Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hot Topic: Rush to Judgment Makes People Feel Sorry for Elizabeth Edwards

After turning on the news today and learning about the "John Edwards Sex Scandal," I felt surprised as I'm sure many did. John Edwards has been an advocate for homelessness and poverty, and he appeared to have a strong family life.

In thinking about the issue further, it occurred to me that we were presuming first that his wife, Elizabeth, did not know about the affair. It also occurred to me that we were presuming that their marriage was perfect and incapable of the betrayal experienced in thousands of other marriages.

Why should it be such a surprise that he had an affair? Did we believe because he is good- looking and speaks with a charming accent that he is a wonderful husband? In terms of Elizabeth, she may very well have learned of the affair a while ago. In fact, she may have been devestated. At the same time, it occurred to me that we should not be so quick to feel sorry for her as if she did not know or did not have any say in the matter.

There are all kinds of marriages (monogamous and otherwise) and all kinds of mistakes people can make over the years in their relationships. I have heard of some husbands or wives allowing dalliances, or of others who have repaired their relationships for the better after an awful transgression. I have also heard of ill husbands or wives who allow their spouses to have an affair outside of the marriage out of love and respect for their spouses' vitality.

I am not suggesting anything about the circumstances of John and Elizabeth Edwards. I am suggesting, however, that we learn about ourselves in our reactions to provocative stories in the news. In this case, I think we can see our own rush to judgment. The reality is that we never really know what goes on behind anyone's closed doors. As a result, we have to be careful in coming to our conclusions.

1 comment:

Christian said...

It was interesting to read your comments. At first, I did exactly what you wrote about. I felt sorry for Elizabeth Edwards. My first thought was, "How can he do that to her, especially when she is so sick with cancer!!!"
Then, after hearing news reports of interviews with Elizabeth Edwards and learning that she had known about the affair for some time, my feelings changed. I still don't approve of what John Edwards did, but I realize that my feeling sorry for her was more about how I would feel in the same situation then it was about her.