A few days back, I read a ridiculous post on Politico about Tina Brown’s advice to Hillary Clinton, telling Hillary basically to not bother with the “negativity” of a presidential campaign, and that she should just rest on Bill’s laurels and enjoy her new grandchild. That’s pretty much what I said in my comment:
I did not expect the type of replies I ended up getting…
Victim? How does anything about her marriage have any relevance to a potential run for the White House? So, of course, I replied:
And then the response that took me completely by surprise…
I sat back and tried to figure out how my defense of Hillary Clinton’s choice to stay with her philandering husband equated with me being stupid or a Republican. Then I asked my fellow MOMocrats if my position – refusing to judge anyone else’s marriage – was too radical even among my fellow liberals. (Which is what it seems, if I’m being called a “typically stupid Republican” as an insult.) And then they encouraged me to write this post. What anyone else chooses to do in his or her marriage – so it’s not abusive – is none of my business, nor anyone else’s. I think it’s ridiculous that so many politicians end up resigning over affairs they had – that business is between them and their spouses – although I can’t help the smug satisfaction I feel when it ends up being some conservative who runs on a “family values” platform.
I don’t care who my elected officials are sleeping with, as long as they aren’t spilling state secrets during pillow talk or using taxpayer money to hire prostitutes. (I’m looking at you, Eliot Spitzer.) A person’s relationship with his or her spouse is not a reflection of their effectiveness as a politician. There are some pretty sleazy people who have done some really great things for our country. Just look at Bill Clinton and what he did for our economy, despite his sexual indiscretions. (Monica Lewinsky actually just spoke out about their affair.) He never should have been impeached because he never should have been asked to testify about his affair(s) under oath. Yeah, it was poor judgment to carry on with his intern in the Oval Office, but the man had a successful presidency. And how dare anyone try to judge Hillary Clinton for what she did or did not do when Bill’s affairs were brought under public scrutiny? She would have been criticized if she’d left him, just as she’s been criticized for staying with him. There is no right thing to do when your spouse cheats on you. As I commented on Politico, Hillary and Bill may have had some sort of arrangement that allowed for sexual relations with other people. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe she cried angry tears of hurt and betrayal behind closed doors. Maybe it didn’t bother her at all because they weren’t sleeping together anymore anyways. Or because she’d rather live with him, dalliances or not, than live without him. Or because she wasn’t threatened by him having sex with other women because their relationship was built on more than something as pedestrian as sexual monogamy. I don’t know if any of the above statements apply, and I don’t really care. Hillary’s value as a potential presidential candidate has absolutely nothing to do with her relationship with her husband or her impending grandmotherhood. It’s demeaning that she – or any female politician – is judged primarily for her roles as wife and mother instead of on her merits in office. But while we’re at it, let’s stop demeaning any woman – or man – for how they respond to marital infidelity. I’m even willing to reserve judgment for the cheating spouse. Quite honestly, we don’t know why anyone does anything. As one of my fellow MOMocrats, Donna Schwartz Mills, said:
Stuff happens. Marriage is hard. Relationships are complicated. Clinton’s dalliances should not have led to impeachment and HRC’s marital status has no bearing on her qualifications to lead. If you want to judge her, look at her positions and policy record. The rest is irrelevant.
Another MOMocrat, who didn’t want to be mentioned by name, added:
I have two friends who reconciled with their husbands after an affair. The hardest thing for them was the judgment from their other friends. My opinion after hearing about their experience: it is THEIR marriage and not my business. When I was younger (back in the ’90s), I will admit that I judged Hillary for staying. But I’m a mother now, and I can understand that the issue was complicated. They had a child and years of love between them. Who are we to judge their marriage or to assume it was a business relationship?
Indeed. Who are we?
It’s funny, because as I was composing this post, Huffington Post touted Is It Time To Change Our Views Of Adultery and Marriage? in my Facebook feed. They made a lot of my arguments for me. My favorite part was this paragraph:
Since marriage has evolved so much over the ages, and different cultures have different views of it even today, perhaps it’s time for the age-old institution to evolve yet again. Maybe the tenets of a successful marriage should not be whether the couple stays monogamous for decades, but rather whether the couple openly communicates about what their unique marriage will look like, what will be deemed acceptable and what will not, and then honoring that joint decision.
And why not? Is it better for people to get divorced every time a spouse gives in to whatever weakness – or dare I say need? – leads them to go astray? Or should we be focusing on building the type of relationship that can endure even feelings of hurt and betrayal? Almost anything you’re supposed to get out of an “ideal” marriage partner – love, compassion, support, shared interests and activities, friend, partner – are things that are socially acceptable to seek from other people, like friends, family, and coworkers. Why is sex the sticking point? Why is it that we say that we’re so hurt by this behavior because we don’t want to lose our partners that we force the very split we fear by filing for divorce? I’m not judging anyone who goes that route, because they have their own reasons, but personally, if I were ever faced with that situation, I’d rather work through the hurt to repair the relationship – hurt for just a little while – than to punish myself by losing the husband I care so much about forever. Again, that’s just me, but that’s the lens I view the world through. And that’s why I won’t fault anyone for sticking by their spouse in the face of any sort of emotional betrayal – which isn’t always sexual in nature.
Especially among us Democrats, can we try to evolve to a place where we stop judging people through our own narrow ideas of what a marriage should and should not look like? How a husband or a wife is “supposed” to behave? And can we stop trying to make everyone’s success or failure at their personal lives translate into how we perceive their worth in whatever job that they do?