I’m Not Mad at Elizabeth Edwards

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThis week, instead of writing a “singles tip,” the editors of Parlour asked me to write about my opinions of the latest Elizabeth Edwards developments. This is an interesting subject, and I do have some thoughts about it, but not because of John Edwards’ infidelity–public adultery scandals involving politicians are hardly unique. In my mind, the Elizabeth Edwards situation is intriguing for two reasons: 1) she has chosen to re-expose her family to public scrutiny, where I would think she’d be glad that the media spotlight had shifted its gaze, and 2) she is dying.
Since her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Edwards’ every word and deed has been retroactively dissected and judged from 2006—when she says her husband first told her of his affair—on. And it’s all of her own doing. Mrs. Edwards’ decisions to write a book about her family’s tribulation and subsequently appear on the Oprah show to promote the book, amid her losing battle with stage-four cancer, are puzzling at best; and her explanation for bringing this scandal back into the light hardly justifies her doing so.

Mrs. Edwards has said, in the past, that part of the reason she agreed to keep her husband’s indiscretions a secret was to protect her children. Well, what’s changed? I’m sure it’s complicated, and I wonder if she fully understands why she’s doing it herself.  I think the conscious part of her choice was about defending her decision not to leave her husband and avoid being seen as the helpless, dying woman who had no choice but to stay. But I also think there was a bit of “Take that, John Edwards!” in the mix. John Edwards would have loved for his wife to forgive him and let his public humiliation drift into the background, but she had other plans and she knew that he wouldn’t have the nerve to protest her book. What could he do? Leave the dying wife he’d cheated on for writing about it? I think not.

I understand Mrs. Edwards’ choice not to leave her husband. I believe that marriage is a life-long commitment and that even the devastating damage caused by infidelity can be healed if both people are committed to accepting responsibility for their actions, forgiving, and working to rebuild trust. And while I would completely understand a woman in Elizabeth Edwards’ shoes putting her husband’s cheating ass out, I admire the fortitude it took to, instead, keep her family intact. But I suspect that Elizabeth Edwards’ motivation for staying in her marriage was, in no small part, due to the fact that she is terminally ill. At one point during her interview, Oprah asked Mrs. Edwards if she still loved her husband, to which she replied, “…it’s complicated.” That it is. Elizabeth Edwards’ doctors have told her that she could possibly die in a year, and with her death imminently on the horizon, why would she bother putting her two young children through the trauma of a divorce, not to mention depriving herself of a spouse to care for her during this difficult time?

It’s clear that with all of the challenges Elizabeth Edwards is juggling, there are some things she’s decided not to tackle at all. I was baffled by her saying to Oprah that if her husband is confirmed to be the father of his former mistress’s baby, it wouldn’t affect her life. How could it not? One word: denial. And she’s decided not to address the demands that she apologize for helping her husband hide his bombshell of a secret while he campaigned for the highest office in the country. She’s explained that she felt he would still make a good president, but I’m sure she was aware that a lot of Americans wouldn’t have seen things that way if they’d had the full story.

While Elizabeth Edwards did not plan for her husband to disregard his vow of fidelity, she has, in many ways, taken control of the situation. Some of her recent choices may not make sense to the rest of the world, but they are her choices. I don’t think that Elizabeth Edwards is a hero, but as a woman dealing with her husband’s affair, raising young children, and battling a devastating disease, I think she is damn brave and I admire her strength.

With Love,

Hitched Chick

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