Jun 24, 2009 @7:37 pm

    Huh. I was betting it was for a nice Argentine boy, not a girl.

  13. KyCole  •  Jun 24, 2009 @7:37 pm

    Three years ago (when we were both 49), my husband of 29 years did this to me. Now, the girlfriend has left, our children still haven’t forgiven him, he’s stuck in a huge house (that won’t sell) all by himself, and I’m having a great time. I’ve forgiven him, and we’re renewing our friendship, but I know he isn’t to be trusted with my heart ever again.

  14. paradoctor  •  Jun 24, 2009 @8:06 pm

    I see this story as a study in primate psychology. The overstressed alpha-male’s choice of recreation was revealing (I mean, adultery of course, but in Argentina? How glam!) but so was the public reaction. If the Governor had left his post vacant twice as long, but with no woman involved, then would he have had to resign?

  15. Swami  •  Jun 24, 2009 @8:24 pm

    Of course there was a woman involved, did anyone really think there wasn’t.

    Given the track record of the sexual deviants that comprise the GOP….sheep, goats, burros, or any creature whose sex organs have a similarity to the human species either male or female is always a consideration. Tender young Congressional pages or pot luck in an airport restroom…. anything is up for grabs.

    Don’t forget that bastion of morality…who delighted in his buggery while his snoot was awash in meth. The most right Reverend..Ted Haggart.

  16. uncledad  •  Jun 24, 2009 @8:37 pm

    “If the Governor had left his post vacant twice as long, but with no woman involved, then would he have had to resign?”

    YES! I could care less about the affair; it could have been with farm animals (as Swami Mentions). I could care less, that’s between him and his wife and possibly his Doctor. The fact that he has such little regard for the people of his state that he would just leave, makes him unfit to Govern in my opinion

  17. D.R. Marvel  •  Jun 24, 2009 @9:16 pm

    Well… I had my version of that mid-life crisis at 29…And produced the Fabulous Daughter who, another 29 years later, would prove to be my salvation…

    But menopause had nothing to do with the whole thing…In fact, the Hillbilly sailed through menopause in a very short, sweet time…And all her life she could have been the Poster Girl for PMS.

  18. joanr16  •  Jun 24, 2009 @9:30 pm

    What really grates my cheese is that Sanford is yet another of these “marriage can only be between a man and a woman” types, as if he’s frakkin’ fit to judge the value of other people’s love and loyalty.

    I like to imagine that, tonight, some Gay Men’s Chorus somewhere in America is rehearsing a very special version of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” in honor of the guv.

  19. Swami  •  Jun 24, 2009 @9:58 pm

    Sanford can’t seem to muster the honesty to call his lying a lie..I guess “creating a fiction” doesn’t qualify as a real lie,huh.. Sanford should have studied Jimmy Swaggart’s confession.. Nothing puts it over like a tearful ” I have sinned” as your opening statement.

    I wonder if Sanford lusted in his heart before he became the victim of an innocent relationship that snared him into adultery? The poor fellow.

  20. BPx3  •  Jun 24, 2009 @10:01 pm

    “When are we going to start worrying about the instability of middle-aged men?”

    Speaking as a middle-aged man almost the same age as Mr. Sanford, soon, I hope. 🙂

    Why do so many middle-aged men decide to have an affair, despite the potentially serious consequences to their relationships and careers? There are almost as many answers to this question as there are middle-aged men and it really is hard to generalize. Hard, but not impossible. So here goes:

    1. Some men, and some women, are born sociopaths and are simply incapable of considering the effects of their actions on others;

    2. Some men, and some women, live their entire lives in a state of frozen adolescence;

    3. Middle-age has a way of forcing us to recognize our own mortality, and to feel all of the deep-seated fears that come with that recognition. The fear of death, and the fear of having never really “lived,” can lead a middle-aged man into an affair;

    4. Sometimes, after a lifetime of doing everything people say they are supposed to do in order to be a good husband, father, son, “provider,” and all around financial-stability-module to be plugged in as an attachment to the lives of others, middle-aged men start to sense a kind of hollowness beneath the surface of their everyday lives. This can lead to a search for deeper meaning, or maybe just a search for a little flattery and encouragement, through an affair; and

    5. Sometimes, deep inside a middle-aged man, a human heart opens up and begins to rise and reassert itself after having spent decades quietly buried beneath the practicalities of making a living and supporting a family. When this happens, it is possible for a middle-aged man to sincerely fall in love with another woman, and to do so in a way that doesn’t diminish his love for his wife or his children.

    The category 3-5 affairs are usually thought of as the typical mid-life crisis affairs. I don’t know Mr. Sanford well enough to explain his behavior, but I would guess his affair is the result of some combination of categories 3-5 causes.

    Was he “foolish” to pursue this affair? I’m unwilling to make that judgment. I’ve had several friends who had affairs that, ultimately, worked out for the best. And for all concerned.

