The clock read 2:40 a.m. A 54-year-old man with perfectly coiffed hair slipped quietly out of a Beverly Hills hotel room. He jumped on an elevator for a ride down to the ground floor. When the doors sprung open he was shocked to find several National Enquirer reporters waiting to confront him.
His face reportedly turned white with his eyes widening. This man, who has mastered the art of political debates and has run the gauntlet of several national campaigns, nonetheless looked like a deer caught in headlights. Trying to escape the reporters, he ran. He ducked into a hotel men's room. Soon the crowd grew beyond reporters. It took hotel security to break up the late-night crowd outside the toilet.
The ensuing headlines trumpeted Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards' rendezvous with his mistress. It made news only because he is a well-known public figure, but sadly, infidelity takes a toll in the lives of millions of lesser known couples.
According to polling by the Associated Press, 22 percent of married men and 14 percent of the married women in the America have had "an adulterous affair." Put another way, that is 19 million men and 12 million women who are married and have committed adultery.
Edwards' exposure by journalists doesn't make him a victim as some pundits have argued; the real victims are his wife Elizabeth and their children. Adultery hurts families. They feel betrayed. Trust is destroyed. Family stability and lives are shaken, not to mention the baby conceived as a result of the Edwards affair.
A common belief today is that infidelity is strictly an individual's own business. But in reality, the damage spreads and severely harms the innocent.
Last October, when the story of Edwards' affair broke, he denied it. Yet he continued to see his mistress. To make matters worse, his wife Elizabeth is suffering from cancer. She heroically encouraged him to run for president despite her illness. She demonstrated that her vows "to love and cherish" had deep meaning by her selfless actions.
In his book "Broken Hearth," Bill Bennett writes about the moral collapse of the American family. "The family is already reeling from the effects of the sexual revolution," he says, "which replaced the traditional marriage ethic with a code that has sought to free both marriage and human sexuality itself from restraint and commitment. We have reaped the consequences in promiscuity, adultery, cohabitation, divorce, and out-of-wedlock births."