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Elizabeth Edwards Describes the Trauma of Spouse's Infidelity

John Edwards ran for his party's presidential nomination for the 2004 election and again for 2008. He did not win either nomination, but he was John Kerry's vice presidential running mate for 2004. In 2008, he admitted publicly to having an extramarital affair with a campaign worker. In the book Resilience, his wife, Elizabeth, writes about how her husband's adultery affected her.

When she and John were first married, she had pointedly asked him to be faithful. Her fear of having an unfaithful husband was formed to a large degree by seeing what her mother had experienced. Her mother suspected that her husband had been unfaithful, and though she never confronted him about it, she lived with a nagging, painful uncertainty for many years. Elizabeth learned about this as a teenager when reading her mother's journal, which she found one day in their home. Seeing how even the suspicion of unfaithfulness had tormented her mother's heart stamped Elizabeth's own heart.

Even so, she had great confidence in John's love for her. She had not been a suspicious wife. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, John stood by her during her treatment. In 2006, Elizabeth encouraged him to travel without her when necessary to pursue his political dreams. At this time Elizabeth did not know that soon after beginning the campaign her husband had begun an ongoing adulterous relationship with another woman. Then, on December 30, 2006, almost a year after beginning the ongoing affair, John admitted to his wife of 28 years that he had been unfaithful on one occasion.

Elizabeth writes:

After I cried and screamed, I went to the bathroom and threw up. And the next day John and I spoke. He wasn't coy, but it turned out he wasn't forthright either … . So much has happened that it is sometimes hard for me to gather my feelings from that moment. I felt that the ground underneath me had been pulled away. I wanted him to drop out of the race, protect our family from this woman, from his act … . I was afraid of her … .
I spent months learning to live with [what I thought was] a single incidence of infidelity. And I would like to say that a single incidence is easy to overcome, but it is not. I am who I am. I am imperfect in a million ways, but I always thought I was the kind of woman, the kind of wife to whom a husband would be faithful. I had asked for fidelity, begged for it, really, when we married. I never need flowers or jewelry; I don't care about vacations or a nice car. But I need you to be faithful. Leave me, if you must, but be faithful to me if you are with me.

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