Why do wives remain loyal?

Sep 04, 2011, 03:07 IST | Yasmin Alibhai-Brown The Independent / The Interview People

Anne Sinclair was born into a prosperous family and went on to become a star TV interviewer in France, widely admired for her considerable intellect and also her beauty

Anne Sinclair was born into a prosperous family and went on to become a star TV interviewer in France, widely admired for her considerable intellect and also her beauty.
But she wasn't a global celebrity. Now she is, big time, and not in a good way: the subject of newspaper profiles and unending media speculation about her emotions, motives and behaviour.

Despite being one of Britain's most-loved, most-successful celebrities, Cheryl Cole stuck by footballer husband Ashley Cole's side in the face of multiple allegations of him cheating on her with a hairdresser named Aimee Walton and model Brooke Healy, in addition to five others, at various points during their four year-long marriage. Although she patched up with him at the time, Cheryl finally divorced him in 2010, only to reconcile for a brief period after she recovered from malaria and was axed from the US version of of reality TV show, X Factor, before finally moving on a few months ago

The spotlight is on her because she has unwaveringly supported her husband, the ex-head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), who was accused by a chambermaid in Manhattan of sexual assault in his hotel bedroom.
The charges have now been dismissed, but in France he has been described as a "rutting chimpanzee" by a woman who has accused him of attempted rape.

The story is, for some, a latter-day Thomas Hardy tragedy of a gifted man undermined by his own flawed nature. Others see him as an unsavoury character exemplifying sexism in France.

But all sides are intrigued by his wife, neither a doormat, nor a dependent quite the opposite: without her money and ambitions DSK would not have climbed to the top of the political and economic establishments.

Why do wives stick with treacherous spouses? More enigmatically, what makes betrayed women, who themselves are professional winners, hang in there, wearing humiliation as if it is a designer dress? Maybe the wives of horny footballers stay because the lifestyle is worth it.

But that can't explain why Hillary Clinton is still with Bill, or why the remarkable reformer Eleanor Roosevelt never parted from her husband Franklin, who had many affairs and mistresses, or Maria Shriver, a best-selling author and award-winning journalist, who chose to marry Arnold Schwarzenegger and defended him when his many infidelities were revealed. (Though this year she finally filed for divorce.)

Boris Johnson's wife Marina is a respected lawyer who has not walked away from the Mayor in spite of his exploits. I know another top barrister, a self-made millionairess, an actress and at least two female journalists who all are still with husbands who have betrayed them often with au pairs or nannies. What's that about?

It's a question I frequently ask myself, having been in a similar position many years ago. I let my first husband occasionally play around to "get it out of his system".

It was incredibly painful and degrading. Twice I tried to hurt him back in kind. Utterly stupid. I try to understand myself as I was then. Some of it must have been stubbornness and an inability to admit failure or bad judgement. Then there was that instinct of a woman to try to preserve her family.
He persuaded me that whatever little treats he gave himself, I was the real thing, his best friend, intellectual partner, wife and mother. A part of me must have believed that was a huge compliment.

Playing in my head was also an idea of men as frail creatures unable to help themselves. And then there was love, deep everlasting love, I thought, that would survive the storms and come out again like the sun. He left me in the end. None of this was about masochism or an inability to survive on my own. It was extreme idealism.
I have often been savagely critical of wives who don't throw out their adulterous husbands, maybe because I can't forgive myself.

But now I do see that some such wives find strength and dignity in their marriage vows. Though their gods be false, they, like Anne Sinclair, are pure devotees in the temple of love. They deserve our respect, not scorn.

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