In an ironic twist, Jenny Sanford and Lori Gottlieb are hitting the bookstores at the same time. In Marry Him - The Case For Mr. Good Enough, Gottlieb says women should be less picky and settle, and now Sanford will be on the same talk shows discussing the consequences when you do.
Sanford's book is called Staying True, written because her husband wasn't True Blue. Of all her revelations, one sticks out in my mind. Jenny Sanford acknowledged that she was never in love with Mark Sanford when they got married. "It wasn't exactly love at first sight," she said. "It was more like friendship after first sight."
The former investment banker from Lezard Freres calculated that investing in a resume instead of a person would reap rewards. She did get to be the First Lady of South Carolina. But she didn't get to be the First Lady of his heart.
They produced successful campaigns as well as four adorable sons. It wasn't enough. It rarely is when love isn't the driving force in the relationship.
Passion wasn't part of their deal. And became a deal breaker. Even in her book, she says that he couldn't promise that he'd be "faithful." What does that say about the future of a marriage and what does that say about the woman who accepted those terms? It was more a business deal than a love match.
As fate would have it, she got aced out. Mark fell in love with a woman from Argentina named Maria. Maria wasn't a whore d'oeuvre, but someone he admitted to loving. Which is why Jenny wasn't standing by her man on that podium. Jenny was no Hillary Clinton or Silda Spitzer for one reason — Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton didn't fall in love with their trick and treats. The marriage wasn't as threatened.
For some reason, Jenny Sanford became the poster girl for being a gutsy wife. She deserves credit for not wanting to continue the political charade. But I think it takes a lot of guts to also stand by your man and your marriage even though the outside world is urging you to dump the guy.
Some of my girlfriends wished that Silda and Hillary had listened more to Carrie Underwood's song, "Before He Cheats" and cheated their husbands out of having the loyal wife standing by his side to endure public humiliation and scrutiny. But I also know that marriages are complicated and people can also have very bad moments in them and go on to be faithful and loving husbands. (Eighty percent of husbands who have strayed don't do it again).
When I see couples whose marriage has been tossed and turned in the churning waters of every day life and are on the brink of divorce, the one way I can sometimes bring them back to a calmer place is asking them to relive what attracted them together in the first place. As a technique, I try to activate the circuitry deep within that has rusted due to issues ranging from financial peril, infidelity or boredom. (Abuse is always a deal breaker). No matter how long they've been married, reliving the early stages of romance often produces affection and can spark a desire to repair current damage to the relationship.
But if they never were really in love in the first place this is hard to do. It has been my experience that these marriages can't be saved. Heat can be reheated. Convenience is more disposable.
Again, notice how I stress, "in my experience."
Which now brings us to Lori Gottlieb. She is an attractive, smart, accomplished woman who never got married. Her book is hitting a nerve because it gnaws at a fear and reality that not everybody does get married. Her experience is that she didn't find the right guy. By the way, even with her newfound philosophy, she still hasn't found an enduring relationship and obviously her standards have dropped.
I don't blame her for what she wrote as many others have. She is doing inventory on her life and wondering if she had made different choices, would the outcome have been different.
We all wonder that in some form or another. Even when you're married. I married the nice guy instead of another one who was much more successful. But when I walked down that aisle, I knew I was in love and that core affection is what helps us navigate all the bumps and disappointments.
The real issue is that love is still mysterious. I wish Lori found someone. I hope Jenny finds someone. Maybe they still will. There is no formula, no rule book to follow. It's not even about looks as too many women believe. It's not even being on the same wavelength and having the same interests. It's so much more about riding the waves together and being attracted to each other.
There is a big difference though between "accepting" someone's behavior — which most people do since no one really expects perfection — and "settling." That word triggers the feeling of defeat and why Gottlieb's book is stirring such vigorous debates. Yet Sanford and Gottlieb's experiences do serve a purpose in the public forum. Rarely does anyone get everything they want. But your odds are better when you marry for the right reasons.