It's not surprising that people have focused on the physical dynamics. That reflects our personal fears, our preoccupation with youth and beauty, our need to compartmentalize.
Petraeus' wife, Holly, seems to have, to put it gently, let herself go. Commentators have had a field day with her weight, her gray hair, her frumpy wardrobe.
The implication is clear: What man married to her wouldn't jump at the chance to get it on with a vixen like Petraeus' mistress, Paula Broadwell, a pretty West Point-bred fitness buff brimming with self-confidence and blessed with 13% body fat?
But Holly is not the problem. It turns out Broadwell is the hot mess here.
She seems to be saddled, like Petraeus, with a crippling sense of hubris, accustomed to success, unable to stomach losing.
When Petraeus ended their relationship, Broadwell slipped to jilted-lover status, determined to dispatch her rivals and reclaim her man.
Never mind her Harvard degree, her Army intelligence experience, her loving husband and little sons and picture-perfect life back home. Her Type-A tendencies kicked into overdrive, amped up on heartbreak and hormones.
And Petraeus, the king of intelligence, didn't see this coming?
Women in love do crazy things. We always have and always will. And high-achieving women not primed for loss just might be the most determined and irrational.
Who can forget the married astronaut lady who told police she drove cross country in diapers because she didn't want to waste time on bathroom stops as she rushed to do away with the girlfriend of her former lover?
It's astonishing that Petraeus — the C.I.A. head, the man in America arguably charged with knowing the most about everything — couldn't think 10 steps ahead on a subject so mythic and universal that it comes down, for us on the sidelines, to little more than common sense.
We shouldn't be outraged just by his morals, but by his naivete. A man charged with out-thinking our enemies turns out to be a four-star knucklehead about human nature.
In this way, Petraeus seems not much different from those Secret Service agents who turned a presidential-protection assignment into a frat house bacchanal. He's a philandering man undone by a woman who didn't get what she bargained for.
So one more time, for those guys still too thick-headed to get it:
It might feel good in the moment, fellows. But unless you plan to leave your wife and marry your mistress, it's bound to turn ugly when you try to move on.
And it doesn't matter if she's a stripper with a loud mouth and a cellphone or a celebrated veteran with espionage skills and a secret email address.
One thing hasn't changed in 400 years: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.