  21. maha  •  Jun 24, 2009 @10:09 pm

    BPx3 — thank you for your comments. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in them.

  22. maha  •  Jun 24, 2009 @10:12 pm

    Swami — Yes, the Swaggart confession remains an unmatched achievement in the annals of American religiosity, and that’s saying something. They don’t make repentant sinners like they used to.

  23. Doug Hughes  •  Jun 25, 2009 @12:14 am

    I am of the opinion that virgiity & fidelity are both overated in terms of importance. There was a time when rightous people expected that a bride must be chaste at the altar (or suffer social consequences). Now, no one gossips if the bride & groom have been living together for years before they get around to vows or if she sampled several men before she did the ‘I do.’

    Society has grown up from when women were semi-property, controlled by the father and then ‘given’ in marriage. But the same liberal-minded women who can comprehend authority over their own body, are ready to stone Sanford for the exchange of a few ounces of bodily fluids. His wife may have a beef, but why does anyone else?

    My popularity may diminsh for saying this, but I think love can happen more than once in a lifetime, that it can happen inside or outside of marriage, a man can love 2 women at the same time, just as a woman can love 2 men at the same time. I think love & sex are separate events which can ‘spark’ at the same time and though I am attracted to women, love & sex are not gender-dependent. Men can love men deepley, as can women. The feelings for them can be as deep as for heterosexual couples, and happen with or without sex.

    Every time a sex scandal with a politician comes up I ask, ‘When will we realize, private sex between consenting adults is NOT a subject of public policy, or a criteria for selcting our public officers?’

  24. s  •  Jun 25, 2009 @3:27 am

    I think he should be fired. I am responsible for a lot less than him and I would be fired if I didn’t show up without calling in.
    As far as the affair goes.. his wife is lucky to know the type of person she is married to. Her health could depend on it if he is out following his “stuff” around.

    KyCole, I am glad to hear you are enjoying life!
    At our age, there seem to be a lot of changes one way or the other.
    From what I gather, spouses are often sick or dead or running around chasing their youth (or a youth). All sad and all take a lot of adjusting. My pain in the butt is not true. It hurt when I found out, but it also explained alot. Now instead of trying to make things better in his life, I take care of what makes me happy and he can fin for himself. I must say, not trying to keep a grumpy ol whiner happy takes a load off of me, and if he ever does run off with anyone, I will worry about the bills, but not him. I will also have to laugh at the person he runs off with..she’s in for a surprise when she gets to know him.

  25. joanr16  •  Jun 25, 2009 @8:56 am

    ‘When will we realize, private sex between consenting adults is NOT a subject of public policy, or a criteria for selcting our public officers?’

    I would suggest: When those public officers (e.g., Mark Sanford) realize that private relations between consenting adults is not a subject of public policy. Goes for private citizens too (e.g. Carrie Prejean). Judgmental hypocrites deserve every bit of public humiliation they get.

  26. Marilyn  •  Jun 25, 2009 @10:01 am

    BPx3 although I agree with your insight, why do so many men think they won’t get caught. Cynical old me, when heard he was missing I knew a woman was involved, what else would it be.
    As a woman I had the same midlife crisis. It never occurred to me to cheat on my husband.

  27. DoubleCinco  •  Jun 25, 2009 @10:01 am

    My build with BPx3 is to add to the list the meta-item of the double standard for female & male sexuality at multiple levels of our society. Older men twisting off with younger women is directly linked to the constant pressure on women to be defined by young and sexually attractive (small waist/big top). Needless to say this is a standard propagated by male, pale and stale.

    I have had conversations with women from 32 to 50+ wherein they are deeply concerned that if they leave a awful marriage they will languish as single and lonely because men of all ages want younger women. Hell even 9 year old girls want to go on a diet as a result of this pressure.

    I happened to see a clip this morning of (shudders deeply) Hannity and Coulter in which she rails about how liberal politicians who (act out) get to stay in office (referring to Clinton and Barney Franks), but the Conservatives are bounced. She was very much for bouncing Sanford.

    So I can remember bad boys John & Ted, Franks, Clinton vs. Foley, Craig, Vitter and now, Sanford. Who else? Is it too cynical of me to believe that a significant percentage of both parties are deviant?

  28. ironranger  •  Jun 25, 2009 @10:09 am

    BPx3, interesting points.
    I often think that the rigid rules for marriage & sexual behavior of the ultra conservative religious crowd strongly discourages an individual from self-introspection. Just follow the rules of your religion & you don’t have to strain your mind.
    I think that kind of system creates a lot of “frozen adolescents”. Sanford is acting just as goofy, erratic & with as little self control as a love/lust sick 15 yr old boy. He seems to be totally blindsided by his own feelings. Uber conservative politicians seem to blow up their lives in a spectacular fashion. Ego and self-centeredness are on display but category 4 fits well too, imo.

