(Public's reaction: "If it were me, I'd...")
By Peggy Vaughan
Silda Spitzer stood by the side of her husband, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, as he held two press conferences following the exposure of his sex scandal. The site of her standing there created an outcry from women around the country, declaring that they would never do as she did.
In fact, a decade ago, Silda Spitzer herself made the same kind of statement as she watched the way Hillary Clinton dealt with Bill Clinton's scandal. Silda said: "That would never be me. I'd be gone."
Silda is not the only political wife whose actions differed from her earlier statements. Wendy Vitter, wife of Louisiana Senator David Vitter, said in 2000 (referring to the woman who cut off her husband's penis): "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary." However, when her husband's affairs were exposed, she stood by his side as he faced the cameras.
While it's easy to say what you would or wouldn't do in such situations, whatever you say has little bearing on what you would actually do. Most people, in the abstract, say they "wouldn't put up with it," or that they would "be out of there so fast it would make your head spin."
However, in facing a concrete situation, those earlier threats mean very little. Only when it actually happens do you fully face the realityand only then do you seriously contemplate what to do. In fact, the initial shock of the fact that you are facing it makes it impossible to think clearly or make life-altering decisions that will affect the rest of your lifeand the lives of your children.
So when you hear someone say: "If it happened to me, I'd..."
Rather than reacting emotionally by criticizing or second-guessing the actions of someone in Silda Spitzer's situation, it would be far better to think rationally about all that goes into dealing with this crisis. None of us can ever fully know what leads people to make the decisions they make. And there certainly is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it.
For instance, two people might face very similar situations but make very different decisions about how to deal with them, and in each case it might be the best decision for each of them personallybased on their own personal priorities.
The bottom line is that we should respect and support each woman's personal choice about how she deals with this issueeven when we disagree or fail to understand.
For more of my writing about this particular issue, see: