Despite the betrayal and public humiliation, some political wives, such as Silda Spitzer, remain with their philandering husbands long after the scandal. But what makes them stay?
Today marks four years since the former first couple of New York faced a barrage of cameras when Governor Spitzer resigned from office, felled by his status as Client No. 9.
Back then it was as if the eyes of the entire country were planted squarely on Mrs. Spitzer. Everyone had ample comments to share about her drawn visage, her stalwart loyalty to her husband, her silent presence at a chaotic news conference, which should have shaken any marriage to its core.
Yet four years later they remain married. And she remains just as private to the public. The odds of their marital survival seemed so stacked against them. The suffocating spotlight. The betrayal. The sheer humiliation. The wild speculations. But a closer look at other couples in recent years that weathered the sex-scandal gauntlet reveals that the Spitzers are not alone.
Other couples remain in tact. Anthony Weiner, John Ensign, David Vitter, and Larry Craig will mark the anniversary of their respective sex scandal in upcoming months. And they are all still conjugally attached to their spouses.
Scandal may destroy reputations. Yet for these folks, it doesn’t destroy marriages.
How is that even possible for these marriages to survive such intense pressure and derision? Their marriages were placed under the national microscope yet neither spouse buckled.
Now I have no inside scoop on any of these marriages so I’d appreciate any of your insight. I’ve never met or spoken with any of these folks. But one thing seems abundantly clear: For these political wives who’ve opted to remain wives, they get more out of the marriage than they do sans-husband. Now we don’t know what that key link is, but it’s there. Somewhere. Maybe it’s even a chateau in France that was promised if the wives didn’t flee.
Scandals are moralizing events. Of course, that’s not the original intent of the transgressor. It’s not as if Spitzer wanted to be the brunt of a moral lesson when he stepped into his room at the Mayflower Hotel.
But in the end, scandals are reminders of what happens if we take the road that society has deemed immoral—such as cheating on one’s spouse and bringing public humiliation to one’s family.
For the famous ilk, you risk a news conference with cameras shoved in your face where you are forced to resign—or at the very least, grovel—and request forgiveness from family, wife, and God. You’ll be a laughing stock. And wives don’t like laughing stocks. At least that’s what I thought.
Yet what’s remarkable about these post-scandal, in-tact marriages is that they throw moralizing to the wind. In 2012, these women don’t have to stay with their husbands if they don’t want to. But they do. So the only assumption I can make is the simple one: These wives believe there’s a better outcome for them to remain Mrs. than to become Ms.
For some of these women, all of the cameras, gossip, and speculation in the world couldn’t make public their private thoughts. So they end up winning in the end. They have insider’s information that the general public covets but they keep it close to the chest. And we are left wondering what these women—the ones who choose to stay—are thinking and planning. But it’s not for us to know. They’ve managed to keep their dignity after all, in spite of—or maybe because of—what their husbands did.
Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., teaches in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Politico and the Chicago Tribune. Follow her on Twitter: @hindamandell.
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