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Why Men Cheat

In the interest of a mental health break, let's take a brief gawk at what may be the only public drama meaner and muddier than the McCain campaign: The Christie Brinkley-Peter Cook divorce. 

The latest installment is Cook's ill-advised interview with Barbara Walter's in which he explained why he cheated on his supermodel wife with an 18-year-old. Bottom line: he wanted "acknowledgement," "attention," and a "thank you" for all he was doing for his family. (Presumably he was not referring to his $3,000-a-month internet porn habit.)

Cook is taking much abuse for his whining. In this CNN segment that caught my eye, the two guys and one gal discussing his interview expressed an inability to even comprehend his excuse. If nothing else, they reasoned, Brinkley's extraordinary hotness should have kept Cook faithful. 

Sadly, I don't see Cook's excuse as odd at all. The man was married to a beautiful, famous woman who likely didn't treat him like the center of the universe and whose fame and wealth made him feel insecure. So he went looking for a younger, more adoring consort who would make him feel special. In this way, Cook strikes me as all too similar to the countless DC husbands perpetually on the make, more than a few of whom eventually dump their wives for some pretty, ass-kissing young lobbyist or Hill staffer. 

Make all the raunchy observations about men's sex drive that you want. What men crave almost as much as sex is attention. They need to feel important. They need to feel appreciated. They need to feel worshipped. Hell, who doesn't? We all want to be special. But somewhere through the milennia, men became accustomed to such treatment. And these days, when the daily stress and grind of marriage leads couples to no longer gaze adoringly at one another every minute of the day, the men often seem to take it harder. When that happens, some feel entitled and/or sorry enough for themselves and go looking for a little....consolation.

The phenomenon is so common it's a cliche--not to mention a stellar money-making opportunity for folks like Laura Schlessinger, the right-wing traditional-values scold who has made a fortune advising women on how to keep their men happy by giving them just a little more sex and a little more adoration. As she noted in this author interview, the key to a good marriage all boils down to showing your man more of the "Three A's: appreciation, approval, and affection."

So, yeah, the details of Cook's betrayal may be more colorful than average, but the motivation behind the betrayal is hardly unusual. No matter how pretty Brinkley is--in fact, perhaps because of how pretty she is--she didn't make poor Peter feel important enough. That was something he just couldn't handle. Which definitely makes him a loser, but, alas, doesn't make him remotely unusual.

--Michelle Cottle