Pain and Grace in Infidelity

South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, was forced to make his affair with an Argentinian woman public after he disappeared for several days. Apparently, it’s not a good idea to tell your staff you are going to the Appalachians and then actually go to Argentina without being reachable. People get concerned and start asking nosy questions.


That’s the tough part about infidelity…the lies pile up, it gets harder and more burdensome to keep everything straight, and the guilt of spending time with one when you are committed to another is difficult. However, that pales in comparison to the brutal level of guilt that one faces when the rawness of a betrayal consumes your spouse. I’ve seen it unfold in front of my eyes—a spouse’s eyes change when s/he hears that the other has been intimate with another person, and it is gruesome to see… And then to watch the spouse who has cheated–to know that you’ve hurt your life partner, the parent of your children, the one who you’ve spent more time with anybody else…to see your partner in this uber-level of extreme pain and KNOW that YOU created that pain…well, that’s hard for me to witness, too.

What I have found interesting about the governor’s infidelity, is not his story, but his wife’s story. Notice Jenny Sanford is not in the video…this was something he got himself into, and she didn’t “stand by her man” during the announcement. She didn’t want to be there, and she wasn’t (likely facing pressure from strategists to do so as others have faced in the past). And she issued this statement:

I would like to start by saying I love my husband and I believe I have put forth every effort possible to be the best wife I can be during our almost 20 years of marriage.

As well, for the last 15 years my husband has been fully engaged in public service to the citizens and taxpayers of this state and I have faithfully supported him in those efforts to the best of my ability. I have been and remain proud of his accomplishments and his service to this state.

I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged.

Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband, Mark, and their potential damage to our children.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions.

When I found out about my husband’s infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage.

We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage.

During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure.

Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.

I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.

Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him.

I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men.

I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.


She’s known about this for some time, and was and is actively working on this relationship with her husband. While we can’t really know what is happening between them, what I honor is that publically she is being very respectful towards herself and acknowledging her own anger, betrayal, and grief, while also avoiding sudden permanent decisions that are too soon to make. I honor that she is willing to look at the years of history they share, the depth of the bond that has been created, and the effect of this on their children, and be open to repairing the relationship. I appreciate that she is able to deal with the reality of the fracture in the marriage, face it, but also allow for forgiveness and redemption, recognizing that this takes time and effort to explore and pursue. They have work to do, hard work, that will ultimately shape their future.

What I’m don’t honor is the news articles that ask us to vote on whether they should stay together or divorce…that is none of the public’s business, nor is it something we could possibly presume to respond to with any level of integrity. The issue of infidelity, their relationship, and all the dynamics involved make this an issue that only 2 people in this world can figure out. I pray that they will be thoughtful, seek to be understanding, experience growth (that will be painful in the moment, I’m sure), and make wise decisions with support of friends, family, and professional therapy as needed.

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