I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
MAY 8, 2009 2:46PM

Elizabeth Edwards and the Women Who Stand By Their Man

Rate: 72 Flag

 elizabeth edwards

Elizabeth Edwards has thrust herself, her husband and her family back into the lime light with the release of her book, “Resilience” and her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. 

After watching the show, I got the feeling that a more appropriate title for the book might have been “Resilience and Revenge”.

When the cameras showed up at the home of John and Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards looked like he was looking for the nearest foxhole.  When Oprah asked him if he would be around for later questioning, his answer was vague.  At the very end of the show, Oprah and Elizabeth cornered him somewhere in the house where he stood with his hands in his pockets looking like a little boy who had gotten his hand caught in the cookie jar.

john edwards 

Elizabeth looked comfortable with a smile on her face.  I could almost hear her thinking, “Let him squirm.  Have at it Oprah!”

Elizabeth is in good company.  Silda Spitzer, still wife to former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer (who had too much fun with young, glamorous and expensive prostitutes), Gayle Paterson, still wife to David Patterson, (current governor of New York who had too much fun with several women), Suzanne Craig, still wife to former Idaho Senator Larry Craig (who was having a little too much fun in an airport bathroom), and Gayle Haggard (still wife to “reformed” gay evangelical pastor, Ted Haggard who had too much fun with male prostitutes).


(Silda is standing by her man.  I wish she'd had a frying pan in her hand.)

These women (and there are many more like them) are women who have been publicly humiliated by their visible and prominent husband’s indiscretions.  Every one of them have decided to “stand by their man”.


As a woman, I’ve cringed when I’ve seen them appear in public with their unfaithful men.  Their husband's indiscretions have subjected them to the flood lights of TV cameras for all the world to see.  Surely, they must have felt naked, exposed and mortified.  Yet there they were.

larry craig 


I do not judge these women’s decisions.  That would never be my place.  But I do wonder why they stay.  Many of these women have daughters.  What do they tell their daughters?  Many of these women have sons.  What do they tell their sons?

Is “marriage” and the “family” so sacred and hallowed that the woman betrayed must become the sacrificial lamb for the sake of…what? 

This is where I get stuck.  Become the sacrificial lamb for what?

There is no intimacy, no marriage without Trust.  And when Trust gets broken, there are only two things that can fix it.  Time and Behavior.  That’s it.  Time and Behavior. 

Time is not something that Elizabeth Edwards has the luxury of and I wish her well in her earnest desire to keep the marriage she thought was intact as she faces a much more important battle...her life.

And while I don’t know any of these women and don’t want to judge their decisions to stay, is it selfish of me, terrible of me to say, no scream:


Oh what I would give to see a press conference like that.

I’d love to see one of them write a book about that.  How great their life is without the Man.  Take it public, go on an international book tour, Larry King, Oprah, hell Regis and Kelly would do. 

These women who stay don't seem that happy to me...more like sad and resigned.  I'd love to see just one of them break loose. 

Their revenge would be simple and powerful:  The unmistakable look of freedom shining brightly on their faces.

And for the record:  I'm the first to admit with my hand held high, this could be all me, my trigger. But really is it asking too much to just have ONE WOMAN, I don't care which one, ONE WOMAN who has a husband in the public eye, a husband who says one thing out of one side of his mouth and another in some oval office, back of the car, public bathroom, or sleezy motel, just one of them either publicly or privately, say  that enough is enough. That's all. Just one.  Or how about this, stay with the man if you will.  Just don't show up for the press conference. 

He made his bed...let him lie in it.



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Chewing through the restraints is not easy.
I would love that. Sadly, with kids involved, it's probably not going to happen. You keep thinking, "how will the kids feel to see this or see that" I'm sure. sigh. But I'd love it if some woman stepped up to the mic and said, "My husband, the horse's ass, will soon be a free man, clear to eff up his life on his own with whatever chippy comes along. I'll be keeping his money along with a fairly restricted access to his kids, depending on what slut of the week he's doing that week, and she is a slut, evidently one of the nameless many and so is he actually. I hope they both get crusty, nasty herpes. Thank you. Have a good night."

But then you've got a kid at home asking "Why is Daddy a slut?" So, yeah, can't do it.
Yep. Being happy is the best revenge. Rated.

I totally agree. I love Bill Clinton, but I would have loved it if Hillary had divorced him. Although in her case she was probably thinking about her political future. She's no idiot!

Anyway, I don't know, but I have a feeling the Elizabeth Edwards is doing this to spite what's her name, Rielle Hunter? It's kind of a, "Hey, you want him and I've got him and he's going to be with me until I die. And on top of that we are working it out and he's a great husband and father to my children." Pretty sad.

Yet Hillary Clinton has done well for herself, standing by her man. Although I have never been tested, I understand how you could still love your husband if he was unfaithful. I find it much harder to understand how you can still love a husband who decided to let the media tell you of his infidelity.

In Elizabeth Edward's case, I would certainly try to rebuild my marriage in the few months or years I have left for the sake of
my children.
I have wondered why we don't see the type of scenario you describe. Clearly, these women have a choice. They could hold a scathing press conference, divorce, get great alimony payments and child support for their kids.

Sadly, the fact that they don't do this makes me assume that they like having the power that comes from being married to a powerful man, and they don't want to give that up. (Or, there's always the possibility that they want to forgive and move on.)

I don't know that they don't express public anger to spare their children. I mean, how much worse could that be than what has already transpired?
You forgot about Kobe Bryant's wife. Still another example from a couple years back. And, again, the wife stayed along for the ride with even more jewelry.

All this while a lot of women dislike me because I admit to enjoying seeing the girl next door naked (literally in some cases) and wrote a book for other guys to learn the techniques. At least those women care about what guys do to them!

In a way, the women in this post deserve as much shame as the men for their actions.
The Italian Prime Minister's wife (who also seems to have kept her own name) is handling things a bit differently):
You forgot Hillary! Although I think she did get angry, just mostly in private and she did get revenge, in a way, with her post-Bill political career. They apparently now live almost totally separately.

I couldn't have watched the Oprah show so glad you gave us a report. Frankly, I'm shocked that Elizabeth Edwards is doing all this, and I don't get it - I think it must be some sort of revenge on John as you suggest. I can't imagine why she'd want to air all this out more publicly, because of their kids. Is it really in their best interest that she does this? If so, I can't see how.

My only quibble would be the Patersons. I believe they both said they'd both had affairs. Equal opportunity cheating, and possibly not even cheating, but more an open marriage.
I agree with you that I'd like to see them pissed. Especially Mrs. Haggard!
I don't know. This is a hard one. People, men and women, stay for so many reasons that are private and deeply held. Some may be reasons we wish they didn't have, like fear, self-loathing, or sadness. But, some may be even more complicated and meaningful to them.

When you've seen one relationship, you've seen one relationship. That's what I keep thinking.

I really don't know how these things should end.
Your observations on married women whose martial trust has been betrayed publicly standing by their man is very much appreciated.

I not only cringed seeing Slida Spitzer’s face but remember wondering why these wives are expected to - and/or volunteered to - share the public disgrace and humiliation incurred by the unfaithfulness of their husbands.

I realize that some believe they are honoring the “worse” side of a “for better or for worse” wedding vow. But it often seems more eerily comparable to sharing the wrath and violence of a public stoning while being personally innocent of the crime.

More to your point - is it right or real to publicly allow children, friends, families, or strangers to view the photo op solidarity as the image of what such a betrayal of trust brings forth when the tears and heated exchanges in private are - in truth - far more representative of the heartbreak and agony that such cheating and lying create.

Rated and appreciated as always.
What made them stray?

Shouldn't we know that before we judge their wives?

When you are married, isn't there an agreement? Is that only broken when a major indiscretion is discovered or is it remotely possible that the agreement had been broken beforehand?

I would love to hear a press conference where the man says "alright, you all know what I did, but let me tell you about her."

People remain married for a plethora of reasons. Who are we to judge what they may be?

Thought provoking, at least to me. Thank you, Mary.
John Edwards is no longer occupying a seat of power. John Edwards looked like a man being taken to the whipping shed and beaten, regularly. Eliz is doing her whipping privately. She won't be about it on the public stage. Not her style. Her grief is still part of the picture. She's not mad for power. She told him NOT to run. She has measured the time she has left, and will not use it against the Other Woman. She will use it to clean the mess her beloved piled up in the front room.
I think that would be most applicable in Elizabeth Edwards' case. If I were in her shoes, with my life on the line literally, I'd want to make damn sure that whatever time I had left was spent enjoying myself to the fullest and not propping up some weak-willed dick-dipper. John does not deserve to have her by his side (nor do the others whom you listed, truth be told).
When I was 16, I had a girlfriend whom I adored. When we started seeing each other, I told her that I had only one requirement, and that was that she always be honest with me. Because honesty, and trust, are things that easy to build and easy to break, but so hard to repair. She started seeing someone else at one point, on the sly. Unfortunately for her, her girlfriends liked me enough to tell me what was going on. Needless to say, that pretty much ended our relationship. If she had told me she wanted to see other people, I wouldn't have liked it. But I might have been able to handle it. Knowing that she lied to me and went behind my back, though, I could never trust in anything she said again.
So, while I agree with wakingupslowly that you only know what you know, I would like to see these women at least publicly condemn their men, not try to explain their "indiscretions" away. Because frankly, since they're all politicians (except for Haggard), if their own wives can't trust them to do the right thing why the hell should WE?


