Why Do The Wives Of Disgraced Politicians Stand By Their Men?

By: Courtesy WBKO.com - Randi Kaye
By: Courtesy WBKO.com - Randi Kaye

Eliot Spitzer isn't the first high profile politician to be at the center of a nationwide scandal. And he's also not the first to have his wife standing by his side.

Here we go again.

"I have begun to atone for my private failings to my wife, my children, and my entire family."

Sound familiar?

Enter powerful politician, cue the mea culpa. Disgraced, but dutiful wife looks on.

"What are you doing there, when most wives would have their husband's clothes out on the lawn?" asks Laura Nichols, with the Center for American Progress.

Laura Nichols, who wrote a column on this subject for Politico.com, says its time philandering husbands stood solo!

"It's hard to justify why you would want to be there at the lowest moment of your marriage supporting your husband," states Nichols.

In the last year, Suzanne Craig stood by her husband, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, when he was accused of soliciting sex in an airport bathroom.

Carlita Kilpatrick put the game face on too as her husband, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, sent racy text messages to his Chief of Staff.

And Wendy Vitter supported her husband, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, after he was accused of using an escort service.

Why does the political wife stand by her man?

Psychiatrist Gail Saltz says it's not a black and white issue.

"This is a person you're entire life has been intertwined with, physically, emotionally, financially, it is just not that easy to leave," Saltz explains.

"What about the children? To protect your children to some degree you end up feeling you have to protect their father because at the end of the day he remains their father." Can standing by your man make it appear daddy's off the hook?

"For the children what you hope is that he's able to demonstate there's some shred of honor in standing up alone and facing the music for what he's done, and not expecting their mother, and his wife, be a part of him owning up to those mistakes," states Nichols.

The infidelity ritual has played out so often it's practically predictable, and the gaze on the wives faces unmistakable, shell shocked, traumatized and devastated.

Eye contact is so unbearable, they often choose to stare at the apparent adulterer's notes.

"The attempt to sort of seal over, be glassy eyed and appear as if nothing is going on is really a defense against 'oh my God my life as I knew it is over,'" says Saltz. But in many cases it's not.

The Clintons stayed together after Monica Lewinsky. "I really had to dig down deep and think what was right for me, what was right for my family," recalls Hillary Clinton. "I have found you really shouldn't make decisions in the heat of those moments."

Dina Matos-McGreevy decided what was right for her was to divorce her husband. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy resigned after an affair with a male employee. She stood where Mrs. Spitzer stands today.

The difficulty is increased tremendously when you have to face it in such a public manner. What Mrs. Spitzer will do is anybody's guess.


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