Politicians are self-selected for narcissistic traits. Anyone who runs for election and is willing to put him or herself under the kinds of scrutiny to which we favor our politicians, can be assumed to have more than the usual need for approval and power. Successful politicians find their narcissistic traits reinforced by the kinds of celebrity that their success engenders. Suddenly finding that others genuflect before them because of their position (and because of the favors they wish to receive) as opposed to any particular inherent value of the person, tends to create an expectation, and reinforce the desire for, approval in all situations. This can put rather intense stress on a marriage.
In a marriage, even one that starts off with more than the usual idealization, there is a tendency over time to see more and more of one's spouse. As time goes on their genuine humanity, which includes all of their shortcomings and flaws, become more and more evident. In a mature relationship, one recognizes that the same process of de-idealization is taking place within the spouse and the original, intense infatuation ("falling in love") slowly becomes replaced by a shared history and a deeper, more intimate loving relationship. Unfortunately, when one party to a relationship achieves great success and has their narcissistic traits reinforced, the pressure on the marriage can become impossible to bear. A Governor, for example, is unlikely to receive worshipful adoration from his wife of 20 years. At the same time he will have many opportunities to be showered with the adoration of a new, idealized woman.
Many years ago, an analytic patient entered treatment because of conflicts over an affair. He did not want to break up his family but complained bitterly about his wife's disinterest after her first pregnancy. His girlfriend, perhaps not as beautiful as his wife, nonetheless treated him like an Adonis. She would do anything for him. Any fantasy he could imagine she was willing to indulge. That was proof that she loved him more than his wife did. The affair came to a bad end when she had the temerity to become pregnant by her husband; this was a profound betrayal of him!
There are two important additional aspects of this that are worth noting.
First, those who exhibit narcissistic traits, whether due to a Narcissistic Character structure or the kinds of Acquired Narcissistic Character of celebrity, tend to disconnect cause and effect. Because their unconscious grandiosity is being reinforced and gratified at so many turns, they do not recognize how harmful their behavior is to themselves and others. Their lack of empathy (or inhibited empathy) makes it impossible for them to consider how their behavior effects their family. As well, their grandiosity blinds them to the possibility (likelihood for politicians) that their behavior will lead to their ruin.
Second, there is a kind of acquired Psychology of the Exception that occurs by which the person justifies his behavior. For my patient, he felt that he was less favored in his family growing up. Although he had achieved the most success, financially and academically, of any of this siblings, he was convinced that his mother found him unattractive and lacking. He buried these feelings and thoughts deeply but his resulting sense of defectiveness gave him a ready rationalization for his untoward behaviors. He transferred his maternal feelings toward his wife (ie, he convinced himself that his wife no longer cared for him) and in response, rationalized his affair as an acceptable response to her indifference.
(In reality, as occurs with many young mothers, the partial transfer of her affections to the newborn who needs her in reality, often is experienced as a betrayal by the young husband who feels estranged from his wife's affections. Understanding that her exhaustion and relative decrease in libido are expectable reactions to a newborn and not signs of alienated affection, can be helpful for the young couple. Many less mature marriages and relationships run into trouble during and after a first pregnany. Many men have affairs at that time and among that segment of the population most notable for their lack of stability, many relationships fail when the baby-daddy confuses his baby-mama's investment in her infant's infantile needs with an abandonment of his infantile needs.)
In his treatment we learned a great deal about this construct. He was the second of six children, all born within an 8 year span. His mother's indifference was certainly more related to her being overwhelmed by the needs of six young children (and a demanding husband) rather than any disaffection with her second born son, yet he harbored deep resentments and hurt from his early life. His disappointment in his mother and ungratified neediness led to bitter feelings and anger toward women in his life. His affair, among other things, was an attack on his wife and his behavior with his girlfriend often included sexual behavior that conveyed his unconscious disdain and hostility.
Luckily my patient was neither famous nor extremely wealthy, which limited his opportunities for unrealistic narcissistic supplies from the environment. Too many of our politicians do not have such advantages. As a result, many will continue to be unsatisfied with real (ie, flawed) relationships, and will continue looking for adoration from beautiful young prostitutes (who offer their faux adoration for a hefty price), adoring young interns, and exotic foreign beauties. The price they pay for their successes varies but can be exorbitant. They risk losing their families, their self-respect, and their legacies. If it weren't so tawdry it would be the stuff of Greek Tragedy.