Stand by your man?

Dina Matos McGreevey, the ex-wife of former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey, has an interesting Op-Ed piece in the NYT about Silda Spitzer and the decision to stand by her betrayer in a public forum.

Every time this happens, and the longer I’m married, the more outraged I get.  Kick the bastard out, I think.  He’s dishonored the sacred promises of marriage.  Don’t stand by him, I think– he’s already failed you past the point of forgiveness.  Or at least I think that’s how I would feel. 

While we can never know what goes on within a marriage, I wonder if there aren’t really some absolutes that any one can agree frame this problem.  No one is “driven” to philander, no matter how difficult their partner may be, and I am sure that the urge to philander usually comes from within, and not as a reaction to something “wrong” with the partner.  No one holds a gun to your head– there are other choices.  No matter the inter-personal troubles, the decision to break faith is one that is consciously made, and one that is and can be set aside until all other attempts to repair the relationship or one’s own psyche have failed, and the marriage is over, broken, and acknowledged by both parties.  (Unpleasant truths are still truths, and thus a solid basis for action.)

I have had and continue to have problems with Hillary Clinton for precisely these reasons.  I just don’t understand why she sacrificed her pride, her dignity, to stay with that womanizer.   I worry what else she will compromise, and what she will deem sufficient reward for her compromise.  It is possible that she loves and forgave him– but I find it hard to believe, given the sheer volume of his antics before the Lewinsky debacle.  And the compromise of values so intimate, so central to one’s well being, troubles me deeply.  I just don’t think he was worth standing by, political accomplishments notwithstanding.  You want an open relationship?  Fine– I really don’t care, so long as you keep your actions from hurting others.  But that’s not a marriage– a marriage is two people, committed to one another, exclusively.  Calling tolerated unfaithfulness “marriage” insults the work that I do with my partner to be honest, faithful, and careful with someone else’s heart. 

I guess inside this registered democrat lies a little Dr. Laura.  Okay, comment away.  I know that you will direct all flames to moi, and not to your fellow gentle readers.   I have such excellent and wicked smaht readers.


20 thoughts on “Stand by your man?

  1. Anali

    I always wonder the same things. I’m not blaming the wives at all. But I don’t think these women should have to stand there with their husbands for these horrible press conferences. At the very least, the start of the atonement process should be to stand there alone, because I’m sure that’s how the wife is feeling even if he’s standing next to her.

  2. Prof. J

    Did you see John Stewart talk about this? He said that when offering an apology for awful behavior it is required to bring a date. He also talked about getting dressed for the occasion, “Does this skirt make my ass look humiliated?”

    Seriously, even if she does forgive him and want to work things out with him, I don’t think that she should have to stand beside him.

  3. Mrs. G.

    I would have had a tiny bit of respect for Spitzer if he had not let his wife stand along side of him-if he had insisted on making his public apology alone. If he could have just let her avoid being plastered on the front page as the wife whose husband spent $80,000 on hookers. If he could have said, “look I didn’t bring my wife up here because this has nothing to do with her…it’s all about me.”

    That said, I am reluctant to judge how people negotiate their marriages. Infidelity would be a deal breaker for me, but I do know people who have pushed through it and come out stronger as a result. The older I get, the less comfortable I feel with absolutes.

    Great post. Thanks for making me think.

  4. Michelle

    I compeltely agree with everything you said. My one comment to Anali is I don;t think either of these women were made to stand by their husband’s side (Hillary or Silda) the chose to. For all the reasons you wrote I agree – standing by your man has to have some limits at least for me. Before my husband and I got married we came up with a list of non-negotiable. It happens I/he leaves. For example – he sleeps with another woman – standard style or Bill Clinton style – I don’t even want to talk to him – get out – you betrayed me and I will never trust you again. If he were to tell me he wanted out of the marriage I would hate him but at least I would be able to have a modicum of respect for him.

    I also despise Mr. Spitzer for having his 3 teenage daughters anywhere near the press. Family solidarity? Screw that Spitzer it is your mess, clean in up alone.

  5. Camellia

    My lawyer cousin once told me over all, the (male) lawyer population had more than the average testosterone than the average male. Maybe male politicians, too. I know there were two categories. I’m not making excuses, but it might be one reason you see bad sexual behavior among male politicians…think Jack Kennedy. Does it excuse the behavior? No. But marriage is often a contract and not a ‘true love’ situation. At one time it was only a contract. True love, that’s a more modern notion. I’m just looking at the marriage aspect, not the public trust and responsibility aspect. I feel this is not the first time Mrs. Spitzer has been aware of her husband’s infidelity. Same with Hillary. Supposedly their marriage agreement is between husband and wife, and what each one wants out of the marriage, but yes, when you make excuses for betrayal of trust, where does it stop?