This thing with Elizabeth Edwards has been on my mind for days.

I am even thinking about developing my own post on the topic---but I'd like to say a few things here.

First of all, it would be a much different thing if, in the case of Edwards, Spitzer, and especially Clinton, these men had taken up with intelligent, well-educated *serious* women---in other words, women like their wives. They didn't. They took up with star-fuckers, prostitutes, air-head bimbos.

One might want to kill ones husband for that---but if one has invested a lifetime together, if the couple are "friends" and/or "partners," in other words, if one had an otherwise *good* marriage, one might not want to throw it all away because the guy was chasing some tail.

Besides (though I doubt it is the case in the three marriages I mentioned) temptation happens on both sides of the fence, and in some cases, indiscretion happens on both sides, too.

It is unfortunate that these cases are all so public----on the other hand, it could be said that it is unfortunate that America's family values are so provincial.

Feet of clay, Mary. We all have feet of clay. And no one knows what goes on inside the walls of any marriage, except for their own, and even then....
I can't believe I had forgotten to include Hillary, so that oversight has been fixed.

Again, I am not judging any of these women. No one can judge a marriage except the people involved and even they can't agree on a lot of things!

Dennis, you bring up a couple of great points that I neglected to say clearly enough. One is that when these wives choose to stay, why do they get dragged into the public light to show their "supposed" support. Most of them have just learned about the infidelity at the same time the rest of us do...and your comparison to a public stoning depicts exactly how I feel when I've watched these women under the glare of the camera lights. It's painful.

Additionally, the children. These photo ops and interviews are out there for all eternity. I wonder about the damage to them.

Again, not judging these particular women but I really would have relished the sight of just one of them speaking out against their husband and his actions and the obvious pain and devastation it has caused themselves and their children. Divorce really does not have to be the end of the world for anyone. For many, it is a new beginning, a new start, hard lessons that turn into gems of gold once one passes through the narrow channels of grief, betrayal and disillusionment. And this includes the children. Many children of divorce, contrary to the commonly held belief, thrive.
It's a sad commentary on society how many examples of women standing by their men who cheated there are. There are even more that I can think of who are Republicans and don't happen to be shown above.

While the author Elizabeth Gilbert left her marriage not for any reasons of infidelity, she certainly has been in the spotlight as someone who was able to savor a kind of freedom and world travel that I would think would appeal to many of these wives who were cheated on by their husbands.
m.a.h. and all: Again, just to be really clear, of course I agree with the "feet of clay"...we all have feet of clay. I work with many couples with infidelity issues and I have no agenda one way or another. That is up to each couple, or at least the one betrayed.

I'm the first to admit with my hand held high, this could be all me, my trigger. But really is it asking too much to just have ONE WOMAN, I don't care which one, ONE WOMAN who has a husband in the public eye, a husband who says one thing out of one side of his mouth and another in some oval office, back of the car, public bathroom, or sleezy motel, just one of them be public that enough is enough. That's all. Just one.
I agree with what others have said re: children and finances. And also, this may be the trend in America, but neither Silvio Berlusconi's wife nor Sarkozy's (former) wife stood by their man. Berlusconi's divorce is my favorite of late--he's a sleazy, slutty, misogynistic douchebag and his wife told the press as much and plans on living well with her children courtesy of his media empire. Let's not forget our vastly more assertive Euro ladies!
Sweet husband's first wife was a serial cheater/liar. It scarred the poor man for life. How do I know that he will never cheat on me? R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

And I, in turn, have respect for him. I think it all boils down to that, really. Some folks fall out of love and it's okay to part. Not okay to cheat and lie.

Great post Mary.
Like many OS'ers I too have wondered what exactly Elizabeth Edwards is doing. Serving, as we say, a 'convict plate' where revenge is the entree? Possibly.

I wonder tho if, as she stares her own mortality in the face, that this may be a way of staring mortality down in the sense of regaining some level of personal power. I do not know how anyone who has been through what EE has been through could not feel totally disempowered on so many levels. Clearly she is not going to regain it to win the battle with cancer but, maybe, just maybe, she can do so with this book in a way of 'setting the record straight'. Were I she, I'd be terrified about what I would have to face as I left this world and the man I had counted on took a 'time out' when I was being treated for cancer when he (and I) had promised to be there for one another.
On the other hand I think facing her own demise has put so many things into relative unimportance, so she could do this and it really doesn't matter how she feels about it except satisfied. Last year on the eve of life-threatening surgery, my daughters shared a story that my partner of many years had been seen with another woman. Knowing what I was going to face the next morning, I could not even generate any feelings of anger, disappointment or sadness. I had my children around me, playing scrabble, scrabbling and things were just....quite peaceful. Such inane actions such as infidelity were not even in my realm of existence or thought.

One the other hand, when my children's father (who occupied a powerful position in a large corporation) asked me to join him for lunch in the executive dining room I thought: Oh okay maybe this rough patch we've been going thru is going to level itself out.
How wrong I was! As he told me he wanted a divorce surrounded by powerful men smoking cigars and drinking liquid lunches my hand kept clinching the glass of water so hard, it finally popped. Wrapping my hand up in the damask napkin I headed for my doctor's office. To this day I cannot see the trip in my mind but apparently I made the 30 minute trip in 10 minutes.
I do vaguely remember the faces of people we had socialized with, made busines deals with and, yeah, after all these years long after our divorce and after his death there is still a sense of humilation that can prick me. My head knows better but I just cannot imagine how or why someone would do that.
If you haven't read Rebecca Traisters piece in regular Salon, do so. Her take on the denial EE is visiting upon herself and she-who's name -is -not -to -be- metioned is succinct and on the mark.

I never thought you were being judgmental. My comments were more of hat was on my mind (because, as you know, it is always all about me).

I agree with what you are saying. I think it would be refreshing to see a woman stand by her man while singing "You Must Not Know Bout Me."

Personally, I think Elizabeth Edwards's sweetest revenge would have been to throw the bum out IMMEDIATELY, because at the time, he probably thought himself *in love* with the bimbo and would have run to her---and, well, that would have been a just reward, I'm sure.

Really, I probably should post on this, because for me, the hot button is the baby.


Not that accidents don't happen. And, if it happens to someone in a committed, loving relationship, it can be worked out.

BUT, if one gets oneself knocked up by a married man---bad enough, but in this case--- whose wife is not only a public figure, but a well-known cancer patient and has also endured the loss of a child, has small children---LET THRE BE A SPECIAL CIRCLE OF HELL FOR THAT BIMBO.

Today's SALON piece nailed EE's position, I think (and, I'm sorry, I can't go back and get the author's name just now, but it was an excellent piece) Anyway, she talks about EE sticking it out to control the association of her children with the bimbo's child. Too bad that there is little she can do about it. Even if she had the luxury of a long-life, that association is inevitable.
"While the author Elizabeth Gilbert left her marriage not for any reasons of infidelity, she certainly has been in the spotlight as someone who was able to savor a kind of freedom and world travel that I would think would appeal to many of these wives who were cheated on by their husbands."

Larry, actually she did leave due to infidelity...her own! Not the entire story but she had an affair prior to her divorce. At least, that's how I remember the beginning of Eat Pray Love!
Also, as someone whose (real) name often gets misspelled and mispronounced, I have to say it's Silda Spitzer, not Slida. I notice people keep saying "Slida" here.
Mary, great post! I so totally agree with ya! Just one! Just one of them blow clean up! I had a fiance I caught cheating on me. Hell, I got his car, his computer, and a few other fringe benefits .....and we weren't even married. Like you said, it's all about trust. When that is gone ....well, for some women, that's enough to end it. These women? I pray they have their own selfish motives (survival?) as to why they stay.
I commented yesterday on Fingerlakes' post about Elizabeth Edward and Maureen Dowd and I have the same thing to say here:
"Mrs. Edwards endured what millions of women before had to put up with: infidelity, hunger for power, illness, aging and tragedy (to name a few). She did it under far more ideal financial circumstances than most. But that doesn't take away the pain or the outrage or the gnawing desire to want to know "why" her husband could do this to her and his family and think he could get away with it.
Elizabeth has joined the "Broken Hearts and Betrayed Club" and has discovered she has a lot of company. The dues are paid in advance and no one rewards you for any of it (unless you happen to get a book deal out of it). The problem is that the men who cause this heartache, pain and mangled sense of loss almost always. get. away. it. Until women start publicly calling out and humiliating men for their poor behavior, nothing will change. Most women are unwilling to do that for the same reasons they are unwilling to file for divorce. Here are the big three reasons women stay in unhappy and betrayed marriages:
Fear of what others will think/say if the truth is told
For the sake of the children
the money
It almost always comes down to the money. Half of however many thousands or hundreds of millions of dollars has an amazing ability to control people. Most people are unwilling to surrender half the money to get twice or all of the happiness. And that says more about money than it does about the essence of who we are."
Patie, your story is unbelievable. Like jaw dropping and I'm sorry you went through such distasteful insensitive public humiliation. It boggles the mind.

m.a.h.: Now you're my home girl and I think we understand each other pretty well, so I was just restating because that was my concern when posting. You can say something really clearly, or you think you do, and things get misconstrued.

