Do we really have to name them? We all know who they are.
They are men who seemed to have it all. Power. Celebrity. Political clout. Beautiful wives.
And yet they risked it all for sex.
Earlier this month, actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined a long list of high-powered men whose marital infidelities have become pop-culture fodder in the distant and not-so-distant past.
Dovetailing with the news that Maria Shriver, his wife of 25 years, was poised to file for divorce came Schwarzenegger's admission to a long-term affair during which he fathered a now 13-year-old son with the couple's former housekeeper, Mildred Patricia Baena.
Since, more women have come forward alleging they had affairs with him, and Schwarzenegger is getting the Tiger Woods treatment. (You remember Tiger Woods, right?)
When such trusted public figures put so much success at stake for what seems to be a few moments of pleasure, the resounding question is, 'Why?'
Psychologists, lawyers, political strategists and historians say there's no simple explanation. They do, however, have their opinions about some of the reasons it happens.
"It all boils down to the pursuit of power: Some men handle it well and some men don't," said Richard Padova, a professor of political science and history at Northern Essex Community College.
Padova says that the process of gaining power and its associated trials and tribulations can wreak havoc on a person's life.
"You need an escape route," he said. "It's happened any number of times. ... They are only human."
John Stevens, a former Merrimack Valley family counselor and the current regional director for Arbour Health Systems, isn't so sympathetic.
"Many cheating individuals, especially in arenas of power, attained these positions in an opportunistic, Machiavellian manner that is highly correlated with psychopathy," Stevens said. "(Psychopathy) by nature is grossly self-serving, arrogant, immoral and unconcerned about the welfare of others, (be it) a business competitor, a spouse, or children."
Terri ("The Love Doctor") Orbuch, Psy.D., a nationally known psychologist who has been studying issues surrounding marriage and divorce for more than 25 years, believes that powerful men who cheat might not be so different than anyone who cheats. They are just under more scrutiny.
"The difference with powerful men is that their affairs get scrutinized and talked about in public," Orbuch said. "While influence, wealth and celebrity may present some additional challenges that are unique to powerful men, the fact is that not all such men succumb to infidelity."
Why men in power cheat isn't the only question plaguing curious onlookers. Many, as in the case of Schwarzenegger and Baena, wonder why they choose the women they choose.
"Often times attraction is not the reason for cheating," Stevens said. "Many people cheat with less attractive people. Sometimes it's just surprising."
There's also the question of how, in this age of paparazzi and the Internet's Twitter, Facebook and multitude of other gossip sites, they thought they wouldn't get caught.
And if they did realize they'd get caught, how come they were so willing to throw away everything they'd worked so hard to accomplish?
"It's over (for Schwarzenegger). There's no political future," said Patrick Dorinson, a Republican who worked on his 2003 gubernatorial campaign and in his administration early on.
"I'm just disgusted," he added. "It's the only danged bipartisan thing these guys do: cheat on their wives. John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- tell me the difference."
Dorinson isn't the only person drawing comparisons between Schwarzenegger and Edwards. The former North Carolina senator who frequently invoked his wife and children as he sought the 2008 Democratic nomination for president later acknowledged fathering a child with a campaign videographer.
At the time, his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, was battling breast cancer. Elizabeth died last year, after separating from her husband of 33 years.
News broke last week that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to prosecute Edwards on charges of misuse of campaign funds to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, the mother of his child.
Meanwhile, he also has been the subject of a two-year investigation into whether his political donors gave more than $1 million to Hunter to hide the affair during his campaign.
Puzzling? Even shocking and unbelievable? Not really, according to Stevens, who says the strongest common thread from powerful cheater to powerful cheater is their belief that they have no reason to say no.
"They feel like they deserve it," Stevens said. "I loved the comments about this on your website (www.eagletribune.com). Most people thought it had something to do with insecurity. It doesn't. They are not insecure. They are the opposite. They feel omnipotent. They think they can't be touched. And they are in denial."
All of the experts point out that infidelity is not a gender issue; that men cheat on women, and women cheat on men. They also have theories as to why so many cases in the news concern husbands cheating on their wives.
"The fact is that most of the office holders in this country are men," Padova said. "Women have made inroads, but in terms of percentages, most are men."
"The glass ceiling still applies," he said. "Big business and politics: I still think they are a white men's club."
Divorce lawyer Marsha V. Kazarosian of Haverhill isn't surprised when she hears about infidelity. In the last 25 years, it hasn't changed that much in relationships, she said.
"I can't really say if its more men than women," she said. "In this day and age, it seems to be happening to any one."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. Follow Rosemary Ford on Twitter under the screen name PopFiend. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
A look at national trends among married couples shows that Arnold and Maria's scenario is not atypical among the masses. Consider:
The second most common time for divorce is between 20 and 25 years of marriage. Schwarzenegger and Shriver were married for 25 years.
Current statistics vary depending on the type of study and sample, but in general about 20 percent of married women and 32 percent of married men admit to infidelity.
Infidelity appears to be on the rise among both genders, particularly among the over-60 crowd, according to the National Science Foundation's General Social Survey.
RISKING IT ALL
Dr. Terri Orbuch studies the motivations of men who seem to have it all and then throw it all away for an extramarital affair. Here are some of her findings:
The illusion of invulnerability: They think they won't get caught. They also assume that even if they do, they won't get in trouble because they have the resources to cover it up. These men often don't worry about the long-term effects of their actions on others, only the short-term gains.
Ample opportunities for temptation: Wealth, fame and power are attractive to many women, who make themselves available to powerful men, sometimes aggressively and without scruples.
Adrenaline dependency: Many powerful men have positions that require a lot of responsibility and authority. They perform well under high stress, and they continually need and enjoy excitement or challenges to drive them forward. An affair gives them the same type of exhilaration in their private life.
Enabled by "yes" people: Powerful men tend to be surrounded by people who protect and idolize them and even "enable" their vices in order to remain inside their influential orbit. Being surrounded by people who don't necessarily challenge your decisions or give you honest feedback about yourself is bound to have an effect on your ego, self-image and your sense of propriety and limits.
Desire for change: Let's not forget that powerful men are still men, and usually an affair signals an internal need for change. Something in the man's life or his relationship isn't OK -- and the affair creates the trigger for change. Boredom and relationship ruts are common reasons couples cite for infidelity. An affair forces the issue and brings things into the open.