Imagine being Elizabeth Edwards.
Not only is she battling terminal cancer, but she now must muster the strength to deal with the news that her husband had an affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards will admit tonight on ABC News that he did have an affair, but he didn't love Hunter. He also is expected to deny he is the father of Hunter's baby girl, Frances, who was born last February.
I have no doubt that Edwards loves his wife, with whom he has had a relationship for over three decades. He clearly had bad judgement and in a bad moment created a situation that is now threatening his career as well as the trust of his family. I'm sure the conversation before the ABC interview between husband and wife was as painful as any medical procedure she incurred.
Infidelity affects the daily rhythm of life.
When she goes to the supermarket to shop for her family's groceries, Elizabeth Edwards knows that people are dining on this story while her husband is being more grilled than salmon from the press and Democratic colleagues.
Her girlfriends want to rally behind her, but who can bring up the subject with her? Calls that ask, "Are you OK?" will likely be met with stony silence. True friends know that it is up to Elizabeth Edwards to choose who she will share her private thoughts with on this matter.
She is likely thinking of protecting her children as well.
Catharine is a 26-year-old law student who is old enough to understand the ways of the world. Is she calling her mother asking if she will divorce her father? Is she asking her father to explain his conduct? Is she in her room sobbing into a pillow?
Both under 10, Jack and Emma Claire are too young to fully understand the nature of the story, but likely to feel the tension and pressure around them from their adult protectors.
When Christie Brinkley learned about her husband Peter Cook's affair with a young girl, she immediately whisked off the kids to a remote location where there were "no newspapers or TV." She wanted to shield them from the headlines. But you can't fully protect your children. When the trial started, they felt the heat of all those flashbulbs and the searing pain of the tawdry revelations.
As for Elizabeth Edwards, we hope that she can cocoon herself right now with loyal family and friends to help her get through this difficult period.
It's easy for many women to say, "I'd dump the bastard," until it actually happens to them. Many women across America are faced with unfaithful husbands during the course of a marriage and weigh the pros and cons of divorce. According to a recent study, 70 percent of married women didn't know of their husband's extramarial affair.
Most people believe that Hillary Clinton knew about Bill Clinton's infidelity and they had struck a Faustian bargain in their mutual pursuit of political power. She wasn't as mad that he got caught as she was that her secret was out. Most believe that Elizabeth Edwards didn't know about her husband's infidelity until recently but no one knows what goes on behind closed doors and what agreements are silently made.
Those conversations are always difficult between a husband and wife. Therapists say it takes at least two years to rebuild trust in the wake of an affair and only after a lot of hard work.
How many get divorced as a result? Studies vary. One says only 17 percent result in a divorce while a recent Firstwivesworld.com poll said as high as 54 percent.
Why do people stay?
A fear of loneliness. A fear of change. A dread of dismantling a family that you spent a lifetime constructing and having your children ping-pong between two residences during holidays. There's also a comfort in the rhythm of family life, the carpooling, the grocery shopping for more than one, the weekday nights eating at the oak table with your old wedding china.
Whatever the outcome, this family will be forever impacted. Especially since the revelations are so public.
However, back in the 1800s, Grover Cleveland admitted he may have had an illegitimate child. Because he was honest, it didn't stop him from getting into the White House... But some people still wanted to put him in the dog house.
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