  29. MNPundit  •  Jun 25, 2009 @10:41 am

    Because we run down at a much slower rate than women, it’s a dick move is not a very good argument when you are fifty and an absolutely smoking energetic young lady is perfectly willing to give you the time of your last decade for small (monetarily speaking) price.

  30. Pal Ashford  •  Jun 25, 2009 @10:56 am

    Great point. It’s unfortunate that we often see through the male dominated prism of life which is obviously skewered in their favor. It’s very enlightening when someone can see through that biased filter and shed light on that one sided fallacy to reveal the truth.

  31. BPx3  •  Jun 25, 2009 @1:26 pm

    Quite a few interesting comments on this topic, both here and elsewhere on the web. Gary Kamiya’s article in Salon and its comments make for some interesting reading.

    “why do so many men think they won’t get caught.”
    “It never occurred to me to cheat on my husband.”

    It never occurs to many men either. I hope I didn’t seem to imply that having an affair was an absolute requirement for any form of mid-life transition.

    In answer to your question, it depends on what motivates the affair. I believe the men involved in what I called category 1 and 2 affairs think they are much too clever to ever be caught. Men involved in category 3 affairs are focused on their fears and, therefore, not thinking about the possibility of being caught. Men involved in category 4 and 5 affairs either don’t care if they’re caught or, at some level, would actually like to be caught so they are, at last, forced to address all the painful issues they’ve been trying to avoid.

    I’ve forgotten the precise numbers, but I’ve seen surveys indicating that quite a few women have extra-marital affairs. This sometimes makes me wonder how many women would actually feel hurt, deceived, humiliated, and betrayed by an affair if they weren’t constantly being told by other women that they are supposed to feel hurt, deceived, humiliated, and betrayed.

    And, I’ve often wondered how many of the children involved would actually be hurt, angry, and psychologically scarred for life if they weren’t constantly told, often by well-intentioned adults, that they were supposed to be hurt, angry, and psychologically scarred for life. In my experience, all of us are far more resilient than we seem to believe.

  32. Pat Pattillo  •  Jun 25, 2009 @1:32 pm

    How very true. The brotherhood to which I belong is almost innately pitiful, often out of control, hurtful, derelict, irresponsible all the while being in the throes of the fantasy that they are masterful, omnipotent and invulnerable. Falling from such lofty heights really hurts a lot. Poor babies…so often so ungrounded.

    Oops, did I just write that? 🙂 Sorry dudes, sad but true.

    By the way, my wife is in awe of your blog. She’s not much on commenting but it makes her day when she reads on like this.

  33. Pat Pattillo  •  Jun 25, 2009 @1:36 pm

    …couldn’t resist adding that Grover Norquist expressed a belief that this really makes pols like Sanford appear more virile but as one blog put it, that’s just another way of saying that the fact that Sanford bedded a single woman represents an appeal that will rake in women’s votes.

    What was that I said about fantasy? Is the right pickled in this?

  34. self exile  •  Jun 26, 2009 @2:53 am

    Hell, these people wait to middleage to do the two back thing. I blame religion. Jeez, shove a sock in people, all but .005 per cent of the human race have sex drives, it just seems a crime to be looking death in the face before they admit it. Look at Sanford he still can’t admit the HE HAD A HELL OF A GOOD TIME. Two bit southern Baptist.
    I don’t care what your mama told, I don’t care what your papa told you, I don’t care what the teacher told you, I don’t care what the preacher told you, YOU AIN’T GETTING OUT OF HERE ALIVE. Enjoy every minute of it, it is not coming again.

  35. Bill H  •  Jun 26, 2009 @10:41 am

    We have not looked at the wives involved here, particularly not Mrs. Sanford. No, no, no, wait. Wait. It’s not what you think. Quite the opposite. Good heavens, I’m not a pig.

    The guy, Sanford in this case, has all this power in public. Everyone is all “yes sir” and “aye, aye sir.” They open doors for him and bring him coffee, run his errands. You get the message.

    But Mrs. Sanford comes across as a pretty substantial person. When the phone rings at home and he’s right beside it and tells her to answer it she probably tells him to answer the damn thing himself. She loves him, and cares for him, but she is a whole person. What that does is make him feel all wimpy and “unmanned” and he needs to go be with someone who makes him feel manly.

    I know about stuff like that because I have a wife who is a whole person; tells me to answer the damn phone myself. Well, not really, because I don’t tell her to answer it in the first place, but… That does not “unman” me though, it makes me feel pretty hot because she chooses to be with me.

    It’s not in what she does, it’s in how you respond to it. It’s in who you are. Anyway…

  36. freD  •  Jun 26, 2009 @1:29 pm

    “Enjoy every minute of it, it is not coming again.”

    Not at my expense.

  37. vjbinct  •  Jun 29, 2009 @12:11 pm

    Some guys visit the Argentine. I buy woodworking tools. Sigh.

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