CHICAGO — The wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said she and her husband have undergone marital counseling and spiritual therapy since he told her nearly two years ago of an extramarital affair.
"He said it was over. I was mortified and in agony, but he knew if I found out any other way it would be over. That the only way to save our marriage was to come clean," Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson said in an interview published in Sunday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times. "There were sleepless nights and I started losing hair and I told him I would only consider staying if we got into therapy."
She said she immediately questioned herself and whether it was her fault, but she never wanted details. When word of the affair became public last week, she said it was like opening the wound again.
Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat, has been dogged by corruption allegations in connection with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich since December 2008, shortly after Blagojevich was arrested.
Last week, more allegations surfaced that Jackson told a businessman to offer Blagojevich $6 million in exchange for an appointment to Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. The businessman also told the FBI he purchased plane tickets for a woman identified as a "social acquaintance" of Jackson.
Jackson, who has not been charged with a crime, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with Blagojevich.
He didn't, however, deny allegations of an affair with the "social acquaintance" and called it a "personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago."
Messages left for Jackson on Sunday by The Associated Press weren't immediately returned.
In the interview, Sandi Jackson acknowledged empathy for her husband, who she said "has been quiet, withdrawn and concerned."
"It's been surreal. I feel bad for Jesse because he is living this thing all over again. He is remorseful over this fire storm he's created around us," she said.
She also said her husband never had an intention of running for Chicago mayor and is instead gearing up for re-election in his congressional district covering parts of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs.
The congressman, who first won election in his district in 1995, previously said he's been mulling a run for mayor since Mayor Richard Daley announced earlier this month that he wouldn't seek a seventh term.
The Jacksons have been married since 1991 and have two children.
Sandi Jackson said she could never anticipate how she would feel when her husband told her of the affair.
"You know, when the Clintons ran into marital trouble, I thought Hillary should leave Bill," she said. "I couldn't stand what Tiger Woods did and how his wife had to suffer publicly.
"But when the 'beast' lands at your door, it can be a very, very different experience. No one really knows what they are going to do until they are in that situation. When it happens to you it's amazing how what you once thought was black and white becomes variations of a color called gray."
Jackson, who has been alderman of her South Side ward since 2007, said for now she wants to stay focused on her job and children.
She said there are people who have had far worse situations.
"Mine is a matter of the heart," she said. "For many it's a matter of survival. My heart will heal."
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index