When Eliot Spitzer recently resigned from the office of governor of New York his wife stood at his side. Clearly she seemed unhappy, as would be expected of anyone whose husband or partner had dropped over $63K on hookers. Silda Spitzer is a slim and attractive woman, and her husband's betrayal of her led to other, unfair questions about her and their sex life, the clear implication being that there might have been some weakness of hers might have contributed to the scandal.
As if they think people don't cheat just because they can.
Yet there she stood beside him, clearly upset, yet there. Jon Stewart openly wondered why she was there. It would have been utterly logical to run away, to tell him to go screw himself, and make his announcement alone. Standing there must have been excruciating. Yet this is what political wives do. Larry Craig and Jim McGreevey's wives stood by them. Hillary stood beside Bill.
I think I understand. I too have been betrayed by a woman I loved, a person who I intended to propose to in just days. Like all such betrayals it cut hard, but it was too much, too big to process quickly. One simply does not stop loving at the drop of a hat. I was angry of course, but mostly I felt numb. I really could not think clearly.
A politician's spouse is supposed to be there for her man. In the United States most politicians at the top level are men. Political wives are political furniture. Sometimes they launch their own careers, but mostly their value is to humanize and validate their husband and his ambition. They have to be there when their sick, when they're PMSed, when they're pissed off. No matter how tired and lousy they feel they smile, shake hands, greet people, say nice things about their spouse. They stand at his side thick and thin. Connie Schultz is the wife of Ohio Senator (and family friend) Sherrod Brown. A reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer Shultz wrote about her husbands Senatorial campaign pointing out the utter strangeness of the experience, moving from event to event at her husband's side, directed by staffers who might not be out of college.
I think that's why Silda Spitzer stood at her husband's side even as her heart was breaking. She was on autopilot, doing what she had done for months on end the campaign. She and other such political wives hadn't yet had time to think through the implications and what she would do about this. It was easier just to go along and do the familiar thing, humiliating and painful as it may have been.
Eventually all political wives come to terms with what happens. Some, like Hillary Clinton and Suzanne Craig, may choose to stay. Others, like McGreevey and his wife Dina, are in the process of divorce. But we should forgive her if she needs time to face what must have been one of the worst moments of her life.