I hadn't read Rebecca's piece on Salon so I will. When I finished watching the Oprah interview this morning (thank you DVR), I find that Elizabeth Edwards is in the most untenable of positions given her diagnosis. I can't imagine. And the lioness instincts of a mother to protect her children for as long as she can must be huge. I felt that from her. She has my complete and total respect.

And why do I get the horrible feeling that someday, hopefully not for a long long time, I'm gonna see a picture of John Edwards, the woman-not-to-be-named, their child and his and Elizabeth's children on the cover of People Magazine? I feel bad even saying that out loud...but this must be Elizabeth's fear as well.
I have a different take on this.

I don't see the wife as the one humiliaated in the limelight. I see the man as the humiliated one, having to admit his behavior to the world, to show that he is indubitably NOT the man he presented himself to be. And to have his wife witness this, and the world's sympathy as he stands there naked in his sins before all - what shame that must be for any man, no matter how arrogantly he behaved prior. I can't speak for all the men in your list, but I think that Bill and John are men who loved their wives despite their stupid decisions. I think their humiliation was near-complete, having to stand there with their smart, capable, fanstastic wives looking on and sharing the brunt of the public inspection.

You ask "Is “marriage” and the “family” so sacred and hallowed that the woman betrayed must become the sacrificial lamb for the sake of…what? " But is sex with someone outside the marriage so sacred that it's worth throwing away a 20 year relationship, and all that goes with that when you have children? I have been in the shoes of the women, and I can say - no matter how much rage and hurt you feel, it doesn't just automatically erase your love, and invalidate every wonderful thing you've shared with this partner, or the future you envisioned with him.

You are right - it takes two things to restore trust. Time and behavior. But I have to say, the tenor of your post seems to be suggesting that these women are weak somehow for choosing to give their errant partners the time they need to demonstrate the behavior that will rebuild trust. You use words like mortified, humiliated, naked and exposed to describe how these women msut feel - but actually, it is their husbands who are being exposed, who appear metaphorically naked, stripped of their hypocrisy. It is they who are being mortified and humiliated. I see no humiliation for Nelda - what does she have to feel humiliated about? Same with Elizabeth and Hillary - what do they have to feel mortified about? Their husband's behavior is not a reflection on them. Their behavior reflects only on themselves - and badly at that.

I've been on the other side, I am sad to say. My experience of shame was very great, and I will always honor, love and respect the partner in question for giving me a chance, for not throwing away what was in most ways a really wonderful partnership over my own stupid assholery. It is a lesson that has stayed with me my entire life - that kindness and generosity he showed to me, even when he was in tremendous pain. He did not let my mistake define me, or the whole of our relationship. He treated me much better than I deserved, and I have tried to carry this lesson forward. His forgiveness was a great gift to himself - he was free of rage and hurt. It was a greater gift to me, enabling me to really figure out what the hell what was driving behaviors I knew to be wrong, inconsistent with my moral code, hurtful and destructive. It is because of his gift of forgiveness, him giving me the time I needed to show I could change my behavior, that I have become the person I am today. I evolved from a shamed person unclear what the motives of her behavior were, to a person who appreciates the great generosity shown to me, out of love. I consider the loving and trusting relationship that I have achieved today as a tribute to him, and I hope these other couples can reach the same point. These good women, like my good partner of yore, make me think they can. Ah, the calumnies of being human. How fragile we all are.
It's fundamental for me. Jack Nicholson utters the following lines in, "A few Good Men," (irony?) "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" YES, I can. I much prefer to operate in reality than in delusion. I will am the able to base my decisions on fact, rather than an illusion.
Me as an individual and we as a people require the truth to move forward in the real world. I'm with you, mk. Just once I'd like to see just a public figure DEMAND rigorous honesty from a partner and a nation.

Sadly, sadly, sadly, I think you are on to something with that People cover.
Silkstone: I started the misspelling of Silda's name and it has been duly corrected. Thanks:

Sandra: Thanks for your honest and compassionate comment and adding another dimension to this post. I want to state that it was never my intention to have any tenor to suggest that these particular women are weak. Quite frankly, I think that staying with some of these men takes a huge act of courage and strength. I tried my hardest when writing this post that I not imply in any way judgment, because that kind of judgment does not reflect my heart in any way. Nor was I trying to be flippant of anyone's long term marriage and suggesting it be disposed of like yesterday's garbage.

However, I have daughters who have asked me, why do all of these women stay? And I do find it a bit odd.

I was criticized by some when I wrote the post about the Internet company who offers their married clients affairs with other married clients. I was criticized for saying that infidelity is not necessarily the death blow to a marriage and that actually couples can get stronger and closer BECAUSE of an affair.

And, I also echo the sentiments of my daughters and other women like me, that just once I'd like to see someone say enough is enough and chose a different path. That's all. Now I will shut up, for once.
I rarely comment twice on a post but I want to this time. Please forgive a second lengthy interruption.

Reconciliation is one of life’s most beautiful things when genuinely arrived at. And refusing to toss aside a lengthy relationship because of moments of stupidity is a treasured and honorable response - a point Sandra made far better than I will attempt to here.

I would only add that portraying an image of unity or solidarity while something very different is actually going on may yet be questionable.

Though it is extraordinarily admirable for someone to have rule over their temper and spirit, showing unmixed public support after immediately learning of infidelity can create an incredibly unrealistic bar to clear for other wives who have been cheated on.

The “image” and “appearance” of support and solidarity without any accompanying heartfelt expression of how wrong and desperately hurtful infidelity by a spouse is to their mate and family can constitute a second betrayal. It can create an impression (via the minutes long public appearance versus the days or years of reality to follow) that the extraordinary behavior (or performance) under such horrible scrutiny can be praiseworthy, “normal,” and worst of all even expected.

The public nature of these events renders them as “entertainment” for far too many who observe them taking place. Hence the carefully staged appearance can easily eclipse the painful and destructive reality of what may take much longer to be forgiven, restored, and/or forsaken.
"Different strokes for different folks."
Yes, it would be so satisfying to see the wife of a famous.powerful, cheating prick, publicly razed to the depths of hell, on national TV, for all to gloat over and relish for days, weeks or as long as the shit is on the newstands. The media would frenzie and froth at the mouth, you can be sure.
But, as we see with the women you sited here, either there is tons more money and jewelry to stay, innocent children who do not need to know that their father is a lying sack of shit, or the orgasmic thrill of political power over one's slime ball x-president husband, with more reasons to stay, see it through, whether forgiveness is the ultimate end or not.
That is the one thing I see missing here, forgiveness for the purity and healing it allows, when authentic. That is the most difficult decision of all for the one who has been tossed aside for another woman or women. It takes courage, serious soul searching, time and patience and therapy, both individually and as a couple to see something this painful and destructive to any relationship, to it's end. If time and forgivness are allowed, often a new beginning can be realized along with genuine regret and desire to be forgiven. Reexamining of vows, comittment and dedication to an authentic marriage that honors both partners, their needs and desire to grow as a couple, is possible.
Dennis: I am deeply regretting not consulting you first before I wrote this post, a post I will say was really more a rant than anything as thoughtful and introspective as your comments have been. You have so articulately expressed what was behind the intention of my words. The seemingly apparent thrust of these women into moments of time and space all for the world to see without the time that is surely needed to process the private events of a marriage that involves home, children and years of memories and events. Thank you Dennis for coming back!!!

I'm not greedy. Stay married if they want to. How about this? Just once, they don't show up for the press conference?
What I'd tell your daughters: Loving someone doesn't just stop because of a mistake, even a bad mistake. It takes time for the betrayed person to figure out if they want to stay in the relationship. It's very difficult, after discovery of betrayal, to think clearly or about your options. The rage and pain are great, and these emotions are never conducive to the best decision making.

Then there is the betraying spouse, reduced to the lowest point of their lives, with not a damn leg to stand on. This is a person you have loved and trusted, now utterly reduced and begging for another chance, realizing in a way they never did before what it means to cause real pain to someone they love, and utterly wishing they could do anything to take it back. It's not an easy thing, to just say 'fuck you, you made the one unforgivable mistake and I'm outta here." If revenge is necessary, no reason not to eat that particular dish cold, right?
Sometimes it is hard to leave the ones we love. Even if he is fucking cheater. I have been there!!!
I had to laugh at odette's response. For habitual remorseless cheaters, do it!

