As a marriage counselor, I have been amazed at the propensity of many politicians who disregard their marriage vows and engage in sexual behavior that at one time would have brought great shame on their marriage and career. Now it seems almost like a resume booster.  To add insult to injury, many of these men (it is usually men) ignore the scandal and keep on running for office (or staying in office).

Of course, the race for mayor in NYC is the most current version of this scenario but one does not have to look for very long to realize this happens a lot. It is not restricted to one political party (i.e. Mark Sanford or Bill Clinton, take your pick) nor is a current phenomenon (i.e. JFK, FDR or even Warren Harding who was accused of conceiving his daughter (with his mistress of the time) on the very floor of the US Senate.

Most of these men are married and thus when they are caught the media tries to secure some kind of response from the wife. Again, responses vary but one common pattern is the “stand by your man” response.  This usually involves the wife making supportive comments before the camera and cooperating with her husband’s portrayal of himself as a victim of some kind of disorder (two weeks in a treatment center ought to do it) rather than as a dishonest self-serving power hungry narcissist.

My thoughts about the women in these situations have been sparked by a book I am reading on the Kennedy women.  It is common knowledge now that whatever else Camelot was, it was a time when the White House was a place where sexual misbehavior was the norm. The “war on women” is nothing new. To cite just one lesser known example, JFK’s daily “swim” was nothing more than skinning dipping with two female members of the White House Staff. Like his father before him, adultery was the norm for JFK.

While all this is well documented, what is fascinating is the response of the women who were married to the Kennedys.  They all chose a form of absolute denial. They continued to appear with their husbands in public and support his career. They even vacationed separately knowing what their husband would do with his time. It is true that divorce carried a much greater stigma back then than it does today, but these were not poor, uneducated women who had to stay married for financial reasons. These were all daughters of wealthy families who could easily have made it on their own.

So what made them stay?

For some they traded their dignity for a position of power and prestige. Others received payoffs of a different currency. But they all decided for one reason or another that they would endure their husband’s behavior, which in the long run only reinforced such actions.  I am not blaming the women in these cases. The men are 100% guilty for their actions. I am just saddened that their wives choose to stifle their own voice.

What is the church doing to support the voices of women, not only those with unfaithful husbands but those who have been victims of sexual or physical abuse?  Are we aware of the temptation to cover up trauma and reinforce denial rather than truth? Will we cooperate with a cover-up even if the women in these situations are part of it? Is there a currency with which we could be bought off? I don’t have all the answers but as we watch politician’s wives sell their souls, how can we empower women to make other choices?

If this in an important issue to you, I would encourage you to check out the Global Trauma Recovery Institute at Biblical Seminary.

Bryan Maier, Psy. D. is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates.

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