Family Holiday Survival Guide

Poor John Edwards can’t stay out of the daily headlines

May 21, 2009

If it’s not his wife appearing on Oprah to hammer away relentlessly at his magnified marital infidelities with his onetime campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, it’s news about a federal investigation into that taboo relationship and whether improper payments took place while Edwards was running for president in 2006.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., announced she is asking that the White House not replace U.S. Attorney George Holding in North Carolina’s Eastern District until federal investigators complete their probe into the Edwards scandal.

"It is of the utmost importance to me, as well as to the people of North Carolina, that we ensure this process is carried out as transparently and honestly as possible," Hagan said.

While the freshman senator from Greensboro seeks to learn all in an open process, Elizabeth Edwards prefers to tell all in the public square in an ad nauseum attack on her husband that is every bit as much a betrayal of her marriage vows as her bathroom-hiding husband’s extramarital gymnastics.

One strayed for lust, the other for what appears to be revenge of the scorned and increased book sales. You be the judge of whether one motive is on a higher plane than the other when it comes down to those rings on their fingers and those children in the home.

"When someone has an affair, the injured party definitely needs to talk about it. A lot," said Linda Miles of Tallahassee, Fla., an award-winning, mental health expert with more than 30 years’ experience as a psychotherapist, consultant, educator and author. "They feel betrayed. That’s a natural reaction. Perhaps for her this is one way she can feel not so powerless, that she can talk about it and can have a venue for that."

But while Elizabeth Edwards is purging, John Edwards is suffering.

"For him, obviously, it’s psychologically damaging to constantly have this mistake in judgment before you every day, so he’s getting retraumatized every day," Miles said.

And yet, Elizabeth Edwards sighed wistfully in a flight from accountability on "The View," that "If the whole issue would go away, I’d be perfectly happy," never mind that her appearance on the TV show was all about hyping the book’s most salable point, her husband’s unfaithfulness.

"If you’re working on healing your marriage, you need to keep it between the two of you. It’s a private matter and ideally you would like to see her dealing with it with him," Miles said. "When I work with a couple, I really try to help them do that in constructive ways," in private, of resolving rage, betrayal and shock.

"The American public is getting triangled into their marriage," Miles said. "Looking at that from a psychological point of view, when you triangle in other people, it keeps you two from dealing with it."

That’s because Elizabeth Edwards can come out looking "like this perfect person and he’s the bad guy," Miles said. "There is no such thing as a perfect couple. There is no fairy tale, it’s a reality tale. I am sure they have their dark side like all of us, so they never were all good, nor is he all bad. It’s a mix."

As a voyeuristic, reality-show society, we have a sinister streak, too.

"Why do we love to build people up and tear them back down again, because it happens repeatedly," Miles said. "It’s happening with Nancy Pelosi, it probably will start to happen with Obama."

But Miles believes the best thing is for the Edwardses to heal.

"Probably no therapist would want to see this marriage dissolve right now," with a mother suffering from terminal cancer and a father removed from the picture, Miles said. The children "need their dad there, watching him support their mom being so critically ill. They need him more than ever."

Elizabeth Edwards stood by her husband’s side knowing his lie as he ran for the highest office in the land. She should be there now to help him restore his place in the highest calling for a man -- as a husband and father.

Dan E. Way is editor of The Chapel Hill Herald. Call 918-1035 or e-mail