But it's rarely that simple, and I don't think John Edwards, for example, is a shitheel guy racking up the chippies. I think he did a stupid asshole thing, and he's now paying for it. I was more than a little turned off by Orpah's presumptive right to talk to him all steely-eyed and judgemental. I don't think that interview was an easy thing for either of the Edwards, but I think that John took his lumps with the right attitude.
BTW, if you missed it, you may also enjoy reading Lea Lanes early post today, also about EE and Joan and Melissa Rivers. A defferent bent to the post but very interesting perspective and offering about EE as well.
Thanks for posting this. When I saw Elizabeth Edwards' face the other day in the news she seems/looks stricken to me. I HATE that these women do this even while on some level understanding.

When you wrote this, "Many of these women have daughters. What do they tell their daughters? Many of these women have sons. What do they tell their sons?" the sad thing is that no matter what they tell their children, it sends mixed messages that are hard for an adult to understand much less a child. I still believe the message to girls is to allow men to do what they want and suck it up and the message to the boys, you can get away with anything if you look remorseful. What ever happened to consequence? I'm with you on the screaming part.
Sandra, actually I've told my daughters that. I think it would be quite short sighted for anyone, male or female, to discard a spouse and years of marriage for one indiscretion or relationship. But I've also told them that theirs would be their choice to make. And it would be perfectly within their own wisdom and discretion to decide whether or not they want to go through the long and arduous process of re-building trust. Unfortunately, there are men and women who cheat habitually, who lie habitually. I have been witness to many the relationship where the infidelity is confronted, worked through, the marriage resumed only to have the same thing happen a year or two later. No one needs to be shamed for deciding to leave a marriage, but in the political world, it seems to be taboo.
I do the flash forward to that People magazine cover myself. I want to believe that Elizabeth knows what she is doing, that she is doing what is best for her and best for her children, and that she is doing it her way, regardless of what we are seeing.
Alas, the comment about the People cover and the possible tagline "He's picking up the pieces after her death, with a new life and a new family ... "

That makes me sick to my stomach with its pretty clear possibilities of happening. Honestly, that woman, who surely got pregnant on purpose, she is repulsive to me in the extreme. Although it is absolutely an evil thought, and I KNOW THIS, part of thinks, "if only cancer were transferable to her ...". Of course, then, I'm wishing another child to become motherless. That's very wrong. But I have to hold myself tight against not so secretly wishing that.
Good for you Mary for taking on such a tough topic. I really did have something intelligent to add but then got down to the very bottom of all the thousands of comments and saw Sandra making the point much better than I could have---not the first time that's happened!
Infidelity is a biggie. Some are able to rebound and get back their relationship although I don't know how they would do it. It would be such a crushing blow. Add to this the public eye and the idea of staying with a straying spouse would seem almost intolerable.

I agree with you, would love to see at least one of these women hip check their cheating husbands off the podium and announce to the world the louse was a bad lay, cries after sex like a little girl, wears a girl scout uniform on the weekends, or just punch him out, anything to bring them the same level of humiliation that they brought down on their spouses.

Or maybe while the smuck is confessing the wife should slip behind him into camera view and slowly raise one hand and make that little penis gesture with the thumb and pointer finger while pointing at the idiot talking with the other hand and then laugh all the way off stage.

The truth is in the political sector some consider infidelity part of the price of power and would rather stay a power couple instead of a loving couple. So maybe both get what they want from these crocodile tear confessions
These words On Marriage are from "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Note that he speaks of the need to maintain our individuality even as we are married to one another:
Revenge is the naked emotional response to an actual, or perceived, harm done. Revenge, or retribution, is sought by one who cannot, or refuses, to recognize that doing harm in response to a harm done, more often than not, is self destructive.
Where would Hillary be now had she PUBLICLY sought revenge.
If King had preached revenge, would Obama be president now?

Where would your marriage be if your husband was a vengeful person. Your post regarding menopause suggests that his posture in the face of your menopausal rants and raves was quite commendable and possibly exceptional.

It is not our province to know what goes on between these folks behind closed doors and that is as it should be. If indeed it is true that there is a woman behind (I prefer 'beside') every great man, where should she be if he should fall from grace at his own doing.

If divorce is the consequence of the transgression against marital convention it should be done, not as a spectacle for public consumption or even as a retributive or punitive measure but rather, as the last or final resort for preservation of self and personal and private renewal.

The world is too full of vegence, and the chidren should be taught that there are other reasons and motivations upon which to rest our behavior that are just as effective as to outcome, but certainly much less destructive. Separation and divorce may be the first steps toward forgiveness. Public displays of what should be personal and private resolutions can do no more than deepen the pain and intensify the bitterness.

Most of us know better, we should applaud those public of our figures who can see the consequences of their attempts to do better than to fall prey to the monster we refer to as revenge.
Now you know why they call it "public service". While I understand your anger, keep in mind political wives are a breed apart -- just as their husbands are.

As I understand it, Elizabeth agreed to put a pretty face on his campaign even after learning of his cheatin' ways. Say what? If you're my hubby, you ain't goin' back on the trail, cowboy, you're leavin' home permanently or you're stayin' home with a rope around your dick. But, hey, I'm not a politician or a politician's wife.

And lest we forget, the wife of NJ gov Jim Greevy joined in on three-somes with his chauffeur. Now that's really standin' by your man -- or more precisely, layin' by your man.

Who would volunteer to live out their life in public view? Not me. I'm kinda of the mind that anybody who volunteers for the job of politician or politician's wife should be automatically disqualified from either job.
M Todd: Thank you for your response and your understanding some of what I am trying to say.

Ron: I appreciate the Kahlil quote. And nowhere in my post do I suggest that Revenge should be the motivation for divorce. Such an egoic way of responding to the many problems inherent in long term marriage would backfire for sure.

However, given that the divorce rate is at close to 50%, it is surprising to me that the concept of staying with someone "forever", and the implication of forever is "no matter what" is unrealistic. Those who choose to leave for their own very personal reasons don't need to be judged as weak or unforgiving or missing the mark of long term commitment.

As for my "saintly" husband, I would much prefer to air my dirty laundry than his. So it would be best to not assume that he is a saint who miraculously and spectacularly puts up with me (although there are times such as the hormonal rage incident where this true). I think we've both done a fairly good job of working through so challenging issues, many of which remain unknown to most.

And sorry, call me skeptical, but the behaviors of pubic figures being ones whose roots and intentions are embedded in high levels of ethics and morals, let's just say that's not my immediate assumption.
Ya know... [An interjection, apropos of nada: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."]

—But as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself — Ya know, I just suspect that somewhere in all this bad behavior there might be a little impetus from 'Mother Nature' riddling the whole shebang.

Somewhere, somehow, something that we just can't quite put a finger on might be driving these bad men, once given the opportunity, to screw around with multiple women. And maybe that self-same enigmatic something drives their good women (and all of us head-scratching onlookers, we villagers, too), amidst all the hand-wringing, with all our cut-their-damn-acorns-off-already wrath notwithstanding, to grant a reluctant reprieve in recognition that some little irrepressible itch from beyond us all might be what drives this bad behavior.

I'm just saying, echoing Shakespeare: Look to the lady! And I don't mean the betrayed wife. Nor do I mean the 'other woman' (or man) with whom the unfaithful bastard betrayed his wife. I mean The Force, the ancient Greeks named it Physis — that which we today with old provenance personify as Mother, Nature.

I’m just saying! Maybe. She will out.
Maybe sex outside a marriage is something to be expected of “powerful” men, and standing by a straying partner part of a political quid pro quo.

I’d say that maybe, just maybe, there are few innocent bystanders in the rough-and-tumble world of politics; however, the faces of the women standing by their men in the photos in your post say volumes.
There is so much more to a 30 year marriage than a 1 (2?) year transgression.

I'm not sure why she wrote this book, other than apparently she could; he let her kick him to the curb. There has to be a lot of guilt involved. They have a marriage but I hate to say it, not a love affair. He said he "cared about her." If my husband said that in that way, I'd leave him in a NY minute. But then again I'm not dying with two young children.

What a dilemma she's in, which probably explains her strange responses to all of this. It's just sad.

And Mary, I don't think that I would ever air my dirty laundry to the press or public. For what?

Great article, and I've also had the thought. I hope they have made the decision that brings them the most peace.
This is a really good post although I am not sure it should be a pro or anti divorce thing.....this is good material for discussion about reasons people stay, leave or change a marital relationship. I too am in the camp that asks "why do the women who have been betrayed have to take a stand next to her man at the podium during the press conference"? I would have so much more respect for them if they WOULDN'T show up....that tells the world much more than if she is there propping up the creep and looking all forlorn.
Her non-appearance says she is strong and wants to keep it "in house"...she does not have to hold his hand......he can do all the apologizing on his own. It would also show me that she isn't quite sure she will stand by......she is still pondering and protecting the family and children involved.
No judgement here either....just let these guys take their stage and tap dance all they need to....they got themselves there, they can try to get themselves out.
Why do women stay with famously unfaithful husbands? I don't know. I suppose the best reasons areperhaps that they still love something about this guy, they don't wa nt to just give up on their marriage, they don't want to put their kids through any unnecessary pain beyond the pain of knowing daddy really blew it.

