Victim…or Co-conspirator?

I keep asking myself, “What is wrong with her?” Why was she with this man to begin with, and why did she stay longer than five minutes?

I’m sure some will say this is really none of my business, but I disagree. If it’s in the news, on the news and every newsmagazine and talk show, then it’s open for discussion.

They say he’s “engaging” (Barbara Walters), “charming and fun” (Lesley Stahl), and he may be, but is that enough? I see a man who is cruel and unbelievably self-absorbed. He seems to have no soul.

But, for me, this is about her. I used to be a real admirer. She came from a family of faux-U.S. royalty, and chose to pursue her own career in the uber-competitive media business, although she could certainly afford not to work…or not to work hard if she didn’t want to. And she was good at her job.

But I stopped being a fan when her randy husband –shortly after he announced his run for governor– was accused by a group of women of inappropriate behavior against them, and she held a press conference to deny their truth! I really believe she knew that her defense of him was dishonest and she willfully invalidated these women who were brave enough to come forth. They were called liars and I felt so sorry for them.

And now it’s really ugly. But I don’t think of this article as blaming-the-victim; it’s more like blaming the co-conspirator. Did it go something like this: she repeatedly accepted less-than-honorable behavior from him, so why shouldn’t these other women?

I used to think that women stayed in abusive relationships (physical or emotional), because they didn’t have the resources to get out. And while I was primarily thinking financial resources, I know one needs the emotional fortitude to get out, too…and I wonder if that’s what she’s missing. How could she stay so long in this unhealthy relationship with this terribly disrespectful man…and how could she — through that public act of “who are you going to believe, them or me”– clear him to continue with business-as-usual?

I’ve never been married. In my book, The Spinsterlicious Life, and blog of the same name,  a popular “conversation” in both is the different interpretations single and married women sometimes have on a given situation (perhaps, not surprisingly). And, as a single woman, I am often puzzled by what passes for acceptable in other people’s marriages. Things that seem so clear-cut to me are obviously more complicated. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just an issue of what a woman is willing to put up with. Could it be that simple?

The tabloids have always portrayed him as a bad boy, even before they married, so none of his behavior over the years should be a surprise.

Maya Angelou has often said “When a man shows you who he is, believe him the first time.” Dr. Phil says something similar: “We teach people how to treat us.” Did she never hear anything like this?

Surely she didn’t think he would change. Why would he, when given carte blanche to behave as he wants? And now there’s another kid in the family and she’s without a career because she gave it up so he could be governor. And their kids are embarrassed and hurt. And so is she.

It’s such a mess. But how could it have turned out any other way? So my question is, what responsibility does a wife have toward other women who may be subjected to her ill-behaved husband?

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9 Responses to Victim…or Co-conspirator?

  1. Jana says:

    Look how popular 50 Shades of Grey was! Case and point of how the “love of a good woman will change a man”. Sheesh! The worst books ever written.
    There are too many women in this world who believe that they will be the ones to heal all the damage of his previous terrible relationships. The 1900s were a time of put up or shut up and towards the end of that century, women began to find their voices. We need to teach our daughters they are not second class citizens and to value themselves. Only when we value ourselves as much, will we be intolerant of being treated badly. I think that’s why there are so many single women these days; we’re not willing to put up or shut up any more.

  2. Roxanne says:

    I agree with the comment, some marriages are political in nature and those that are created within true politics or where there is a political tie are that much more so. Such marriages aren’t the model of marriage. Assuming the man is the politician he needs a presentable well-spoken well-bred wife. As a politician he is a power seeker – and enjoys the benefits thereof. Many women are intoxicated by the power and the well-bred wife becomes a mere annoyance. She is seen as a wife, a wife figure, not a woman. A man is offered female favors, accepts them. The wife stays as she agreed to do, because it benefits her in some way for him to be successful. He is less successful without her. So she stays, and not only does she stay, she publicly stays and doesn’t even show anger or resentment. The ex-wife of a politician is a nobody, a wife of a successful skirt-chasing politician at least seemingly has some power. She can control his escapades, she can threaten to leave or leak things to the tabloids, or merely not support him in an election. Male politicians are supposed to have a woman at his side. Anyway, I couldn’t do it. I know why they do, but I detest the message it sends. It’s all about image.

    As for the other women, I think the political wife in the situation you describe has made her bed so to speak. The other women seek his attention and are in a different kind of contract. But the wife has made it clear that he isn’t going to leave her for the other women, so they, too, know the deal. Wife stays, he does the nasty, the other women don’t ask for more.

    I guess. Hell I don’t know. I couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t want my daughters to do it.

  3. "Q" says:

    Women have and will continue to devalue their own self worth and self respective for reasons that none of us will every be able to justifiably explain and or accept. We’ve all been there somehow or someway in our life time. Wether we knew something was wrong and we denied it to ourselves or we just looked the other way, we felt it deep down inside. We as women always try to make “things” work! We try to make him feel good, do for the kids, for our friends, for other family members and not thinking about how we feel. He will be fine – remember that! Kids depending on their age and specific needs will be fine (you were once one) and family members will also. We have to learn to stop and validate ourselves first. If we don’t no one else will. How many times have we listened or watched our girlfriends go down that slippery slop hoping that the man will like us, spend a little time with us, (basically through us a bone or give us one!). As long as we make him look good and feel good things are fine. Do what you think you should and want to. Most important make sure your self respect and self worth is not lost in “his” shuffle. It does not have to be about egos all the time – but more about the respect of another human being – YOU!

  4. Gina E says:

    A wife does not have responsibility to other women for her husband’s bad behavior. Her responsibility is to herself and her needs, wants and expectations from a marriage. Do you honestly think a woman is going to believe or hear from another woman anything that involves a man they are involved with? Take from this female no they do not. So Elenore how about an article why do women think they can save/change these bad boys?

  5. Gina E says:

    A wife does not have responsibility to other women who may be subjected to her ill-behaved husband. A wife has a responsibility to herself and what she needs, wants or expects in a marriage. There is also a matter of forgiveness that a wife needs to decide and if she can truly forgive. Apparently she was able to forgive quite a bit however she could not forgive her husband’s infidelity which resulted in a new life while she was pregnant.
    The wife we speak of accepted her husband’s bad behavior when she was not married. Do you honestly think another woman really cares to be warned of the type of man they are involved with? Most do not. I can say that from recent experience. So Elenore how about an article on why women think they are the saviours of these bad boys?
    Thank god I woke up in time and I continue to embrace my single hood.

  6. Carolyn B says:

    E, I’ll explain to you what was explained to me. Some marriages are political in nature; it’s a contract to benefit each other such as Hillary & Bill (another woman who should have dumped her loser in the trash) but won’t.
    Plus, aren’t many of the Kennedy men known as skirt-chasers? The poor girl was probably taught at a young age, women stay no matter what.
    Now me being a never married, happily single woman, my mindset says it’s OK to stay in a marriage unless there is abuse to you or your child OR adultery. IF either occurs, women are morally required to hit the road as soon as they can.

    • Eleanore says:

      Carolyn: I originally had a couple sentences in there about the “family history”, as you mentioned. I took it out b/c a few others thought it was too inflammatory. I do think that’s part of the problem, tho

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