Advice from an “Expert in Failed Relationships”

To Be or Not to Be…a “Good” Wife?

Dear Expert in Failed Relationships:

I’m married to a Texas* politician. I will not reveal his name, but believe me when I tell you he is very well-known. Recently, I discovered that he’s cheating on me. Not only that, but people I trusted on his staff and people I thought were our mutual friends, all colluded in aiding him to keep this a secret from me.

To say that I’m devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I thought we had a good marriage, I thought we were building something together, and I truly thought he loved me. Plus the fact that people I spent time with at social and political gatherings knew this, yet didn’t tell me, is humiliating and infuriating beyond anything I can describe.

I feel sick to my heart, but at the same time, I don’t know what to do. We have children, and all I’ve done for our entire marriage of over twenty years is make sure I was an asset to his political career. He has begged me not to break up our family over this, that our children would be heartbroken if I did. I believe that is true, because they love their father. Apart from that I am terrified of what might become of me if we divorce. Please, is there any advice you can give me? I wrote to you because you deal strictly with relationships.

Signed,

Julianna Margulies or Maria Shriver, I’m Not Sure Which


Are you an Alicia, a Maria, or maybe… a bit of both?

Dear JM or MS, NSW:

My heart goes out to you as I’m sure do the hearts of many women who have been in your position. I find the way you signed yourself intriguing. Which one of those women do you want to be ─ the long-suffering character played by the actress, Julianna Margulies in “The Good Wife”, or the real-life wife of a cheating politician, Maria Shriver, who got divorce proceedings going quicker than we could say, ”Hell, no, he will not be back?”

Only you can decide, but you asked my opinion, and so I’m going to give it to you. First of all, the fact that your husband would beg you not to destroy your family, beg you not to break the hearts of your children, is hypocritical to say the very least.  He’s the one who’s done that.

You know, I believe the TV series “The Good Wife” is popular for the reason that so many of us women, (including me, by the way) have found ourselves in a marriage that for one reason or another, we were terrified to end. Maybe it’s because we feared what we’d do once we no longer had our spouse’s financial contribution. Maybe it’s because we feared we had no identity outside of being this person’s wife. Maybe it’s because we feared that our children would be too adversely affected by coming from a broken home. Maybe it’s because we feared people we work with, or even our families would criticize and blame us. Maybe it’s even because our religion forbids us to even think about divorce, and we were afraid we’d be eternally damned. Whichever it was, what all these reasons have in common is fear.

Now, let’s look at Maria Shriver, a woman whom I have long admired. I cringed when she was put in this position, because my fear was she would not live up to what she spend much of her time promoting, which was women’s rights, women’s empowerment, women’s self-esteem. She had a lot to lose too, when this came out, and I’m sure that she was just as devastated as you by her husband’s infidelity. I’m sure she was brokenhearted. I’m sure she worried about her children and her reputation, just like anyone would, and more especially because she (and you, too) are in such prominent positions. Nonetheless, she went ahead with proceedings to end what was essentially a sham of a relationship.

What would be worse for you: going forward and pretending that you have a good marriage when you know you don’t, or feeling the fear of being on your own but with the shining possibility of a real relationship in the future with a man who honors and respects you?  Which would make you feel more like a fraud: lying to your children that you’re okay with their father’s infidelities, (and yes, they will find out) or admitting without malice that he’s not perfect, he’s certainly not the husband for you, but it’s okay with you if they love him as their father, anyway?

Both scenarios are tough, sweetie. I, for one, would understand no matter which of the two choices you make. But I have to say, I now admire Maria Shriver more than ever.

*Editor’s note:  This letter did not come from Texas, but from another state. We changed it to Texas to protect the identity of the letter writer.

Last 5 posts by Patricia V. Davis - an Expert in Failed Relationships