Infidelity in the military: Is it an epidemic?

5:56 PM, Nov 17, 2012   |    comments
General David Petraeus and wife Holly
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(CBS News) - Florida housewives, a tawdry affair, and flirtatious emails. No, it's not an update from your favorite reality show.

It's the story that has lately dominated the headlines -- the resignation of former four-star Gen. David Petraeus as head of the CIA. But the disclosure of the Petraeus affair, and all that followed, only hints at a much wider scandal in the U.S. armed forces.

Dr. Cregg Chandler, a retired Air Force chaplain who has done extensive research on military ethics, says infidelity came up as a major concern for 70 percent of the counselors he interviewed.

"Infidelity was high on the radar screen over the last years," he said. "I saw it as a major problem, and I use the word epidemic."

In 2012 alone, there have been several top commanders investigated or fired for sexual improprieties or bad judgment. Among them: Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair -- a former deputy commander in Afghanistan -- who is facing a military grand jury on charges of adultery and sexual misconduct.

But what about the spouses? How are they affected?

Two women who know about the challenges of family life in the military spoke to Rebecca Jarvis and Anthony Mason about the problem on "CBS This Morning: Saturday."

Jacey Eckhart is an Air Force brat, Navy wife and Army mom. She's also the Editor in Chief of SpouseBuzz.com and the author of "Homefront Club: The Hardheaded Woman's Guide to Raising a Military Family." Siobhan Fallon is an Army wife and author of "You Know When the Men Are Gone."

"Military families are just like civilian families when it comes to infidelity," said Eckhart. "We estimate about a third of all families are blighted by infidelity. And so, you've got to remember two-thirds of the families are not."

Fallon said though she's very upset by the Petraeus affair, she's seen incredible marriages at every level in the military, and does not believe anyone is using rank as power within personal relationships

"I think everyone overwhelmingly supports Gen. Petraeus and his military career," she said. "The chain of command and our leaders have been chosen as leaders because they are upstanding men and women... worthy of leading our soldiers into battle and making life and death decisions."

Eckhart said she thinks it's important to remember that fidelity is a set of behaviors that you learn over time, and the ones needed when you're younger are different than the ones you need when you're in your 40s.

"I think the military understands that... the people who are closest to you, you have to be faithful to," she said. "And that starts with that number one person you have at home."

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