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Jenny Sanford Explains Away Her Husband's Affair

5 years ago
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After remaining relatively quiet on the subject of her husband's affair, Jenny Sanford offers an opinion on why her marriage unraveled in the pages of Vogue, as Bonnie Goldstein points out. I have to admit, though, seeing the fashion magazine label Sanford as an "unlikely heroine" for handling the affair gracefully left me feeling a little troubled -- and a little less optimistic about Sanford's future than my colleagues are.

It's true that Sanford does offer a clear-eyed view of why we're suddenly seeing so many male politicians in the news for extramarital affairs. When asked about the numerous politicians who seem shocked that their poorly covered affairs came to light, Jenny Sanford offers this analysis:
Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world. I saw that from the very beginning. They'll say they need something, and ten people want to give it to them. It's an ego boost, and it's easy to drink your own Kool-Aid. As a wife, you do your best to keep them grounded, but it's a real challenge.
Echoes of John Edwards statements on how his own narcissism led to his extramarital dalliances? Certainly. And a fairly pithy description of the fame bubble many politicians live in -- where it's easy for an ego naturally inclined that way to flourish out of control. The only real trouble with her analysis is that, when the subject changes from affairs in general to her own situation, Jenny Sanford, too, seems to have been sipping the Kool-Aid.

Of her husband she says:
It became clear to me that he was just obsessed with going to see this woman. I have learned that these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography. They just can't break away from them.
And, later:
"My husband has got some issues that he needs to work on, about happiness and what happiness means . . . I think when a lot of men get to this midpoint in life, they start asking questions that they probably should have asked a long time ago." She added, "Midlife aging is different for men than for women."
So, first his affair was not his choice but the result of a compulsion, then he's going through a mid-life crisis (which women, apparently, do not have), and we still need to fret over whether this man has the capacity for happiness?

Being praised for handling your husband's very public cheating with aplomb is a bit of a double-edged sword -- who really wants to be remembered for taking an affair well? But if we are going to cast someone up as a "heroine" and a model for post-affair behavior -- which Vogue does -- maybe we could look for someone who is at least as worried about her own happiness as her husband's. After all, as his interminable teary-eyed press conferences on his doomed love attest, Mark Sanford already seems to be monitoring his own happiness quite well.
Filed Under: Woman Up, Culture
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