Worst reasons: they're doormats, they're trying to save face, they don't want to be lectured about the sanctity of marriage as if the infidelity was THEIR fault by sanctimonious religious figures.

Their reasons could be a mix of all of these things. While I'd urge women to leave marriages if they were being beaten and abused both mentally and physically, I do think the end of the marriage should be the couple's decision, and not the public's.

But it would be nice to see a woman kick the unfaithful jerk out to the curb with the recycling and go build a better new life for themselves without the schmuck. For once. There was a PBS series about a British Political Wife doing exactly that, starring Juliette Stevenson. She not only got out of the marriage, she ruined his political career by purposely saying the Wrong Things about him to the Wrong People, she then got elected to HIS former seat in parliament. It was great Alas, I can't remember the name of the series, but it was every feminists's fancy of what to do with your prominent, unfaithful husband.

Silda Spitzer looks rather as if she's not only in pain, she's trying to figure out the easiest way to make Eliot's death look like an accident.
I suppose it would be cool Mary to see one of these women, scorned and shamed as they certainly might be, "kick him to the curb". But heck, maybe he owns the curb too. I'm thinking they probably both cheat.... just the women are smart enough to not get caught.

Stupid men!

Not to generalize but these "power marriages" may be akin to arranged marriages of older times where you had both a husband and a lover or several lovers if you are the woman, and it's understood that the man will have concubines.....
An after thought here too. After all I've been through personally and being the beneficiary of times observations and hopefully a small amount of wisdom, that monogamy just might not be natural. That it is too much much to expect of ourselves as humans. A possibility? Maybe.....
Whatsername, Veronica Lario? Berlusconi's wife, gave him the boot. Took her 30 years though...
If I were the woman in a situation like this, I think the first thing to do is not show up for the news conference. When asked about her absence, the man, if he has any sense, says "She didn't do anything wrong. I did."
YES!! What is up with that? I just don't buy the marriage is sacred thing. Yup, marriage is sacred and when it is destroyed by an unfaithful spouse, there should be consequences...I would never be able to trust the man again. These women want the trappings of marriage and the prestige, power and money that these high profile spouses provide not a good marriage. They are not strong women or independent women. I feel for their humiliation and the horrible pain of betrayal but they are very disappointing. I too would enjoy just one of them doing exactly what you suggest and what I would do - kick him to the curb.
And dare I add, hope, that perhaps the result of political wives standing up to their husbands and reviling this outrageous breach of trust would result in more HONEST POLITICIANS. Maybe kicking them out of their homes may help to kick them out of office or preventing these dishonest politician/hubbies from getting there in the first place?

Question: Does anyone know anything about husbands having to put up with being this docile and smiley-faced while their political wives get randy with non-husbands, like young, virile interns? Huh?

What DON'T you talk about Mary? Your range is operatic!!!
Each time there is a cycle of hope, you think "if we make it now, if we make it now." You think of what you have, why you have it, what you know to the core about the other, and the somnolent slumber of those you love. You fight internally, fiercely, to protect your universe as you have come to know. You pray. Maybe tomorrow comes and brings new breath.
Elizabeth lost whatever sympathy I had for her when she let her hubby stay in the Democratic primary, knowing full well what a slimeball he was and is. She's more Lady MacBeth than victim here.
People do not always marry for fidelity. Sometimes it's the money, sometimes it's politics and sometimes there are other reasons. None of which need judging.
I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t understand these power marriages. I watch the European counterparts who seem to be older or old guys with spring chicken wives. There seems to be less pretense over there. They don’t even pretend it’s all about the love thing. It’s all decoration.
I think the reason the women 'stand by their men' during the grand confessionals has more to do with power-play than anything else.

John Edwards (et al) continued his play due to an over-inflated and untouchable ego impaled upon him by the passion of power.

We put our heroes on a silver platter, so we can watch them self-destruct with their own crowns.
Superb post and commentary.

I myself have come to the conclusion that these women, without exception, have prostituted themselves for the sake of some other agenda besides a happy marriage. Hilary clearly used Bill as a vehicle for power and politics. Us normal chicks don't usually marry or enable politicians because they would be way too slimy to marry in the first place...Elizabeth. You really think Rielle is his first? Rated.
Boy do I ever agree with you on this one. I was actually embarrassed for Elizabeth Edwards even if she wasn't embarrassed for herself. Hillary handled it a bit better--she took the high road, and I kind of see that her attraction for him was so much greater than her capacity for anger. On the other hand, Elizabeth has a lot more anger and not much attraction. I feel for her because it is obvious she wants to shame the skunk into submission. I heard portions of the NPR interview on radio today and when Michelle Norris asked Elizabeth to talk about the "love child" by suggesting that Elizabeth's children now have a new sister, you could SEE her bristle even though this was radio! She said this baby had nothing to do with her children! Yikes. This is not a forgiving woman. I think you got two choices with this kind of thing--get mad and leave or forgive REALLY FORGIVE and stay. Most women do neither--they stay mad, sublimate the anger and seethe and seethe for years. I can't fathom this. If Elizabeth is as angry as she appears, she should divorce the asshole and move on with her life. I don't understand, like you, why these women stay with these men! As for Mr. Edwards--he behaves like any narcissistic "naught" boy who ought to be spanked--not a major political player who fucked a fan and had a baby while married to a woman with breast cancer. Jeez! Can I have a break!? No wonder I've been single for 13 years!
I wonder whether, if infidelity were more symmetric in heterosexual marriages, it wouldn't be seen as such a threat to the marriage. I don't know the statistics; is it true that men are more likely to cheat than women when married? One thing gay marriage can bring to the debate is a scenario where men have a committed, long-term relationship while acknowledging that there may be the occasional fling along the way. Maybe it's because guys know that the little head sometimes rules the big head, or that promiscuity is a more deeply hard-wired biological drive in men (OK, bring out the flamethrowers for that comment).

happily married for 11 yrs, where we tolerate a little dabbling on the side.
Elizabeth Edwards, who has survived both cancer and the loss of a son, told an interviewer that it's been "very, very difficult" to deal with the public's anger towards HER. As if she owed us a more satisfying public spectacle in reaction to a private, painful matter.

I was a feminist before I knew there was a word for it. I don't buy for one second the assertion by some in my camp that one woman owes all women her anger, the dissolution of her family, a more thorough break with the life she helped build. Just because people lead public lives doesn't mean their private ones should be subject to a referendum.

I'll bet she got plenty angry. Then she did what she has always done in the face of adversity: she gathered her courage and behaved with dignity. Such a disappointment.
I don't know if you'll ever get that kind of public anger from the wives of politicians. The reason is that they're married to politicians and were probably semi-prepared for very public infidelity before it was revealed. Bernie Madoff said that he "always knew this day would come" that he would be standing in front of a judge for his crimes. I think the same is true with Elizabeth Edwards, Silda Spitzer, and Hillary Clinton. Some part of them always knew they'd be publicly humiliated by their husband's affairs and such "fore-knowledge" was part of the calculation about marrying and staying married to the guy.

Why? First of all, male politicians are the rock stars of power and get all kinds of openings and offers from young and attractive women like Rielle Hunter. Male politicians are also attractive guys themselves. Jay Leno once said that politics is "Hollywood for ugly people." That was wrong. Male politicians are mostly good looking class president, jock, and BMOC types. . I joke to my students that academics is for people who aren't good enough looking to be politicians. Anyway, male politicians are on the road a lot, they have plenty of opportunities for affairs, and they're sorely tempted to either take advantage of those opportunities or seek them out as one of the perks of the politics business. It shouldn't be surprising that they have lots of affairs and it's my guess that their wives view public infidelity as one of the occupational hazards of being a political wife.

The other thing is that politicians are not exactly the solitary, ethics- first kind of people who are going to monkishly resist all the temptation before them. People like Bill Clinton need the attention, adulation, and feeling that they're wanted that comes with being a politician. The same is the case with any politician. The ability to meet those needs is part of what makes politics attractive to them and part of what makes adultery attractive to them as well.

My idea is that political wives also know all this about their husbands before they marry them. Part of the reason they stick with their husbands is that they had long ago decided that the benefits of being a political wife outweighed the downside of potentially being publicly humiliated. They knew their husbands were potential adulterers and married them anyway. They were already committed to staying when the shit hit the fan.

In this context, the only political wife who might have really learned something about their hubby was Silda Spitzer. If I remember correctly, Eliot Spitzer was into the "rough sex" of choking his prostitutes. This might sound prudish, but that makes him a potential murderer in my mind. Silda Spitzer should have left him for her own safety if nothing else.
I read this earlier and left it alone for awhile and then came back to it. I am troubled by this initial statement of yours, and then by your re-assertion in several places that you are not judging.

“I do not judge these women’s decisions. That would never be my place. But I do wonder why they stay.”

