Relationships & Love

John Edwards Is Guilty--Of VIolating Human Decency


To me the most compelling news to surface in John Edwards’ trial for alleged violation of campaign finance laws is the scene described last week of Elizabeth Edwards ripping off her blouse and bra and confronting her husband with evidence of her scarred life (physical and emotional – she had a double mastectomy and was battling a recurrence of her cancer). “You don’t see me anymore,” she cried, as ex-aide Christina Reynolds recounted in the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Having been in the same situation with an unfaithful spouse, I get Elizabeth’s feelings completely. Somehow the woman who was with John Edwards throughout his entire adult life had become invisible, no more than an object to be manipulated and kept out of the way of Edwards’ fantasy life of romance, sex, and power.

How many other wives have felt that way when their long-time husbands not only cheated on them but seemed to have no understanding of the consequences on another human being who was closer to them than anyone but their mother?

Forget accusations that Elizabeth Edwards fussed at her husband, was demanding, or irritable. Nothing she may have said or done during their years together deserved the kind of treatment that dehumanizes another person.

Rick Reynolds, president and founder of Affair Recovery and an expert in infidelity recovery, says that the cheater deceives himself as well as his spouse. “Long before someone betrays their mate,” Reynolds says, “they betray themselves  . . . and become self-deceived seeking only their happiness over their care and concern for another.”

After a partner commits infidelity, he rationalizes his cheating by minimizing the value of his wife.  “Once this happens,” says Reynolds, “the unfaithful spouse no longer sees their mate as a person, but rather as an object to be managed or controlled. Elizabeth Edwards was spot on when she stated, ‘You don’t see me anymore.’ [H]e has to remain blind to her personhood in order to push away his own guilt.”

John Edwards’ affair was never about his not getting enough attention, love, or even sex from his wife; it was about the selfishness and narcissism that allowed him to be blind to common decency of respecting his life partner and mother of his children. If he needed more attention while his wife was battling cancer he should have gone to a therapist, just like his wife went to a doctor to help with her illness.

I believe Edwards will be found guilty of misusing campaign funds because his vision was impaired in the most basic way. It was focused on getting something for himself that he wanted no matter how much it cost – first the thrill of sex with a predatory younger woman, and then the need to cover up his mistakes so he could still pursue his political career. That makes misusing funds at hand the most natural of actions, just like discounting his wife’s needs as she faced the end of her life.

Having been through the deception and betrayal of a husband’s affair not once but twice, I still marvel that my husband simply stopped seeing me as I was, as I had been our entire marriage: his partner. That was painful enough for me, like Elizabeth Edwards, to crumble into a heap when he announced he was in love with “someone more interesting” (who happened to be 18 years younger and wanting to get out of her marriage).

Fortunately, I had a chance to start over, rediscovering who I am and giving myself the attention I had diverted to my ex too many times instead of taking care of me. I hope Elizabeth Edwards’ last days were peaceful, and I’m glad she doesn’t have to relive the agony of hearing about her husband’s behavior in the media. But her daughter Cate Edwards Upton is shouldering quite a burden in supporting her father daily in the courtroom. There may be more times when she needs to excuse herself from testimony that is too painful for a member of the immediate family to hear.

The betrayal of infidelity rips your heart wide open, takes your breath away. Is John Edwards feeling the effects now of his actions on his children? I don’t know, but probably not as much as one might think. If he truly felt the pain he caused for his wife, he would not be able to suit up and show up at court every day. Prison would be a relief.

Judy Kirkwood admired Elizabeth Edwards’ strength and passion.

Judy Kirkwood writes articles for print and web publications – national, regional, and local; is a contributing writer to Simply the Best and Boca Raton Observer magazines in South Florida; and plays on the beach and in the pool year-round. Visit her on Facebook @JudysFlorida and please visit 

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