Guest poster Emily lives in the South with her husband and two children. She writes under a pseudonym because she loves to vent but is deathly afraid of offending people. Someday she will write the great American novel and hopefully have the guts to use her own name.
No one likes being lied to. Or so they say, but do we (I’m talking about women here) ever encourage it, or at least prefer it to the alternative?
I used to watch the first ladies of public scandal with a mixture of awe and pity. Hilary Clinton (I know it’s been 10 years, but some memories don’t fade with time) stood stoically beside her husband, and described the whole Lewinsky thing as a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” Hmmm.
More recently, Vanessa Bryant insisted her husband Kobe was innocent of the rape charges against him—because the sex (that wasn’t with her) was consensual. She was wearing a shiny new $4 million, 8-carat purple diamond ring at the time. Hmmm, again.
And last but not least, as a Floridian, this year I saw congressman Tim Mahoney’s wife stand beside him with a serene look frozen on her face, as he confessed to “numerous” affairs over many years with women he has worked with. She was mesmerizing, seemingly void of any emotion. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wanted to grab her and hug her, and maybe check for a pulse.
What fascinates me about these women, is not the choice they have each made to stand by their man. For that, I have great respect. It speaks to their ability to forgive, their dedication to marriage and family, and loyalty even when it isn’t deserved. I have no idea what I would do if, heaven forbid, I was in a similar situation.
No, what interests me is how they let themselves be lied to. Did they know? Did they suspect or were they completely blindsided? Were there signs? Did they ignore them? Or were they silent because they were afraid of what they might lose if they actually “knew” what their husbands were up to, like marriages, children, lifestyle, security and social standing—essentially everything?
I would like to think that I could never be so completely fooled. But exactly two years ago, I learned something horrible about somebody I loved. Not make-the-front-page horrible, but definitely shake-the-family-foundation horrible. (I apologize for being vague, but my Mom taught me not to air dirty laundry in public. That, and I think the internet is a lot less anonymous than most people assume—but my paranoia is another topic for another post.) Anyway, I was devastated when I learned the truth, but the more I thought about it, I realized that there was some small part of me that was saying, “Yes, that makes sense.”
I didn’t know. I would never even have guessed. But maybe I had chosen that ignorance, chosen not to question and to avoid situations where I might have learned more. I began to recall things that pointed towards the truth, even impressions that I had pushed down and forgotten about. Why had I done that? I’m still not sure.
I was not as close to the explosion as some of my family members were, so I could distance myself from any knowledge of it. But there was damage done to loved ones that I would do anything to reverse. I often think that if I had been strong enough to push myself towards the truth rather than backing away from it, I could have done something to protect them. For that, I think I will always feel guilt, rational or not.
My level of denial was only a fraction of what some women practice, but it gave me a new understanding. Not of why. That seems obvious enough. But of how. It also gave me a glimpse of what it feels like to have to put down that armor of self-deception and look at reality.
I have a friend whose husband seems clearly gay. I have no actual knowledge of his preferences, just some pretty strong impressions, and no reason at all to believe he is unfaithful to his wife. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it is something that she knows about and something they deal with openly together. But if I’m not wrong or if it’s not something she knows about, I wonder how taxing it is to ignore all the clues to protect her heart and her family and her dream of eternal happiness? I have no idea, but my own experience has given me an understanding heart if she ever needs me.
I keep thinking about Eve and the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Knowledge brought about pain and separation, even from the beginning. But since the Fall we have been instructed to seek truth and discernment is a gift of the Holy Ghost that we have been instructed to use. I don’t mean to suggest in any way that women who ignore or remain innocent of the sins of others are at fault—I’m just curious as to whether those are lost opportunities. Growth can be brutally painful, but isn’t it, after all, why we’re here?
Now I see those women in the media differently. Experience has made me compassionate where before I felt pity. That experience has also taught me that there are dangers to denial that reach beyond our own hearts. Thinking about the vulnerability of the people I love gives me resolve to be stronger if I have to face ugly truth again.