The funny thing about Pete’s narcissism is that it won’t allow him to form meaningless attachments. He loves himself too much to allow that his feelings be superficial in regards to a woman he (“the King”) has handpicked to embody the perfect feminine image. It’s his image, after all, and no matter the woman he attaches it to, he respects and honours it because it’s his choice, it says something about him.
Ergo, the woman is and will always be special, because of him. She’ll always matter. But giving a woman more meaning than his own self simply because she represents what he perceives to be the best part of him actually leads him to forego his own interests and dedicate himself to her entirely (and the ideal she embodies). Yes, he has had several affairs so far, but think of it this way; is this the same kind of behaviour Don evinces throughout his nonmarital trysts?
Not quite. Don is always absent somehow, finished before it even started, already searching for the new idea, the new something to give him the satisfaction and meaning he couldn’t find there. He doesn’t cheat for the woman, he cheats for himself.
While Pete is just as irrationally dissatisfied with his life, he never looks on these affairs with a nonchalant, detached eye. He can’t. He’s always in the midst of it, sometimes willing himself to fall in love, sometimes trying to recover from the disappointment of unrequited feelings, but he’s nevertheless there. He cheats for the woman. Perhaps the best way to define him would be as a selfish romantic who somehow, along the way, manages to transfer his self into the woman and become selfless.
That is why when Beth “shows up” into his office wearing only a furcoat and delicate pearls around her neck, it feels more emotional and intimate than it should. It doesn’t feel like a random sexual fantasy. Pete wants recognition (Beth “remembered” him from the newspaper article), admiration, commitment, dedication (in Pete’s eyes, her showing up almost naked in his office constitutes as an effort and risk on her part) and everything his own embittered and rational conscience cannot give him.
The look on his face during the fantasy cements this idea. He is in a state of revery, not of lust.