Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has failed as a wife. She enabled her husband’s infidelities, according to GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Then GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina chimed in; while questioning if the Clintons have a real marriage, she stated, “If my husband had done some of the things Bill Clinton had done, I would have left him long ago.”
Well, OK. If Fiorina or anyone wishes to end a marriage based on his or her spouse’s behavior, so be it; some people can and want to do that and others don’t. But isn’t it odd to judge another person’s marriage based on what you would do in your marriage in the case of marital infidelity, especially when most of us are incredibly fluid about how we define infidelity.
Fiorina seems to think that leaving a marriage in such cases would be normal, expected and, most important, right — and coming from the “family values” party, isn’t that interesting?
Infidelity doesn’t always end a marriage, even if it would end Fiorina’s.
But the bigger discussion is about Hillary’s “enabling.” Is a wife somehow responsible for the inappropriate sexual shenanigans of her spouse?
Standing by her man
There’s a long history of women standing by their sexually unfaithful men, most recently Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille.
But there’s a difference between infidelity and sexual assault; both Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton have been accused of sexual assault. Which begs the question, what did Camille and Hillary know?
If the two Bills are anything like the typical adulterer, probably not much — spouses who cheat go to extraordinary lengths to hide their infidelity. The lying and deception are often much more damaging than the actual sex act, but all of us lie.
There are other accusations against Hillary, that she humiliated and threatened the women who claim to have been victims of Bill’s philandering. But that goes beyond what I’m addressing here. Trump, Carson and Fiorina blame her for enabling her husband’s affairs and then staying with him.
That’s nothing new. As Slate notes, “It’s common for people to attribute men’s affairs to the inadequacy of their wives.”
Like their physical beauty, or lack thereof; when Gen. David Petraeus had an affair with a much younger woman, his wife, Holly, was scorned for being an “utterly ordinary looking middle-aged woman.”
Well of course a man would cheat on a dumpy wife!
Hillary has also repeatedly been accused of being a lesbian (horrors!), therefore using Bill for her own agenda. And she never quite fit our idea of what a wife and mom “should” be and do — she didn’t bake cookies, after all — even though she’s been the equal partner most women today say we want to be.
But let’s not ignore the fact that if Hillary actually had left Bill she would have then been seen as the problem — yet another middle-aged woman breaking up her family for her own selfish needs and then living off her former husband’s hard-earned pay.
Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Who’s responsible for an affair?
Is a wife (or husband) ever responsible for her/his spouse’s infidelity?
Women have certainly blamed themselves; when Josh Duggar came under fire a while back for lying and cheating, his wife, Anna, initially said she was partially to blame for not providing sex whenever he wanted it. When the husband of British Baroness Shirley Williams — daughter of author and feminist Vera Brittain — left her for a younger women, Williams blamed herself as much as him, saying he “was always a bit … vulnerable, put it that way.”
While I don’t believe a wife or husband can “make” his or her spouse cheat, I do believe we can enable a dysfunction in which a spouse doesn’t respect us by not setting up healthy boundaries. But that does not make us responsible for our spouse’s bad behavior; that we can not control.
Still, I kind of doubt that was what was going on in the Clinton household.
But, who are we to judge what goes on in anyone’s household?
On The View, host Michelle Collins applauded Hillary for committing to her marriage no matter what (again, a typically conservative viewpoint) — “For me, Hillary staying with Bill is a major selling point for Hillary. Because it shows me that she can commit. She is a woman — she will commit to her man and she will commit to her country. … Bi*ch commits.”
I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to be known as the woman who commits to a marriage no matter what, nor do I want to be called a “Bi*ch” for doing so.
But while people debate whether Hillary’s decision to stay in her marriage for whatever reason — does it really matter if she stayed because of love or commitment or political gain? — can we talk about what the candidates pointing the finger at Hillary bring to the table? Fiorina was a controversial boss who oversaw the layoffs of 30,000 and may have cheated on her first husband while Trump was cheating on wife No. 1, Ivana, with model Marla Maples, who became wife No. 2; he’s now on his third marriage and admits in his recent book that he “was a much better father than I was a husband, always working too much to be the husband my wives wanted me to be.”
But sexual infidelity isn’t the only way, or even the worst way, spouses can betray each other — spouses can be neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning and insulting, which is often as damaging, according to Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel.
Who’s enabling what in the GOP presidential hopefuls’ marriages? Because if Hillary’s “enabling” infidelity is fair game, so is every other candidate’s marital behavior.
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