When I am happy, I write. When I am confused, I write. When I am bothered, I write. This week, I am confused and bothered. So, I write. Perhaps clarity and peace will come once I put my thoughts on paper.
My current state is a result of hearing of a third family in crisis, the latest of which is a former politician running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He is a politician that I have voted for before and planned to vote for in this election. He was predicted to win in one of the most important races, if not the most important race, other than that of the highest office, in the country. A few days ago he admitted to sending sexually explicit texts to a woman who is not his wife. More recently, it has become obvious that there has been more to that relationship than texting. The impact of this news on the election is unclear. The impact of this news on my vote in this election is just as unclear.
This news follows the news of two other families going through the same or similar family crisis. These are not politicians running for office, so the damage isn’t as public, but all are tragic. In one of these, the other woman has surfaced. In the other, no “other” has surfaced yet, but I predict will. My theory is that a man does not leave his financial security, all of a sudden no longer happy in his marriage, unless there is an “other” involved. The same is often also true when women leave their marriage, but I don’t think, to the same degree. Since the purpose of this writing is not to focus on “why” one of the marriage partners decides to leave the marriage, or the differences between men and women making these decisions, I will not continue with the “why” one leaves. My focus is “why” one stays.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must acknowledge that I have personal experience with this subject. I was divorced in 1980 after almost ten years of marriage. The details of that are a private matter, although known to family and close friends.
After being single again for four years, I remarried. Mike and I have been married for thirty-six years. I have lived long enough to know that things can happen in life to shake the foundation of marriage, even after 36 years. But I am not expecting that the foundation shaking will crumble the structure of our marriage. The reason I believe this has something to do with what I think is lacking when most marriages dissolve, especially those in which there is an “other” involved.
One chooses to stay in a marriage due to values and commitment. Not because it is easy to stay. Not even because one is superhuman and thus never tempted. One chooses fidelity when one has a value of fidelity and commitment. Being true to oneself and those whose lives our decisions most affect makes it possible to remain committed, even when, and maybe most especially when, one doesn’t feel like it. Committed people do not base their decisions on feelings. If feelings governed behavior, we would all be obese couch potatoes. When we get off of the couch and take that walk or work out, our commitment has kicked in and overtaken our feelings. When we eat healthy and a reasonable portion, our commitment of health has kicked in and overtaken our feelings of comfort. Commitment is the difference, not feelings.
The most recent news of the inappropriate relationship of the politician and the other woman, more than the situation of the other two families, is why I am confused and bothered. I do not know either of these three families well, and not the politician at all, other than as a voter. While I am saddened by the family disruptions in all three, (and the countless others out there,) I am not really touched personally by them.
The situation involving the politician affects me because it creates a dilemma for me as a voter. I am definitely not a single-issue voter; life is much too complex for that. While I am opposed to infidelity, my concern with infidelity as a voter is not based upon what I think about that on a personal level. Although the personal is political, this is a practical matter to me. What do I now do as a voter given the developments with Cal Cunningham? I cannot make this decision based upon how many other politicians have behaved in this same manner. Not John Kennedy, not Bill Clinton, not John Edwards, not Donald Trump. I am not voting for them. I will be voting for Cal Cunningham, or not.
I now have to decide if Cal Cunningham’s dishonesty in his marriage implies that he will be dishonest in what he has promised the voters. How is he to be trusted with the lives of the electorate if he has been so careless with the lives of his family? How do I know?
There is no way to know. I just have to determine in the best way that I can whether Cal Cunningham’s values represent the commitment he needs to make to those he must serve. My decision cannot be made based upon my personal opinion about his failures. It must be based upon values and commitment. Not my values and commitment, but his.
While I do not yet have peace about this decision, I do have more clarity.