  6. Melanie

    Ah, but you’re NOT pulling a Dr. Laura on this one. Dr. Laura was on the Today show this morning BLAMING SPITZER’S WIFE. And wives off all men who cheat because they’re obviously not building their husbands up at home or letting them feel like a hero or master of the universe or some similar nonsense.

    Thanks, Dr. Laura. You’re a peach and a credit to your gender.

    I have to agree with you on the Hillary Clinton issue. It is completely disappointing that she stayed with a man who, by his own admission, had “hundreds of affairs” over the years. The staying together speaks to something icky and morally hollow, something that offends my sensibilities as a woman, wife, mother, and feminist.

  7. Laurie

    it seems to me that these things happen and the women react in the way they have grown accustomed to over their years as a political spouse: they close ranks, they shut up, they wait, they support.

    this has been their role all along. and when these events happen, they happen for too quickly for the women to figure out what the best course of action is, or whether or not they’re going to stay with the man, or even what the facts are.

    i do not fault them for standing there quietly. i do not fault them at all.

    they have had absolutely no time to think.

  8. MamaBird

    Tx, I loved the McGreevey opinion piece. I have been pretty uncomfortable with all the wife-bashing in this case. Isn’t it horrific enough that she not only had to deal with this but that it’s water cooler gossip? Hey, however she deals with it is her call. She was never an elected official but now her life’s public? Shame on Dr. Laura, btw, and thanks Melanie for the transcript. Seriously, life is hard enough to negotiate (including relationships) without second guessing what someone does when in crisis (she’s got to be in agony, forget time to think, even if she’s got it, what state of mind is she in?).

  9. Marci B.

    Thank you for articulating something that has been bugging me for the past few days. I was disgusted by the way that she had to stand there next to him, stone-faced and silent, as the world watched. How, and WHY??, does she do this? And why does the public seem to demand it??? She must, and I mean MUST, have something to say about the whole thing. Yet she must “stand by her man.” As far as the feminist movement has come, I think this type of expectation still has a long way to go.

  10. Jen

    Hello …. I have been reading your post for quite sometime, never posted, but decided to today. I hope you don’t mind.

    I am married. My husband cheated on me with strippers. Why … I do not know. I did not keep the man on a leash, in fact I gave him all the rope he wanted. Let him go out with the boys, bars whatever he wanted. All I asked for was a call saying he would be late. I found out in October that he had been frequenting a strip club with a guy from work who … well, let’s just say he is a regular there. I found out that not only was my husband going in the back rooms with these girls, but was also getting more than a lap dance. He lied about how much he spent and what he spent it on. To this day, the only one who knows the truth is him. Why did I stay … or rather … let him stay. I do not know. I have a great job. It more than pays my bills. I don’t need him. I am not even sure right now if I believe in him or trust him. I do know that this is something I have had to work out myself, within myself. I have to decide whether or not the whole package is worth it. He hasn’t been a great man, but he hasn’t been horrible. Do I believe he is sincere about wanting to be together and work things out … I don’t know. He doesn’t go out afterwork anymore. He calls me when he is driving to and from work. I wish I could tell you why a woman stays with a man like that. We are not famous politicians by any means, but it happens in the real world too. I feel for her. I really do. She has a tough road ahead. The people who blame the wife for this have obviously never been down this road before.

    I know that this had no insight at all but … just wanted to share from the womans point of view.


  11. Robot Dancers

    I agree on all points, thank you.
    I believe in marriage and it makes me kind of sad that sometimes it seems as if no one else does.
    If marriage is not for you and you want to do the horizontal tango for the rest of your life with multiple people than don’t get married!! Simple as that.

    I don’t want to hear about sexual addiction. I don’t want to hear about how cheating is a disease. It can give you dieseases but screw that “I couldn’t help myself” crap.

    Also, if you are woman and you decide to stay with your husband after he cheats then you are basically subconciously letting him know that it’s alright because you’re going to stand by your man anyway. So sorry, but life is not a country song ladies. Have some respect for yourself and know that you are worth more than that!

  12. IrishGoddess

    Excellent post, and superb comments! I agree with most all of it. Very good point that she is in a state of shock. When my husband cheated I reacted in a state of shock for several years. It is now 9 years later and we’re just finishing the repercussions and shock waves. But BPLC, I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. “Marriage” is whatever two parties define it as, in my book. Tolerated unfaithfulness? Maybe that’s all the pair can handle. When I found out about my husband I was devastated, I made the money, there was really no reason for me to stay. But I had small kids, and as angry and hurt and betrayed as I felt, I also loved him. A person can hurt you once, or more, and that doesn’t make the love stop. I stayed. And then I cheated, more than once. He stayed. We had several years of barely tolerated co-existence, but we still loved each other. We have fought and clawed our ways out of the mess we each made. To me, THAT is what marriage is. We agreed when we married to be faithful, yes, and while we have made many mistakes I think ultimately we HAVE been faithful – if not to each other, than at least in our commitment to fight to keep the relationship going. We are very human partners.

