John Edwards cheated on cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth with Rielle Hunter, producing a love child, during Edwards' run for the presidency.  As the melodrama continued, Edwards first denied the affair, then paternity, then that he was continuing to see Hunter.  Finally, after admitting he was the father, and being kicked out by Elizabeth, according to the Enquirer Edwards proposed to Hunter, and she accepted!  Is this love?  Is it desperation?  Is it madness?  Is it addiction?

This post is a response to Love? Or Being In Love? by John R. Buri, Ph.D.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 11, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Readers Quiz - Can this be love?

Edwards and HunterI have been extremely critical of John Edwards' mental health/arrogance in thinking he could skate away from his affair with Rielle Hunter. I have been extremely critical of his hypocrisy around sexuality and his materialism. I have likewise critiqued the bizarre dance Edwards has carried out in public with wife Elizabeth.

I expressed all of these attitudes prior to the publication of a tell-all book by his aide and beard, Andrew Young, which Tina Brown characterized as "a mesmerizing insight not only into the rotten nature of his hero but the corruption of the culture that allowed a man as devoid of authenticity as John Edwards to flourish for so long, even to the point of getting a decent shot at the White House."

The book was the last straw, apparently, as Elizabeth pushed John out of their house and marriage. And just as the Edwards' marriage ended, with John admitting he fathered Hunter's child, the Enquirer announced that Edwards proposed to Hunter, and she accepted. (Edwards denied the Enquirer story - but who are we going to believe?)

How could mistress Rielle Hunter have hung in there so long, after all of the trash talk by Elizabeth (who didn't refer to Hunter by name in a memoir in which she described her as a gold digger and hussy), denial of the relationship by John (who seemed willing to stay married to Elizabeth as long as she would let him), and itinerant existence (she was shuttled off to live with Young and his family)? Is this true love?

Hunter had a harried, footloose existence before running into Edwards and becoming his "videographer." For his part, despite achieving immense success and wealth as a trial lawyer, being elected to the U.S. Senate, and almost becoming Vice President, Edwards seemed susceptible to the fawning admiration Hunter lavished on him.

EdwardsYoung's book portrays Edwards as smug, self-preoccupied, vain, and materialistic. Young reveals Hunter was also high maintenance, requiring his family to wait on her like servants. And, so - made for one another? Lost soul meets big ego? Is this true love? Or is it an addiction?

The questions facing Edwards are whether Hunter's charms will continue to satisfy him - and whether he can settle down into their home by the sea with their young child - as replacements for a national political career and the adoration of the crowds, the voters, the legal clients he represented and the juries he charmed.

The jury is out on that one. If he stays married to Hunter and content with his new family life, would you be willing to call it love?

My jury is out on that one.