Dear Jenny and Mark Sanford:
I don't know you, but I'm a divorced mother who has also had to deal with infidelity in her marriage. Jenny, I know just how painful it is. Mark, what the hell were you thinking running off to Argentina to be with your mistress while your family, staff, fellow officials and all of South Carolina wondered where the heck you were?
Oh, I get it. Having to deal with your former husband's cheating in such a public way must have been awful, Jenny. And it must be excruciatingly painful that he has not only found happiness with someone else, but that he also happened to have found that happiness with the very woman who was a major player in why your marriage fell apart. I feel for you. I really do.
But to still be dragging him to court five years after you filed for divorce speaks more about you now than him, quite honestly. Your latest motion asking, among other things, that he be banned from having overnight guests of the opposite sex who could be considered a "paramour" while your 16-year-old son is in the house confuses me.
Paramour? Your former husband proposed to Maria Belen Chapur and she accepted -- two years ago! At this point, she's his fiancée and not his mistress. Do you not understand the difference?
Well, she was his fiancée until a few days ago, when Mark suddenly ended his two-year engagement with his professed soul mate (for some odd reason, quite publicly on Facebook).
"No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement. Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what's now happening."
Evidently, even Maria bought into the "paramour" thing. She had been pressuring Mark to set a wedding date because she no longer wanted to "continue in the category of mistress."
Note to Maria: Once a guy proposes and you have a rock on your finger, you are no longer a mistress. Really!
But Mark, while I hate the way you hurt your family and am disappointed in and confused by the way you announced the end of your engagement (Facebook?), surprising even your fiancee, kudos to you for wanting to wait two more years before tying the knot with Maria. It makes sense. Your son will no longer be a minor then, and thus he'll no longer be a legal issue you'll have to tussle over with Jenny.
And just think about how complicated and awful things might have been if you didn't wait. Maria would have moved into your home and taken on the role of stepmom to your youngest, who would no doubt be expected to accept (embrace?) her as such. Well, I have friends who lived with a cheating parent and his or her lover and they can tell you just how painful that was; the anger and resentment lasted decades. Did you really want to put him through that? Being a teenager with angry divorced parents is hard enough.
Another note to Maria: If you're in love, if you're a true soul mate as Mark once called you, if you're committed to each other, two more years is not a long time to wait to tie the knot. Really!
But, back to you, Mark. As poorly as you treated your marriage -- and by extension, your family and most likely your constituents -- thank you for finally putting your youngest kid first. OK, maybe you came to that decision because you're exhausted from fighting Jenny or maybe it's because you have an election coming up (although you're unopposed so it won't be too hard) or some combination thereof. Regardless -- your kid is now coming first. That's huge.
Jenny, too bad you don't get that. These past four years could have been spent learning how to become the best co-parent you could be with Mark, despite your pain and suffering. That's what divorced parents who have kids must do -- co-parent as best they possibly can, even if they can't stand their former spouse, even if they were hurt to their core. Jenny, it's not about the two of you anymore, it's about your teenaged son. He needs his dad as much as he needs you. More than that, he needs both of you to stop fighting and act like the responsible adults you supposedly are. Your older kids need that, too.
Jenny, let go. Please, just let go.
Vicki Larson is the co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, Sept. 28). A version of this article appeared on her blog, OMG Chronicles.