I think you and many of the commenters have very much judged these women and their decisions. The overall sentiment of the title and the content of your post is to question why these women behave(d) as they do. The sentiment seems to be that the man behaved badly, and the women should throw a fit and throw them out of the house – but they didn’t. And you don’t understand that, or like it, I gather.

Life is very sloppy, and marriages and relationships are very complicated, as is this thing we call love. These are all very public figures, and as some commenters noted, are involved in power and its trappings. EE has cancer, and that is a sympathetic illness. Had she suffered from severe bipolar disease, or drug addiction, or been prone to child abuse, or rageful tantrums, many people would be responding differently. But she is a sympathetic character.

Human crises usually exaggerate personality traits in people, not bring out new ones. The men and women you name here did not just go from fun-loving, unconditionally accepting people to angry, suffering spouses overnight. The relationship dynamics in their marriages have been transforming for a long time. And you as a therapist know that better than many.

Why people “couple-up” and/or partner or marry is incredibly complicated, and is the subject of many books and theories. I am not condoning the guys’ behaviors here, but I do think that this post says as much about those of us who comment as it does about the couples you’ve named. Clearly, you state these women have been publicly humiliated by their husbands. Okay, maybe so, but the men have also managed to publicly humiliate themselves too. They took a risk; it didn’t work, so they “pay the piper.”

None of these women had to go on camera, but they had their reasons and they did so. You want them just once to go postal in public. Well, plenty of celebrity women do just that, but it’s covered in the tabloids (and they make lots of money selling these stories), and that somehow makes it different?

I’ll probably bring down the wrath of the OS moralists now, but that’s my two cents worth. Good job on a very provocative post.

When a relationship as private and precious as a family breaks down there is no relish in revenge. It is a lose-lose situation all the way. Have you ever wondered if the men in all these cases were strong enough to stand on their own as politicians if their wives had indeed left? I really wonder. The backlash would have rocked their little islands of power that they had gotten so used to.

But I also want to bring to focus that sexual promiscuity in a marriage specially when not tolerated by either side is a form of abuse. Most abused people lack a certain something. Or maybe their threshold of pain is high. I could write a book on can many others I bet.

Be careful of what you wish. In my own life all I said was that if there was no respect between man and woman they should live separate and try to be good parents instead of a poor couple and poor parents. A few weeks later I faced a suicide, an angry letter and entwined in my hands were the hands of a 12 year and a 4 year old. That was 1996. I have survived.

Its not easy to negotiate through life and not always things work out the way one would wish. But someone has to remain strong in a family and provide the base that kids need. They learn from their parents' actions more than they learn from anywhere. And here I am not saying that being magnanimous is necessarily "good" . There is no good or bad in this. Each one has to figure out themselves and go through with it. Its tough enough to keep track of one's own life ...!
I find it kind of strange that so many comments say how these women stayed because they wanted the political lifestyle and weren't willing to give it up. With the exception of Hillary, I think this is mostly wishful thinking. In my experience, and it's also pretty well documented, very FEW political wives actually enjoy the process.

I'm sure there are a few who marry these men with the sure knowledge that they are marrying a potential president and commit to putting up with a whole host of indignities, but frankly, most people, even rich, ambitious people, aren't wired that way.
Oh, and the BBC series was called, aptly enough, The Politician's Wife.
I thought that Paterson's wife cheated, too. I do think that some of these women stay because they don't want to lose the money and homes, etc. I feel sorry for them to an extent, but they make their decisions to stay in a society that often wouldn't condemn them for leaving. I do think Hillary would have had supporters even if she left Bill. I have thought--as you seem to--that if I am coming to a press conference in that situation, they better let me talk. I'll have plenty to say.
Did you ever see the movie Changing Lanes? The Ivy League wife (Amanda Peet) of an ambitious lawyer (Ben Affleck) with middle class roots tries to get her husband to forge some documents. Her father is his boss, and the forgery would protect her father and Ben Affleck. Anyway, she tells Ben that her father has a mistress (he is surprised she knows..he knew) and that her mother stayed with her father because she thought it would be hypocritical to leave him for lying at home when the expensive life she loved was built on his lying at work. Basically, this wife, born into money, is trying to tell Ben Affleck how the world works and what's required to make millions like that. All this reminds me of that scene.
One of my best friends is a surgeon. His wife told him that if ever he cheated on her, the only picture we'd see of her would be in an orange jumpsuit saying, "He deserved it." (Incidentally, they are happily married and have four children). Marvelous post!
society is a chain all its own. as an aside, this would be the effin' bomb :)


umm peece and ReVolUTioN!


Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Shultz, who writes for Cleveland's Plain Dealer (and who also is the wife of Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown), wrote a column just like this a year ago about Silda Spitzer. She talked about the wife being dragged out, humiliated, and standing there like a potted plant or something, and she asked for just one wife not to show up for the press conference (which sounds just like what you've said, Mary). Interestingly, there was a column that followed a day later by fellow columnist (and Pulitzer runner up this year) Regina Brett, who has always been almost ideologically identical to Shultz, just scathing in her condemnation of that viewpoint. She was quite emotional in suggesting that it's condescending to pin any expectations whatsoever on the wife in question, and reiterated that there was no humiliation whatsoever for her, that her husband's behavior simply does not reflect on her.

Anyway, this post and thread reminded me of that whole discussion we had here in Cleveland last year. I'm with those who say every single person, every single couple is unique. People have all kinds of arrangements that would surprise others, and a decent working parental partnership is not so bad, especially if it's accompanied by some wealth and status that allow both people to pursue their interests. I'm not sure I agree with Dennis Knight, who makes the point that the public nature of these examples puts pressure on regular women to think this is normal. I think it's pretty darn silly to think any average woman doesn't know and understand the difference between wealthy, influential politicians and their wives and their own realities. All due respect, that's condescending too. Women who face the heartbreak of a cheating spouse almost immediately start thinking pragmatically in my experience. They figure out what they're willing to live with and then they continue living and working and raising their kids with whichever decision they've made. At no point are they looking at Silda Spitzer and saying, "Well, she and Elliot stayed together, so maybe I should." Puhleeeze. And all that is if the cheating spouse is even "heartbreaking" to begin with. Many people live and thrive in loveless marriages.

I don't think we need to worry about what to tell our children. Why do we think they aren't smart enough to figure this out the way we ourselves did? Surely the boomers among us were raised in even more stifling, unfeminist times--how did we come to know and understand betrayal and deception are bad? I would tell my children that every single solitary couple has their own decision to make, that nothing anyone else does in terms of divorce or staying together applies to them.
Thank you for writing this. That "Stand by your Man" bullshit is just another well-mannered excuse to get walked over...again and again. It also sends the message that infidelity will be tolerated. "Oh men...they just can't help themselves? Whaddya do?" (Shoulders shrugged.)

Your CAPITAL section said it all.

Or how about this? How about a man sticking by his well-known woman after her philandering? How about he stands there, dutifully, pained faced, behind her while she fesses up?

(That photo of Spitzer makes me cringe not only because of her but he looks like a constipated turtle. There. I said it.)
I'd love to see it, too. Silda Spitzer really touched a nerve because she could not mask the pain and is such a beautiful and accomplished woman. I wondered how her daughters took it. Sometimes it is so ingrained in women to be "people pleasers" and put the needs of their family ahead of their own. I know they are trying to maintain a semblance of stability, often for children and for themselves, but the resignation to the pain, ugh. It's like they get stuck between two all consuming monsters. Splitting up the family life they so loved or sucking it up and carrying on, still trying to be the strong one for the weaker partner.
Hi Mary:
I think I know why they stay. I have come to an understanding of it by trying to empathize (not sympathize) with them, as follows:

Why should these women give up what might be left of the life they have created for themselves and their children, for what will undoubtedly be a very rough road? Being forced to wear the stigma of divorcing a man for a dalliance (or two), living your life as an older woman with children who you are raising on your own -- sign me up for that life in a still male-dominated world? No way!!***

These women might as well stay where they are -- the man is likely detached from the wife as much as if he would be if they lived in a different house. Not giving these men their much desired freedom with a divorce, forces the men to suffer under the perceived "chains" of their marriage contract. Not allowing them to leave, forces them to have to share the best of what they have to offer as penance for their indiscretions.

Call me cold for writing the above -=- believe me, I would hate it if I had to live in their shoes rather than just try them on. I do understand their choice, which I believe is only a choice in this scenario:

They are not standing by their men, they are making their men stand by them. In the end, there is a subtle difference. And you are correct, it smacks of both Resilience and Revenge to demand this of a philandering husband.

*** I know you did this and I commend you. I think it would be much more difficult to do so being in the public eye? Also, in my heart of hearts, I think they should kick these man/boys to the curb. I am using empathy to understand their choice, however, which most likely, would not be my own choice...but who knows?! In the end, revenge is not all it is cracked up to be...
I'm appreciating all the conversation and discussion this post-on-an-impulse is eliciting. I love it when that happens.

Ric Caric's comment was incredibly well thought out and wise and I think would apply to anyone in the public limelight, not just political figures, i.e., the Jimmy Swaggart's and Ted Haggard's of the world.