    I also do believe that there can be a healthy marriage that is non-monogamous, but that is really another discussion.

    As for your point about her standing next to him (actually a bit behind him, no?) – I agree. That is annoying and I can’t believe she felt good about it. I don’t connect the two issues though – she might stay with him, she might not, but she certainly didn’t need to or deserve to have to stand there while he admitted his humiliating and hypocritical behavior.

  13. molly

    I feel very sorry for Spitzer’s wife and I imagine things will only get worse as more details emerge.

    Some of the media coverage has really disgusted me. Cindy Adams of The New York Post wrote a column advising Spitzer’s wife to stay with him because men stray, you know, and it’s not a big deal. And I saw some CNN interview with one of Spitzer’s law professors who said the same thing and that this would not be a story in most societies.

    I wonder what would have happened if the tables were turned. If Spitzer’s wife was the governor and she had multiple affairs, say, she would be totally demonized and labeled a woman of loose morals and a slut.

    Here’s the Cindy Adams link:

  14. bipolarlawyercook

    I am constantly amazed and educated by all the insights you all have to share. I am so lucky you all comment here!

    Jen and Irish Goddess, thank you so much for sharing your “from the inside perspective.” I honestly can’t imagine it, so I really appreciate your willingness to talk about it.

    Camellia and Irish Goddess, you’re right that in the end, it comes down to what the parties to the marriage contract agree to…though from the gamut of responses here, it’s clear everyone has their own sense of what they are willing to put up with.

    One thing that it sounds like everyone agrees upon, however, is that he should have had to face those cameras alone– he made his own mistakes, and he shouldn’t drag Silda into the beginnings of trying to salvage a life out of the wreckage he’s made.

  15. LawyerChick

    I actually disagree a bit. I don’t think he has any right to ask or expect her to stand up there with him, but I think it was her choice. Granted a deer-in-the-headlights, what-choice-did-I-have sort of choice, but her choice nonetheless. I have met Silda in the past through a mutual friend and I admire and respect her. The woman I met a year ago looked nothing like the woman I saw on TV this week. I am speculating, of course, but I have to believe that she was as shocked as the rest of us by that news.

    If I were in her shoes, I don’t know if I would do differently. We lawyers are always keeping our options open. NOT standing by my husband’s side in public sends a message that can never be undone, while I could always explain standing by his side later (“I was shell-shocked at the time but now I’ve decided to leave him” or “We are trying to work things out.”) So the only time I’d decide not to stand with him is if I’d already decided to leave permanently, and I think it’s too early to call that yet. And then there are the daughters to think about. My husband and I have been married for well into the double digits, and I have softened a lot on what Michelle calls the “non-negotiables” – with infidelity, I would leave at least temporarily but I’m not so sure I would leave permanently. Or, at least, it would take me a while to decide and until I decided I wouldn’t want to signal either way. Because it would be up to me and my husband, and not anyone else.

  16. Angelina

    People often say they couldn’t possibly know what they’d do in the same situation but I don’t have that problem.

    I don’t know what promises other couples have made in their marriages or how much they actually value promises, but I know what promises my husband and I have made and one of the big ones was to be faithful to each other.

    I see no excuse for cheating. If you’ve got an open marriage and have agreed to see others, then sleeping with others isn’t cheating, but I don’t see the point in being married at all if you’re basically going to be dating others.

    If you have promised to be faithful, then cheating is unacceptable. I have told my husband that if he finds himself tempted to cheat then that’s an indication that our marriage is in trouble and he owes it to me to talk to me about it. If we can’t work things out, then at least we can split up before he takes physical action with another person.

    I have promised to do him the same honor should it be me who finds myself in a place of temptation.

    Cheating is the ultimate betrayal as far as I’m concerned and I have zero tolerance for it in my own marriage. I would never stand by my man for that.

    I think it’s just as easy to not cheat as it is to cheat.

  17. thordora

    Cheating makes me icky.

    If you stand in front of people and say to someone “hey, I will honor this person and be devoted to them ONLY”, then you do it. Don’t want to? Don’t be married anymore.

    I would never want to be with anyone who had so little respect for me that they couldn’t adhere to this one thing. I don’t ask much of my husband, but this is a hard fast rule. No screwing around. Period.

    This would be made ever WORSE if my husband was constantly on a moral crusade against the bucket he always had his paws in.

    I, and nearly every woman I have ever met, deserve more respect that what these types of men fling at us. I believe in working on a marriage, and sustaining a family, but some betrayals are unforgiveable.


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