The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 13, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
The Wives’ Club – Stand-by-Your-Man Psychology
The FBI wiretap which discovered Eliot Spitzer's phone calls to an escort service reveals a familiar syndrome: the arrogance of the alpha male. But the truly remarkable psychological profile is the one displayed by his dazed wife, Silda Spitzer, standing dutifully by his side.
Spitzer employed the same tone he always uses in public when he announced, without acknowledging his actual misdeeds, that "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family." His concern for his wife was belied not only because he didn't mention her name, but by his failure to even glance at her.
As he left the stage, Spitzer shook hands and kissed supporters as though he was at a political rally. But Silda joined him in the glad handing, including a public smooch with her husband for the cameras!
Why do women put up with cheating by their powerful mates, and then assist them in political damage control? Is it in the nature of the deal they made when they married such a man? Or is it something about basic feminine psychology?
We finally are able to offer some insight into the process based on another secretly taped phone conversation. Imagine a phone call between Silda Spitzer and Wendy Vitter, whose husband, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, likewise was found on an escort service client list.
Wendy? This is Silda, Silda Spitzer. I know we haven't spoken before. But there was really no one else I could ask about what to wear at the press conference.
I know exactly what you mean. I anguished over my outfit up there. You want to remind people you are the good wife, but you don't want to look frumpy.
Yes! You can just hear people saying, "Did you see that hag? No wonder he was running around."
I wore a sleek sheath number - it was a little daring, if you know what I mean.
I was thinking of a suit, with a light knit top - and a nice pearl necklace.
You want to get the "What's his problem - look what he has at home" reaction.
Exactly. I mean, what IS his problem?
Oh, you know men. Especially those moral crusaders.
That's the worst part - did you hear how Eliot condemned that prostitution ring he prosecuted in Staten Island?
David was always giving out these pronouncements about how marriage was the most important social institution in human history.
Did you cry? I don't want to look washed out and pathetic up there.
Never in public! I wouldn't give those Democrats the satisfaction - oh, sorry.
I don't know how to bring this up - but how long was it before you, you know? I don't want to deny him too long. I worry that was the reason he. . . .
Don't think that way - they count on that!
Oh, I feel so much better after talking to someone who's survived this ordeal.
Well, there's always someone worse off out there.
Exactly! I mean, think about Larry Craig's wife!
We shall see if Silda Spitzer falls in the group of women who find their marriages to powerful men sufficiently rewarding to overlook - and to assist - their husbands' very public indiscretions. Somehow, this attitude has persisted into an era when women might seem to have been liberated from such obligations.
But we may always wonder what is on the stand-by-their-men wives' minds.