When the worst happens, it helps me to find a view that injects some humor. I got a chance a few weeks back when I told friends I spent a portion of my therapy session that day “crying about Hillary Clinton”. My friend didn’t miss a beat as she responded, “it happens to the best of us”.
To explain, I was around 7 years old when President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was televised. I didn’t completely understand the circumstances but I knew (1) he had lied, (2) he had a young girlfriend who was not his wife, and (3) his wife was a weak woman for not leaving him. I’m not sure how much I heard explicitly versus how much I perceived (I was an incredibly - too much so - observant child) but I remember more of the negative talk in my family being directed towards her. He couldn’t help himself, he’s a powerful man, he didn’t hurt anyone, etc. But how could she stand there and make excuses for him? How sad and pathetic must she have been to allow this treatment?
Fast forward to 2016. I loved Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I liked her slightly smug responses to hostile questions and her “I was the Secretary of State and this buffoon is a reality TV star” attitude at the debates. I saw her as a powerful and accomplished woman who doesn’t suffer fools. Obviously, not everyone shared my view. I was devastated after the election, like much of the country, and moved on into this crazy reality television script we call Trump’s America.
Fast forward again to 2020. My husband has cheated on me for the second time in our marriage and arguably the third time in our relationship. *I say arguably as he has never had a physical relationship but all consisted of lies, manipulation, and emotional relationships outside of ours. I contacted my therapist for an emergency session and she was able to get me in (via Zoom of course - pandemic times!) the day after I found out.
I told her what had happened and she expressed sympathy and asked how I was feeling about everything. I started sobbing and said that I didn’t want to leave him but I was terrified that everyone would think I was weak and stupid. The floodgates opened and I added “I don’t want to end up like Hillary Clinton!” and continued to cry.
As a society, we love to judge women. Men do it. Women do it. We look at a situation we may or may not know a lot about and we judge the women involved with an incredibly harsh eye. Whether you know the intimate details of the Monica Lewinsky case or not, you are not married to Bill Clinton. So you do not know and cannot fairly judge whether she was, and is, right to continue to stand by his side.
I’ve just passed a month since I found out about my husband’s affair. I’m still profoundly hurt and disappointed in him. But I’m also incredibly proud of the work he’s done in 4 weeks and continues to do. I’m excited about the prospect of this new, more conscious, relationship we are building together. And I’m terrified that everyone thinks I’m an idiot. I know “you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks!” but I do. I care what a small group of people who are very important to me think.
For now, I trust myself. I trust my close girlfriends who promise they would tell me if they thought I was making a huge mistake. I trust my mom, who has assured me she does not look at me the same way she looks at Hillary Clinton. I do not yet trust my husband but I’m working on it. Again, I trust myself. And that’s all that really matters.