I have run across in my practice women of incredible strength and intelligence. Accomplished women. Women in the lime light who, for deep and unknown reasons, relinquish their competence when it comes to the men in their lives. They honestly cannot envision their lives without them, despite years of abuse, betrayal and apathy towards their pain.

Of course marriage is deeply complex and I continue to be interested in and curious with the decisions both men and women make.
Good post ... but I wonder if your anger is a bit misplaced. These women in the public eye are by no means the only ones doing this. Couples have been "staying together for the kids" for decades now, long after events have made it clear they no longer have a marriage. Beyond the kids, people have been staying in "not so great" relationships for the power, the money, the access, and the influence for decades as well.

I too wonder why people would stay in a relationship that clearly isn't working for them. But maybe it IS working for them in ways that others don't appreciate. If you are looking for fame, power, and money, does it matter so much if your spouse is unfaithful, as long as he shares the power, fame and money?

On the news, we see examples of "epic fails" usually of morality. These fails seem, to many outside onlookers, to be in key parts of a "normal marriage." But are they really key to the people involved? Did Mrs. Craig REALLY not suspect she was living with a closet homosexual, or is she with him because being the wife of a senator brings nice perks? I can see, pretty easily, how a person might be less interested in romantic love than they are in being a senator's spouse. If the perks of being a senator's spouse are what you are after, does it REALLY matter what that Senator might do in airport washrooms?

The press conference I'd like to see is one of these spouses standing upo and saying "I don't give a crap who they screw ... I enjoy being the spouse of a powerful person." THAT'S a press conference that, I think, would be worth watching.
This is what I think, though this is not that original. I think that women who have children in the marriage owe it to the marriage to try to work it out. This takes more guts than I can imagine, as they have to do it in the spotlight and among people who say, why bother. I can imagine these women do get pissed off, and get their say in their own way.

Having said that it would be really satisfying, MTK, for one of these ladies to put a stiletto heel in the man's ass and tell him to get packing. You never know... it could happen. At least make them get packing and make them crawl back, begging. I don't understand these women, either, but each person has to make that decision for themselves. Maybe after a point it is so much easier to stay... too much investment is made in a long marriage to throw it away when there may be some value in it, still.
From a male perspective I can tell you exactly why these particular women stuck with their men. And it most assuredly will not be the answer you (or I) want to hear. Look at these particular men- they are all master politicians. All politicians, even a regular mayor type low level pol- are first and foremost magnetic, charismatic creatures. They are 'people people' of the first order. They seduce, both men and women alike. The plain truth is that women cannot resist these men. These types can do no wrong.

Now in real life lots of women leave their men for a large variety of reasons (probably monetary first and fidelity a distant second- consistent with the priorities of this society). The type of men they leave are invariably the helpless, stoic, stuck up kind. The kinds who never quite learned the art of charisma and seduction. The kinds who don't light up a room when they enter. The kinds who can't quite maintain a woman's interest when he speaks. The conservatives are right- the world is not fair. The most unfair arena is that of love and relationship.
Spitzer's wife looked by far the most devastated when she "stood" by her man. Whores?! You were soliciting WHORES?! Some would say that's less offensive than the personal pain caused by a real lover, but not me. There has to be plenty of women and men who would just have their self esteem crushed by that. Both are devastating and a very hard obstacle to ever forgive and they NEVER forget even if they do. That's why I've always just said NO.
Maybe it's me but I've never found it the least bit hard to say no. But that's probably why I'm not a politician.
P.S., Mary, as a counselor, don't you think the fact that John was even there would point toward guilt to the point where he actually wanted to be questioned subconsciously? I don't know how he could not feel that way and if that baby turns out to be his, look out.
You wanna see a woman get mad, check out Dina McGreevey's book. Of course the ex-wife of New Jersey's ex-governor (and declared "gay American") wasn't going to be able to stay in the marriage, but trust me when I say they didn't exactly stay friends.
i wonder about dina. why did she leave?

and what about the wives of those men caught 'liking' male pages?
"If someone says it's the principle of .........., not the money, then it's the money. Therefore: follow the money.
Let me tell you something I have learned. To take sides in a matter like this is a fools game. I am surprised a woman with your experience has fallen for it Mary. Why do they stay? How about they know something you don't know, or anybody knows about what went on in their bedroom.

I think the reason they don't leave them is that they are convinced the next woman they get involved won't won't be any better. Woman have become more macho than men. The breakdown is complete. After one is finished with him, he has no trust the next won't simply polish him off. The pre-nup agreements need to be re-written as do the divorce laws in in view of how often the women are the primary breadwinner, but refuse to see to it the guy gets health insruance, or retirement benefits once the slop comes.

Women who furnamentally reject the men they are supposed to love are as legion as the men who can't find intimacy with the women they are supposed to. In fact, I think the ratio is about even. For every woman not getting it there is a man not getting it--and there is the eternal search to get outside the marriage what cannot for one reason or another be gotten inside of it. Sex and love addiction are the highest growing maladaptation is the land.

Woman take sides and so do men. I think it is naive to do either--and more than that--it's dishonest. Who has the right to judge? Please don't take this personally, but ask yourself: what do you really know? How do your know what went on? How do you know if the last time Mrs. Edwards screwed her husband was on their wedding night, and the poor slob was convinced it would ruin his carrier if he walked out on her--so he succumbed to a chippie who came knocking on his door.

As far as I am concerned the woman shows no class whatsoever. At least Hillary kept her mouth shut for those most part--and indicated she took some responsibility, or at least understood these matters are not for public consumption in a country of adolescents all looking for somebody else to act like an adult as long as it is not themselves.

If anyone want to engage me futher on the topic, I'm ready to roll: but I warn you: leave the bloody steriotypes at home. Women today are no more victim than men, and since they have been calling wold for the better part of two generations now it is getting a bit trying.

There is one thing you can bet on is that there are two sides to this story, and Edward's is not in a position to tell his. If a wife rejects her husband it is a no-win for him unless he gets out, and many are loath to do so because they fall victim of their own conscience. Does he say in public his sex life stinks? Does he say: "My wife won't fuck me. I don't know why. I only know that I felt deprived, and fell into this trap--and now have been subjected to ridicule on top of d everything else."
I'd say Edwards IS really, really angry. I wrote a post about this as few days ago and said that the ultimate revenge seems to be in going public. For a political figure, public humiliation is death; what better way to issue payback from the cheating spouse. But there are consequences. Dina McGreevey ended up going book to book with Jim, John will probably write something at some point and Hillary - well, she may not have the job she wants but man, does she have attention and respect and the unending gratitude of her husband, believe me. As for Silda Spitzer, she's a different kind of person altogether - and married to a very different kind of guy; Elliott is even now on a "redemption" tour...
I also find these situations annoying. Really, I think we would be a better country if we separated marital problems from the effectiveness of governing. Read my most recent post on this subject at grannypower in Open Salon today.
How do we know it was cheating? With the way that Mrs. Edwards is acting I would bet on that one, but how do we know their agreements? While I have no plans to run for office if someone would announce I was dipping my pen in the company ink, my wife would just ask if she was cute. No big deal, for either of us.
Your plea has come true:
Veronica Lario, the wife of the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi whose extra-marital antics have been played out in the Italian press (to the delight of the Italian public), has filed for divorce (

She has decried for years his extra-marital dalliances and flirtations, often in the press, making them BOTH look like clowns, when, before she started being public about her anger, only HE looked foolish.

As right as she was to file for divorce, and to castigate her philandering asshole of a husband, I think her public denouncement has done her no favors. She doesn't look strong, she looks silly, as does he. These things don't need to be made public; if you're going to leave your shitty husband (with whom, btw she cheated while he was married to his first wife), then leave him. But I don't need to hear how and why and when she's going to do it.

All these people are publicity whores, men and women alike. I think Elizabeth Edwards made her anger known as gracefully as it could be done, and I understand why she HAS to act like the forgiving wife, not being in any condition or having any desire to be left alone while she suffers from cancer.

Whether they scream out to the world that they're leaving, or whether they suffer (seemingly) passively, they're caught in an ugly business, not of their own doing, with no good way out.
Totally totally agree with you. I thought Slida would do it. I thought she was just doing the "honorable" thing for that press conference and that she'd leave him after. I was wrong.

And Hillary! She's got the rep as a ball buster. She and he could have thrived apart. It's not like she needed him to survive.

