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Cheating for Dummies: You Will Be Caught

Technology and Cheating Just Don't Mix

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January 4, 2013

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on November 13, 2012.

By Michele Weldon

It's history repeating itself. It's history repeating itself. I said, it's history repeating itself.

OK, let's just say Paula Broadwell didn't see Fatal Attraction in 1987 when it first hit movie theaters. She was 14 years old. But Broadwell must have heard about it -- the ultimate cautionary tale about extramarital affairs what with the boiling bunny rabbit and Glenn Close going completely bonkers.

And certainly, 60-year-old General David Petraeus had heard someone mention the movie, even perhaps watched the Saturday Night Live spoofs. Perhaps even he and his wife, Holly, went to see it or rented it -- maybe when the kids were asleep. Yes, it was a while back, and the former CIA director may have forgotten. It has been a long time. Come to think of it, he and his wife were married when Ms. Broadwell was just a 1-year-old baby girl.

Oh, what history can teach us if we only listen.

Beyond the obvious common sense edict that you will wound your spouse and family if you cheat and you will always be found out, it is time to wake up and delete the email. Cheating and technology don't mix. Whether you are a man or a woman, the cheater, cheatee, or co-cheats, you are all in this together and you need to decide that you will be caught. Yes, you will be caught. Did I mention you will be caught?

If you are going to dilly dally, it is not wise to text, email, tweet, take photos, video or otherwise communicate electronically to your lover. And don't believe that the new app, Snapchat is the answer to safe sexting. Even if it can delete your emailed photo in 10 seconds with no record of it anywhere, someone can still grab a screenshot.

You leave a digital footprint. No matter how well you believe you cover it all up.

Ask Tiger Woods, whose text messages in 2009 to Jaime Grubbs, one of his many partners, are available on a simple Google search. Ask Anthony Weiner, the former Democrat from New York who sent sexy Twitter photos of himself to a young woman he didn't know. Then there's Herman Cain, who had to drop out of the presidential race in 2012 because he apparently had a weakness for the ladies. Oh, and Ashton Kuchter, let's not forget his tweetables.

And as John Edwards can tell you, step away from the biographer/documentarian/assistant whose bright eyes and charming ways you cannot resist. And to Rielle Hunter and Broadwell, I express this caveat: You are the temporary help. Eventually the book hits the bookstores and the documentary is finished.

Before there was email, there were photos taken with long lenses. Think Gary Hart on Monkey Business in 1987. Before texting, there were lists at the guard gate. Think Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton in 1998. In 2005, Boeing's CEO Harry Stonecipher lost the top spot because of a red-hot email trail with a coworker.

Over the millennia, rivers of tears have washed the globe in the fallout of affairs. There is a Wikipedia page of poltiical sex scandals. Ahh, history is littered with the lessons of the lovelorn.

You can say in all those cases that passion overtook common sense. You can say true love means never having to say you're sorry for the people you harm, the careers you upend and the reputation you sully. Never mind that Broadwell has a husband and small children. Never mind that Petraeus has a wife and grown children.

Just remember someone will leak your secret.

Jill Kelley does not look like the kind of woman another woman can push around. If she is truly the FOW (Friend of Wife) as she has been portrayed, and the victim here of a jealous mistress (as Broadwell has been painted), then the lesson here is don't underestimate the power of a true woman friend.

As all women know, there are women who have only men friends and there are women who have mostly women friends. You do not want to cross a woman who has women on her side, like Kelley supposedly does. "Other women" don't gel well with women who have women friends.

I feel sorry for the spouses involved, let's call them Scott 1 and Scott 2. First, Scott Broadwell, Paula's embarrassed spouse, an interventional radiologist and father of two boys under 6. Second, Scott Kelley, a cancer surgeon and father of their three daughters. They did not elect the limelight. It was cast upon them.

And of course, there is Holly. Like so many wives withstanding long marriages that explode in the public arena, she is made to look the fool. And I feel badly for her.

It is just plain stupid to operate as if your actions do not matter and as if your transgressions will remain a secret. Does no one watch CSI or Castle? Did they not worry that Carrie Underwood would key the car?

Bottom line in this unofficial tutorial for dummies: If you can't follow your moral compass, don't have one or never did and just cannot for the life of you stay away from what ain't yours, then know full well you will be discovered and you will pay the price.

Say that out loud 100 times before cheating. Then repeat.

- Michele Weldon is an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University.