Stacy Schneider, Esq.
We just watched the latest political wife stand by her man at a national press conference as he announces his infidelity, betrayal of marriage vows and violation of public trust. When Silda Spitzer positioned herself next to her husband, Governor Eliot Spitzer, at the podium with her defeated, somber expression, sympathetic glances at her disappointing spouse, and staged body language implying “we are still one,” it made me wince. The message was, as usual, “You wronged me, humiliated me, destroyed my family and my life, but I want all your constituents to know that your family will not abandon you.” The event was contrived, as they always are, and every time we have the misfortune of witnessing reckless, selfish politician announce their requisite mea culpas with their wives at their side, the women seem to suffer twice as much. First they endure the devastation of the initial private family revelation behind closed doors. Then the second round of bruising humiliation, this one for the entire world to see.
The last press conference I vividly remember feeling mortified over was attended by Dina Matos McGreevey. She stood by her husband, New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, when he announced to the world that he was a “Gay American” who had an inappropriate relationship while in office. Watching Dina’s frozen smile and deer in the headlights expression, you could not help but feel her pain. But having the wife at the conference doesn’t help the politician. It just makes him look more like a dog for making her suffer again. For Silda and Dina and all the other wives who endured a scripted spectacle, now hear this: There’s a better way to weather this storm— Don’t show up!
Seriously, why bother? You did nothing wrong, so why put yourself in front of a national audience to be humiliated? Why suffer the fallout when he’s the one who screwed up? Your job is not on the line, you didn’t violate the ethical standards of public office, you didn’t destroy his reputation. I say stay at home. No need to break out the brave face.
The usual formula for damage control following a political sexcapade is a failure, and it’s time for you to take back control. The more honest and probably more effective way to handle having a hole ripped into your heart, is to make yourself comfortable in front of the TV with a box of tissues and brace for a long night of CNN while your husband cleans up his own mess.
Standing next to your husband is not only unnecessary, it makes him look pathetic. It shows us that not only did he dupe the voters, he duped his family too. The better p.r. move is to let him hang out to dry… alone. He’ll seem more sincere and less of a bad guy because he didn’t force you to endure his shame in public. It’s a win-win for both of you.
You can show your public support by refraining from filing divorce papers until after his scandal is out of the headlines. If you keep the marriage alive, at least superficially, until the next politician gets caught with his pants down and the media moves on, the public will surmise that you are supporting him. So ignore the advice of the advisors, press agents, publicists, and spin-doctors. It’s time to update the approach when it comes to playing the wronged political wife. The best service you can do for your husband is to skip the press conference and take the time to heal.
Commentary by divorce coach Stacy Schneider, author of He Had It Coming: How to Outsmart Your Husband and Win Your Divorce.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This commentary was picked up by the New York Post’s Opinion Page on Sunday, March 16th.