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May 11th, 2009
06:34 PM ET

Elizabeth Edwards: How I survived John's affair

Elizabeth Edwards
For Time

John was gone a lot in 2003 and 2004 running for office, and although I saw him all the time in 2005 when I was getting treatment for breast cancer, I knew I would see him less in 2006. I even participated in his being gone.

I thought he should do a spring-break trip for college students in New Orleans to help with the Hurricane Katrina cleanup. His antipoverty work would take him across the country, and I knew that. When he told me that the political action committee was going to have behind-the-scenes videos made of some of these efforts, it didn't seem like that bad an idea, and it certainly didn't occur to me to ask about who was making them.

It didn't occur to me that at a fancy hotel in New York, where he sat with a potential donor to his antipoverty work, he would be targeted by a woman who would confirm that the man at the table was John Edwards and then would wait for him outside the hotel hours later when he returned from a dinner, wait with the come-on line "You are so hot" and an idea that she should travel with him and make videos. And if you had asked me to wager that house we were building on whether my husband of then 28 years would have responded to a come-on line like that, I would have said no.

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soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Charlotte D

    I feel so bad for Elizabeth Edwards. However, when I heard about the affair and that she knew, I was furious that Edwards had stayed in the race for the Presidency. If he had come closer to getting the nomination and then this scandal had blown up in the Democrats' faces, Sarah Palin would now be a heart beat away from the Presidency. How dare this power couple put their personal aspirations for power ahead of their patriotic duty to our country. I guess the shot of Edwards preening in front of the mirror admiring his $300 haircut was closer to the truth than we wanted to admit at the time.

    May 12, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  2. illiaj

    A year ago my husband of 20 years left me for a younger woman with whom he'd been having a secret affair for several months. He's only a white collar executive. What's missing in the reporting of these "public" couples is the devastation that infidelity wreaks on the betrayed spouse! Nothing can prepare you for the pain and grief, the emptiness and hopelessness. I can attest to the desperation and desolation that lasts for months and sometimes years. I know two women who are in prison because they were in such pain that they KILLED! (One shot her husband, the other shot the girlfriend.) Is THAT enough proof of the torture?
    One of the representatives from the Center for the Advancement of Women stated that "hundreds of thousands of women know this pain." It's as though the numbers make it acceptable! These betrayed wives suffer their unimaginable pain in silence while their husbands skip through the daisies with their new girlfriends. (Fewer than 7% of affairs result in marriage, and fewer than 3% of those marriages succeed, so it would seem that, for the most part, the devastation is unnecessary in the first place.) But there is no accountability, no responsibiity, required of these affair couples.
    The situation deserves better representation than Elizabeth Edwards (or Hilary Clinton, or Mrs. Spitzer) have given us. Perhaps if more of these wandering husbands knew they were going to be exposed, the number of women suffering for their husbands' indescretions would be reduced.

    May 12, 2009 at 9:54 am |
  3. e. finnegan

    Elizabeth Edwards is an educated woman with genuine class. That 'Hunter' woman has a phoney name and that's probably not all that phoney about her. John Edwards should thank the Lord for his wife and not give the time of day to that skank that lured him to bed.

    May 12, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  4. Elise

    I am a bit more cynical than most. Mrs. Edwards appears to me to just be trying to sell her book. If anyone doubts that, just watch tv, she is everywhere(CNN, Oprah), talking about the affair to sell her book. Sad, but typical. For those strong women who question why on earth she even stays with the creep, lets remember that she has terminal cancer.

    May 12, 2009 at 9:14 am |
  5. elizabeth genaille

    Elizabeth Edwards' book should be called "Vengeance is Mine."
    Of course she's going to stay with him. After all he will rear their children when she's gone. And, that's good.
    But the book assures her that he will NEVER be in the public eye without people being reminded of all of his dirty secrets.

    Elizabeth in Dallas

    May 12, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  6. Michelle

    I do not respect any woman who would allow an unfaithful husband back in her life. The reason the President's wive's stayed may have been the same reasons other wives do; they do not want to start over,- with a LOT LESS. Money has a really strong pull when there is a lot of it around. I think Elizabeth Edwards is just putting a band-aid on her ego.

    May 12, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  7. Nate

    I really feel bad for the Edwards family as a whole. I've been a cheater, and I was cheated on. When I did it, I didn't realize the severity of what I was doing until it was too late. Even after being found out, the full realization of my misdead was slow to give me a full understanding of what kind of pain I had inflicted on so many innocent people. My now ex wife, my children, my partner in this immoral situation, my family members who loved my ex wife, and the friends we both shared, all had to deal with problems that they didn't create, but were forced on them. Liz if you can truely forgive your husband, I'm living proof that we can learn from our mistakes. Some of us learn sooner, and it doesn't take a tragedy to teach us. But if it does take more time, once you do get it, there is no better feeling. I have 7 faithful happy years with my new wife, and I've never been happier in my life. Real love is recession proof. I'm rich because I am no longer morally bankrupt !

    May 12, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  8. julianna... canada

    I for one will go out and by this book of Mrs. Edwards. As a survivor of Breast Cancer, I know what a struggle it is to live life day to day. I have not had all the tragedy that Mrs. Edwards has had in her life. Losing a child, her cancer returning and being life threatening again, this affair that her husband had was something she really didn't need...
    and her feeling bitter towards the other woman.. I can understand her feelings. This woman knew damn well who John Edwards was, knew his wife was dying of cancer... I think her going after him was well calculated... and yes she has alot of fault in this affair...
    As so did Mr. Edwards, I am not siding with him.. he was definitely at fault too.. what's the saying... It takes two to tango!!
    As many women asked .. why would Mrs. Edwards stay with her husband.. I like the answer she gave at one of the talk show... I think of all the good and loving things he did over their marriage.. and because of this one mistake.. she wasn't going to through away all the good that was in their marriage.. and the family that they have..
    I really think this was her book written for her children... to remind them that in life... its not the good days that we learn from... its how you handle the bad things in life... that make you strong..
    I think she is an amazing woman!!!!

