Edwards: The Politics of Infidelity

I’ve never been a John Edwards fan. Any guy who claims he’s a leftist for poverty activism but spends $400 a month on an unremarkable haircut just strikes me as being strangely out of touch with the very people he claims to be fighting for.

But, then again, I pay $15 for my haircut, so what do I know?

Haircuts aside, the guy’s in hot water and I feel for him and his wife. It’s come out now that he fucked up and had an affair in ’06. Is it the only one? No way to know for certain. Does it matter? Not sure it does. Is it really a scandal of this proportion? Really?

I mean, there are sex scandals and there are sex scandals. The Walter Mosley “Nazi” BDSM video, that’s a scandal. Governor Spitzer blowing thousands and thousands of dollars on hookers while married and in office, that’s a scandal.

A guy cheats on his wife? Scandalous, but not a scandal. It’s not worth much ink, as they say. Infidelity sucks, but it happens.

I don’t really see who gains from this story coming out, or how it should reflect on his ability to govern, or why we need to know or care.

As far as I’m concerned, there are three kinds of cheaters.

  • There’s the Accidental Cheater: The kind of partner who’s really invested in the relationship and has always been faithful, but who had a weak moment at a weak time where the chemistry and intensity was pretty insurmountable, and instead of being perfect, had the misfortune of being human and fucking up, in more ways than one.
  • There’s the Situational Cheater: The partner who had every intention of staying faithful and being “there” in the partnership, but with a lack of sex and poor communication and isolation developing and maintaining within the relationship, decides to seek companionship elsewhere to get what they “need” emotionally and physically.
  • There’s the Compulsive Cheater: The Compulsive would cheat no matter how good a relationship is and smacks of the sex-addicted type. This is kind of person who wants to sleep around but isn’t honest enough about it to be in a polyamorous situation, sometimes because they think they deserve sexual variety but don’t want their lover to have it.

Then there are the people who don’t believe in cheating. And I’m one.

I think it’s a shitty fucking thing to do to someone. When I found out I’d been used as an “other woman” once many years ago, when the guy lied about not being in a relationship with an old friend of mine just to get me in bed with him, I actually told my friend about his infidelity. I’m just that way. Honest and old-fashioned, that’s me.

Still, I don’t know if I could get through 30 years of marriage without ever having an Accidental Cheating occur. You get that perfect storm of chemistry and sexiness and opportunity and timing and mood, and sex can be a pretty hard thing to turn down. Whew, can it.

Edwards slept with a woman making a documentary film about his campaign. You think she wasn’t fawning over him a little? There’s nothing sexier than someone who worships you a little but has brains and a life of their own. When someone smart, accomplished, and hot adores you a little but in a liberated and articulate way, it’s really a turn-on. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of that knows what it’s like. Wild. Or maybe she was just empathetic on a tough day. Who knows?

I’m not laying blame on her, though. It takes two. I’m just saying it’s understandable that something might happen in some scenarios, that hormones are a challenge to overcome at times.

But it sure as hell beats getting a blowjob from an intern half your age in the Oval Office and lying under oath about it.

I mean, if the guy came clean long, long before it ever hit the press, and the family knew of it in entirety, and his wife says she was told very soon after it all… is it really our business?

Doesn’t it say more about the guy that he could have the affair, tell his wife, and then work with her to get past it? Doesn’t he get some credit for honesty? How long do you have to be married before you’re allowed to make a mistake you not only own up to, but repent to?

No relationship is without its flaws, and no person is without errors. We all make mistakes in a life that’s dictated by in-the-moment impulse decisions.

I may be very much opposed to cheating in all its forms, but that doesn’t mean I could never forgive a man for making that mistake. And it doesn’t mean I think I’ll never be above being human and making that kind of mistake, either. I’m a passionate person. I’m moral, honest, and loyal, but I’m also passionate and impulsive. I fear the latter two qualities might one day overwhelm my virtue, and I too could fall guilty of such a mistake.

If, however, I ever do fuck up like Edwards did, I would hope my lover could see more than just the mistake, and instead of just latching onto their anger and the sense of betrayal, they could take me at my word for my regret and self-disdain. I would hope for a chance at redemption. I would hope for the chance to prove my remorse and reestablish trust.

Edwards was lucky and got just that. Who are we to judge him more harshly than his lover and partner of 30 years? It’s their relationship. If they’ve made their peace and they’re working together to overcome it, then who the fuck is the media to second-guess it, and why do we care?