Did Wife's Illness Spur Edwards' Straying?

When John Edwards admitted he'd had an affair, the first thing psychologist and Cookie magazine contributing editor Dr. Robi Ludwig wondered was whether it was the first time -- whether it was part of a pattern.

But then, she told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Monday, "You want to know, 'What was the trigger?' I wonder if there was something about his wife's illness (Elizabeth Edwards has advanced breast cancer) that somehow got him to cheat, or contributed, at least. I think we get so caught up in good or bad -- is somebody a good person or bad person? Cheating is wrong. But I think there are multiple factors. Was he doing it because he had a fear of losing his wife? There are lots of different reasons."

Ludwig and fellow psychologist Dr. Frank Farley of Temple University chatted about why politicians cheat on their spouses.

Farley's first thought on hearing the news?

"Here we go again. And, 'Is this similar or different to all the others?' (politicians who've had affairs) That was my question about the whole thing."

Ludwig and Farley agreed the unique nature of what politicians do for a living, and of the type person who would choose to do it, sets them apart from Joe Ordinary -- and could, in part, help lead them to infedelity.

Ludwig says reports that the woman with whom Edwards had the affair, Rielle Hunter, may have targeted him "could certainly be" true, pointing out that, "There are many politicians who are targeted. They're powerful. Sometimes they're good-looking. So, they are going to be in a situation that other, quote, normal men may not be in."

Farley says "it's possible" Edwards opted to cheat even knowing all he was risking because "he couldn't stop himself, in a sense. You know? The career of politics involves all sorts of change, variety, novelty, risk, uncertainty. They tend to be natural rule-breakers, the folks who go in there. If they followed the strict rules, they'd have a 9-to-5, ordinary job. There's all the admirers, the opportunities. This is why it happens so frequently. It attracts a certain kind of person into that lifestyle."

Why would Elizabeth Edwards stand by him as she has?

"I'm not surprised," Ludwig remarked. "A lot of these women must know their men are going to be targeted. Maybe they make a decision, 'My relationship is more important than some woman and I'm not going to allow some fling to interfere with my relationship.' And it's a business relationship for a lot of these people, in addition to being an emotional relationship."

"Politicians aren't like the rest of us," Farley chimed in. "Neither are their spouses. So they're attrated to certain things in these guys, and sometimes, there are consequences. FDR, JFK, Clinton, and on and on."