I don't get it and will never get it.
I think that it totally no one else's business and that the Left and Right have lost all sense of boundaries about these things. What makes you happy, only you know, and this bossiness I see here is horse hockey. Live your own life; that is hard enough.
i acknowledge that you keep saying you're not judging these women. but i have to point out that you are. it's not wrong to ask the question, and i understand where it comes from, but i just want to say one thing.

we're mythologized marriage as a species. our media is riddled with stories like this, whether true or untrue. we always hear about infidelity for weeks, we always hear about broken engagements. to be married in the public eye is to function as a symbol for everyone else's concept of marriage and faithfulness. that's why i cannot agree with your phrasing here:

"But really is it asking too much to just have ONE WOMAN, I don't care which one, ONE WOMAN who has a husband in the public eye, a husband who says one thing out of one side of his mouth and another in some oval office, back of the car, public bathroom, or sleezy motel, just one of them be public that enough is enough. That's all. Just one."

ok, which one? the dying one? the betrayed one? someone mentioned sacrifice, and it would still be a sacrifice to choose to give up one's family. especially if you're doing it in service of someone's mythology about strong women. i'm not trying to be critical of your analysis, but i really wonder whether women can embrace a feminist view that lets all of us make our own choices as individuals, instead of seeking validation in strangers' relationships.

this to me, is the same impulse which drives people to discriminate against gay couples. our relationships should be ours, regardless of everyone else's opinions about the partner (or partners) we're choosing.
I love this and agree...except that I have the feeling that one reason it doesn't happen is that these sorts of public men choose women who they know depend on them or need them (or their shared goals) enough not to leave them...they're picked for that exact quality of loyalty. But it does seem like such a difficult life. Not only do they have the humiliation of the press conferences, but there are always writers blaming them for not being sexy enough or whatever, and therefore practically forcing their husbands to cheat. They stand by their man, but who stands by them afterward? Not their husbands, and rarely the public...

Mary, you are mixing a few different types of people (for lack of a better word) together.

Yes, there was Spitzer and Clinton and Ryan, Gingrich, Limbaugh?, then you have the Bakkers and the Haggards and all of those 'religious' people. (Although Jim Bakker might be justified, I'd be afraid of her too)

The political wives realize that they will miss out on the social connections. It's as if by staying, they are recognizing that 'it' happens. Infidelity. It's hysterical that so many of the congress persons that raged over Bill Clinton's infidelity had telephone poles in their own eyes. The religious wives either believe in 'forgiveness' to a fault or they are too steeped in the 'married 'til death' BS... If I was Mrs. Haggard and or Mrs. Craig, I'd kill them rather than forgive them. Sex with promiscuous gay men? Herpes would be the least that they could catch.

The problem is that after a divorce, the effect on the woman's life is usually devastating. My wife and I knew a couple that got married not too long ago. He pursued her across two continents and after they were married, apparently had the 'boardroom breakup' and he talked her into just walking away to save the whole divorce mess.

Well, she is like Kryptonite now. No one hangs with her and the other coupled friends she and they had have dropped her. The women are apparently afraid that she might poach one or more of their husbands...

She is bitter and I don't blame her but aside from some of the bizarre details, the same thing seems to happen over and over. The woman is shunned, persecuted, ignored and the man generally walks away. Now this represents a very small sample size but the trend is there.

I don't know why people get married if only to divorce later. It's like they are practicing 'serial monogamy'.

I don't know... Divorce is painful and the after effects can be rather bizarre. Maybe sticking with your main is courageous? You would think that the potential for a 'kiss-and-tell' book would be enough for some of them to want to bolt...
None of us know what's going on in someone else's marriage. And, quite frankly, unless a given politician is a rapist or a pedophile or something along those lines, I don't think it's any of our damn business what his/her sexual peccadillos are, or why anyone stays in a marriage.

BTW, wives of Hollywood stars throw hissy fits and throw the cheating bastards out all the time.
The author assumes that it is always the husband humiliating the wife which shows remarkable ignorance. I have known many a husband with wives that were people I could barely stand to spend an evening with and who would criticize and berate their husbands in public. The men would put up with it for the sake of the children not realizing that a positive relationship with a new spouse would be much better for everyone in the long run.
Thank you Mary for putting out there what I've thought every time I see one of these wives "sucking it up." Yet, every situation is different and these people are all public figures, so I do my best not to judge them. Still, just once I'd like to see a strong, confident woman take control of the situation and give the cheating husband the boot.

Having been "the other woman" I found it so very interesting to hear Elizabeth Edwards say she didn't know how to deliver a line such as "You are so hot, " which was allegedly what John Edwards paramour said to hook him in. Men love this type of attention even if they don't all act on the temptation. It's a sad fact.
I appreciate the many comments, opinions, passions, arguments, questions, dimensions, perspectives...quite surprising to me actually.

Various books have been written about all these issues. Studies conducted. Someone asked if I had been hurt in this way. I don't know anyone who has made it to mid-life and beyond without being hurt. I will say that I have friends who have experienced the betrayal of a spouse (and I'll keep gender out of this) and their relationship seems to never be the same (for obvious reasons).

Because I work with many divorced people and people in remarriage (and experienced it myself), I don't see divorce as the end of the world yet rather a new beginning. I don't see divorce as devastation and I've never seen a couple who were unhappy but stayed together "for the children" as having children who felt that was beneficial to them (unless their parents were extremely good actors).

Ben, please do not assume I'm "taking sides" because I think you know me to be someone who has written a couple of posts championing the needs of men and how many women misunderstand the needs of their men, especially sexually. But this post was more a question of wondering why women married to high profile men tend to stay rather than leave when faced with infidelity.

Ultimately, it would be ideal if none of this was privy to public consumption. But we are curious as human beings, and people have been wondering about the behavior of other people for as long as there is written history.

My fantasy of seeing a woman get up to a podium to make a strong statement wasn't meant to be taken quite so literally. However, given the response this post illicited, as well as other posts that resulted because of it, then I think it was a good thing, despite my own discomfort at feeling misunderstood by some of the commenters.
I'm still trying to get over the realization that monogamy is the exception, not the rule. How does such a lie exist for so long?
Mary this is a very excellent post and I hear what you are saying. Obviously you hit a nerve with all the comments I see. Who knows what makes people tick? Even as a therapist you must sit and wonder, "WTF?" at times as you listen to people who are able to rationalize their seemingly unhealthy behavior. I suppose that is why it is so interesting-human nature.
rated for bringing up a valid point

Sorry I got carried away there. I know you have been a strong spokesperson for men as "human beings" at a time when by and large ignorance prevails.

Look at half of those comments. The woman scorned can only be a victim. It plays right into the old steriotypes. If there is a principle in the matter, it is that the rush to judgement and inevitable male bashing is what is typical--and what it reveals only says something about the writer not the "object" of their opinion, and their projections.

There are men and women who stray no matter how much love and support they have in their marriages, but there are also millions and millions who are incapable of achieving intimacy with those they are "supposed" to and go outside the marriage for it.

How about this interpretation: Mr. Edward's simply reached the end of the line being a poster boy for his wife's ambitions and committed "self-sabotage." Happens a lot, but doesn't make her into much of a victim, does it? It takes a humiliator to create another humiliator.

The mob by definition consists of people who are concerned about everyone and everything but themselves. There is no chance anything could ever happen to them as it happens to the poor slobs in public life who become their punching bag. It's the modern version of "let's have us a lynching."

It happens again and again in our public life and very few walk away with the lesson: that's their life--how about yours?
Here, here! I, too, am loathe to judge these women, but when they find it necessary to court public opinion in pursuit of condemnation of their husbands, well, wouldn't it be easier if...
Mary, very provocative. We're only seeing these couples on stage in front of cameras. Who knows for sure what they're like in their own private homes? (Perhaps torturing is taking place...verbal if not physical.) I don't mean to take this lightly, but we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors. I have a feeling that in some of these cases presented, once the public cameras leave them alone, divorce will ensue. We're only seeing a show as long as the camera is pursuing them. As far as revenge is concerned, I think we all want to take that path at times in our life, but it's a path that will only hurt ourselves ultimately.
It never ceases to amaze me how much women like to consider themselves such "great communicators" and think they have men "all figured out" can get perpetually blindsided when it turns out they _haven't_ been communicating all that well and _don't_ really appear to understand their men after all. The same is somewhat true in reverse, of course. The difference being that most guys don't have any allusions of understanding women.

I don't make this comment in an attempt to be disparaging, rather to point out the pitiful state of communication, understanding and trust between men and women.

That said however, the true betrayal, IMO-- which ironically Edwards dismissed-- was the baby, if it turns out to be his.
Ben, thank you. Yes, the classic image of the "woman scorned" as victim is common. There's an expression, "There are no victims, only volunteers." Now, that should not be interpreted universally for every situation, but for many situations, there is wisdom in that. And yes, there are two sides to every story.

As for any misunderstanding of me implying that Revenge is the answer, that's pure silliness. As I said on another post, it would be pure folly on my part, given what I do and who I am as a human being, to suggest that Revenge would be in any way satisfactory. In our imaginations, we play out revenge scenes involving those we feel have inflicted harm on us, but the reality is that it is as satisfactory as ordering a sumptuous meal when hungry and not eating it.

mre: I think you bring up an excellent point. This is what the best selling book and consequent movie "He's Just Not That Into You" was attempting to say...women just aren't all that when it comes to understanding men, yet some of them spend a lot of time presuming they do. Men have the humility to shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't get them." Again, these are generalizations but part of the intriguing on going conversations that will continue as long as there are men and as long as there are women.