Following in the footsteps of Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer and David Letterman, another high profile man-Tiger Woods-has been caught having an affair.

What was Tiger Woods thinking and didn't he know that someone would find out?

Let us first acknowledge that both men and women -- of all statures, ages and races -- have affairs. Adultery is not a new phenomenon. Current statistics vary depending on the type of study and sample, but, in general, research finds that about 20% of married women and 32% of married men admit to cheating.

In the wake of the Tiger Woods scandal, everyone seems to be asking the same question about infidelity: "Why do powerful men cheat on their wives?" Don't misunderstand me. Not all powerful men have affairs. And these explanations are not excuses for their behavior.

Invulnerable. The first reason powerful men have affairs is because they think they won't get caught. They also assume that even if they do get caught, 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 self gains.

Separation and more opportunities for temptation. Some powerful men are out of town for days or weeks at a time. They experience loneliness and these separations give them opportunities to meet and spend time with the opposite sex. Most important, however, studies show that opportunity itself is not predictive of cheating, only when it is coupled with loneliness and long separations from a spouse.

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.

Jaded by yes men. Powerful men tend to be surrounded by people who protect them, idolize them, and even "enable" their vices in order to remain inside their influential orbit. If you are surrounded by yes men all day, it's 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. They can be unhappy or bored with their lives in general or dissatisfied in their relationship. An affair forces the issue and brings things into the open.

About the Author

Terri Orbuch, Ph.D.

Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., is an Oakland University professor and research professor at The University of Michigan.

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