Why Women Stand by Their Men

Silda Wall Spitzer is the latest wife to stand by her man during a scandal.

March 11, 2008 — -- Silda Wall Spitzer is in good company.

There's Sen. Larry Craig's wife; Suzanne; former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's wife, Dina; and Sen. Hillary Clinton, to name a few.

All are women who have stood by their men, all high-powered politicians accused of straying from home and hearth to pursue relationships with another woman or man.

Monday, Silda Wall Spitzer did the same, standing beside her husband, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, as he apologized for letting down his family and the public after a federal investigation linked him to a ring of high-priced call girls.

It has quickly become the norm, say several political gurus, for politicians' wives to stand by their men in the midst of scandal, presenting a united front publicly as their personal lives crumble behind closed doors.

No Matter What, Women Stand by Their Men

"Most times when this happens to the average woman, they'll leave the relationship," said Gemma Puglisi, a communications expert and associate professor at American University in Washington, D.C. "But with these high-profile cases, everything is at stake -- the job, the prestige -- and so it's almost the norm for the wife to stand there and say, 'Yes, he was wrong, but I forgive him.'"

"If [the couple] has children and they've had a relationship for a long time, then how do you walk away from it if you really care about the person?" said Puglisi. "A lot of women criticized Hillary when she didn't say something, but in the long haul these women feel that it's what's best for the family and them and the husband in the relationship."

The Spitzers have been married for more than 20 years and have three daughters.

Dina Matos McGreevey, who in 2004 stood next to husband and New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey as he announced he was gay and would resign from his post, told ABCNEWS.com that these wives are all "victims" of their husbands.

"Their husbands have advisers and press people, and the wives are left to deal with this on their own," said McGreevey. "For me, it was like an earthquake that hit and my whole life crumbled."

"I compared my situation to death without a corpse," said McGreevey. "[It was] the death of a marriage and a person you knew."

Suzanne Craig is still with her husband, Sen. Larry Craig, despite his pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after he was arrested in an airport men's room.

"It's hard for [the wives of these politicians] to step back from the situation. They've just been hit with a psychological sledgehammer," said Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist and professor at City University of New York. "In a marriage, especially in a long-standing marriage where children are involved, there's a certain attachment that grows and develops from shared experience."

But Renshon isn't so sure that Silda Wall Spitzer's presence next to her husband was all good, suggesting that it may only demonstrate the continued anguish she's forced to endure.

"It's interesting that someone who is so arrogant and who has essentially made a spectacle of himself and his wife would then go the extra mile to require her to be there with him," said Renshon. He said Wall Spitzer looked "shell-shocked" during Monday's news conference. "The whole point of this is to stand by your man, yes, but it was a sad sight."

Will We Ever See an Unfaithful Politician Sans Wife?

So far, the wives of scandal-ridden politicians have been a staple at the press conferences at which the husband apologizes, admits or denies the incriminating allegations. Whether a time will ever come when a wife declines to stand by her husband remains unclear, said Puglisi.

"I don't know when we will see a [wife stand up to her husband]. Right now, the family of the person who is elected plays a huge role," he said.

"I wish we would have seen [her refuse to appear with Spitzer] yesterday," said CUNY's Renshon. "The same kind of people who get themselves into these situations are the same people who don't shrink from using their spouse again. She's being used to shore up damage control."

"My guess is that the pressure to stand up there is fairly intense," said Renshon. "But here, Spitzer's wife doesn't have any political aspirations so it's more about him and helping him that it is about her.

"One would hope that one day a spouse of either sort would say forget it, I'm not doing it," said Renshon. "But we haven't been there yet."

ABC News' Susan Donaldson James contributed to this report.