It’s all ’bout the money, dum dum

A newspaper ran a story yesterday about why high profile spouses stand by their man.

In literary terms, it is a hackneyed trope: the political wife, smiling, demure, standing silently by her embattled man. Taking one for the team and presenting a united front.

However you phrase it, standing by your man in cases of infidelity, rumoured or actual, is a political cliche.

The “faithful wife” has found her way into our pop culture canon. She was dissected in American drama The Good Wife and parodied in comedy show Little Britain.

Colin Craig’s press conference on Monday saw “the good wife” make her most recent public appearance.

As he awkwardly skirted around questions of sexual misconduct in his relationship with former press secretary Rachel MacGregor, wife Helen stood beside him, lending support.

Alternately smiling, pursing her lips and tilting her chin she finally declared she “chose to stand with my husband today in full love and support of him whom I believe to have been falsely accused”.

From Len Brown’s wife Shan Inglis to Victoria Beckham and Hillary Clinton, history is littered with such women. And even as the wife’s loyalty to her spouse and his “brand” provides a potent means of damage control, its authenticity is often questioned.

Although some may ask: “If she has forgiven him, shouldn’t I?” the less charitable will take a more cynical view.

Yeah, like me. Despite the truly regressive nature of cock tax, and the prospect of a large settlement from the wayward spouse it is still nowhere near the level of comfort they are currently extracting from the aforementioned spousal ratbag.

So they stay.

In the US where the loving and supportive wife is wheeled out at will, Debbie Walsh from Rutgers University claims cheating partners who use their wife as backup “have put these women through so much already, it just seems to be a second level of humiliation”.

But Averill Gordon, senior lecturer in public relations at Auckland University of Technology, says a wife’s public support of her husband is likely to be heartfelt.

People advising Craig, and other men either caught in the act or at the centre of allegations, would never encourage wives to front up if they didn’t genuinely support their husband. “It wouldn’t be ethical PR to push someone to do this if they didn’t believe what they were saying,” she says.

Ethics? This is a cheating spouse we are talking about here. Ethics went out the window a long time ago, so they really don’t care about further victimising their spouse some more to save their sorry skin.

But loyalty doesn’t always pay off. According to Steven Dromgool, a relationship counsellor with years of experience in the field of interpersonal conflict, a relationship’s longevity after a betrayal will depend on how both partners handle it.

“The partner who has been cheated on may stay, but they may have a detachment from the person who’s betrayed them. They may leave years after the situation occurred,” he says.

Even in the Craig case where a sexual affair has been denied, Dromgool says that high-level media scrutiny can bring partners together in crisis situations.

“Helen Craig referred to the media at the press conference,” he says.

She stated: “I wanted to say how difficult the last few days have been with these wild and defamatory allegations being thrown around by the media both for ourselves and our wider family.”

This scrutiny creates a shared enemy and the couple faces that adversary together.

I bet she won’t be so forgiving when the sext bombs start dropping.

Other factors will inform whether a partner will decide to remain loyal. “It can play out in two ways,” says Dromgool. “If the person’s security is in the relationship, they are more likely to stay. If their security is derived externally, from friends and family, their opinion will be very important.”

A good external support network offers partners an “out”. But if the partner’s emotional support is primarily within the relationship, it can be harder to sever.

Wives of rich and powerful men inhabit a privileged position in society; some may see their persistence in the face of betrayal as an unwillingness to let go of the perks this offers. Dromgool says that in his experience, this is rarely the case.

“The exception is when there are children involved,” he says. “The wife may decide to stay for X amount of years so the children have security and support.”

It’s the money honey. Cock tax may well be regressive but not as regressive as the change in lifestyle for the woman.

It’s all ’bout the money.


-?Joanna Mathers, a newspaper