Mrs. Eliot Spitzer

Why Would an Educated, Successsful Woman "Stand by Her Man" No Matter What?


Recently we have witnessed a series of high profile political/sexual scandals involving men in high office. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana admitted to using a Washington, DC call girl service while New York Governor Eliot Spitzer patronized a call girl service based in New York City. Earlier, married New Jersey Governor James McGreevy admitted to having a romantic affair with a male staffer.

So many of these scandals have occurred recently that we can almost write the script for the mortified politician's public apology: we expect to see him standing at the podium reading his statement with his wife stolid and supportive by his side.

As we see this scene played out again and again, many of us have begun to wonder why educated, successful women such as these political wives would "stand by their man" and be humiliated twice--once for enduring the private emotional pain of a marriage in serious jeopardy and agaom for having to stand by him literally in public as he explains on television and apologizes--sort of--to the public.

Not too long ago, when women were far more economically dependent on their husbands, women often endured very bad marriages. Divorce was not only a source of social shame, but it was also frequently a ticket to the welfare line or mental institution. Today, with more women in the workplace and more women as heads of households, surely it would seem that a woman with a law degree and a stellar work history would pack her bags, grab the kids and leave.

But economic security, outrage and marital melt-down may not be reasons enough for a smart, educated woman to leave. Privately, there are many explanations for why an independent woman stays in what seems a disastrous marriage. I know nothing about Mrs. Spitzer, but my thirty years experience and current research for my next book, The No-Nonsense Woman's Guide to Love, has helped me understand a lot about other intelligent, professional and capable women who choose to stay with what seems to outsiders the "wrong man."

Why Some Women Remain in Hurtful Relationships

Here are the top reasons that have emerged from my research and practice:

  1. The woman values keeping the family together above almost any catastrophe.
  2. She's been divorced before and wants to do whatever it takes to make this marriage work.
  3. She has serious problems of her own that make being with a bad husband better than being on her own. These problems might include history of serious depression, substance abuse, suicide attempts, history of childhood abuse, crippling anxiety and very low sense of self-worth--despite all her outward accomplishments.
  4. She shoulders too much of the blame for the marital disaster and strives to make it right.
  5. She is older and feels that there are still enough emotional, social and economic benefits to staying.
  6. She and her husband have long agreed--consciously or unconsciously--to remain together but run their lives separately.
  7. Her parents and extended family pressure her in to staying. What? Yes, there are families, especially religious and socially and economically prominent families, who often perceive their daughter's marriage as a social and economic "alliance" where their daughter should "hold her head high" and persevere.

No list can explain every circumstance, but these items may help you understand why many women "stand by their men."

This article first appeared in, the award-winning consumer website of the National Association of Social Workers. Enter and click on my name in the Contributors drop-down bar on the far right on the top to see more of my articles.

*** For Women Only: If you would like to be part of Dr. Wish’s research for her next book on women’s love relationships and get one hour of FREE counseling, go to her website and click in the Research box in the upper right and take the online research survey. Be sure to include you contact information and the word SELFGROWTH so that Dr. Wish can contact you.

Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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