    May 12, 2009 at 7:14 am |
  9. Bryon

    I have the highest level possible for Mrs. Edwards for her be open about an affair that was made public. Mrs. Edwards did the right thing by speaking up on how she felt. She has hopefully gained more respect from Mr. Edwards and hopefully he will see this as a true measure of her love for him. Mrs. Edwards showed Godly love in forgiven him and trying her best to move on. Great Job Mrs. Edwards America is proud of you!

    May 12, 2009 at 6:46 am |
  10. Donna in Oklahoma

    I believe before we judge the "whys" of Mrs. Edwards book and speaking on talk shows and all the speculation of how she's handling this affair and all that goes with it we should consider this: Mrs Edwards has terminal cancer. That in itself should say it all but for those who love to get on CNN and listen to themselves talk, I'll spell it out. Nobody will ever know the "why" about the way she is handling all this. And we won't unless we were in her shoes. So, if you have terminal cancer and your husband has had an affair and you're having to deal with it in the public eye, you might know how she feels and maybe, just maybe can understand why she's going on talk shows talking about the book and what's in it. Unless you're in her shoes, keep your pie hole shut and let her deal with it the way she wants to. The last thing most of us out here want to hear is some TV personality giving an opinion on something when he/she has no idea how it feels.

    May 12, 2009 at 6:36 am |
  11. berry brown

    I think mrs edwards be in better health had she not had a cad for a husband and a low life other women. wish there were laws that anyone who causes trouble between a man and husbandv face law suits and possible chance of jail sentencings. maybe mrs edwards illness would not be in this stage of finality. had that other women minded her business.

    May 12, 2009 at 6:01 am |
  12. Rhonda

    In listening to the quips and bytes regarding Elizabeth Edwards' interviews and new book it begs the question as to how one might live out her life knowing she is at the end of her time with the clock ticking on her existence, her legacy and her children's ability to find peace with it when she's gone. It would seem plausible that a person with enough time left might desire to make peace with herself, her life, her regrets, her adversities, her pain, and at the same time attempt to set a forgiving course for her children to carry on in their lives with their father. Very few of us would find the strength to do it privately, let alone publically. This woman should be permitted to stand on what must be shaky ground for any human being with support, grace and respect. Stand in her shoes a while.

    May 12, 2009 at 6:00 am |
  13. Agnes

    I think that Mrs. Edwards is very courageous. I am baffled by all of the interviews. However, her reasons for doing what she's doing should be her own. And...she did put some blame on her husband for the affair and I agree that the woman shares just as much or more of the blame. She knew he was married and had a family and a sick wife. I don't think that she's in denial about the baby I think that she's still very hurt .

    May 12, 2009 at 5:49 am |
  14. Elaine Tomanek

    Elizabeth is trying to survive the only way she knows how. With John Edwards at her side, and not alone. She only has a short time left in this world, and she wants to die with him and her family. She probably still loves him so deeply, that she can't believe he would deliberately betray her, or lie to her. She's painting an unreal picture of him, so she won't have to deal with anyone else in her precious life. When your best friend, your long-time partner says something to you, you believe it until proven otherwise. I really think her story is coming out, to tell other people that there are other ways to deal with a cheating husband. Most people will advise to get rid of him instantly. In her case, with no time left what's the point? Let the public decide his fate.

    May 12, 2009 at 5:44 am |
  15. MLB

    Frankly, the people making comments about Ms. Edwards' book should not be making comments unless they have been or are in the exact same position. They know not what they speak of. They have no right to comment or to analyze her motives in doing this unless they too are dealing with a terminal illness and a husband who has committed adultery in such a public fashion.

    May 12, 2009 at 5:41 am |
  16. Angie

    Mrs. Edwards is a courageous woman. I truly believe her when she said, she wrote the book for her children. Whether she likes it or not her children will know about all the different versions of this story through the internet, magazines, gossip paper, etc. .. Her version or her side of the story is what the children will believe and understand
    her love and forgiveness for their father because they witness it on a daily basis. We the public have no idea what the family went thru and is still going through because of this affair. We should not be quick to judge them.

    May 12, 2009 at 4:11 am |
  17. Lori-anne

    Elizabeth Edwards is the epitome of courage, grace and dignity and if writing her book provides her with any comfort of any kind, no one should find any fault with her. She's already paid a price very few of us will ever pay in one lifetime. There are few Americans I have as much respect and regard for. I say leave her alone. No one has a right to judge her or her motives.

    May 12, 2009 at 3:46 am |
  18. Jaki

    Eventhough I supported John Edwards I thought he was scum for not dropping out of the race knowing that his wife was terminal. Ididn't have an opinion about Elizabeth before seeing the Oprah interview. Now I have so much respect for her because, she has refused to give the other woman, John, the child any power over her. I'm shocked that Tina and others seems to miss the point. This lady has a dead child in the ground, terminal cancer and 2 small children to leave behind hence the name of the book"Resilence" I applaud her for her ability to separate what "John did" from what their life has been for 30years and realizing that what he "DID" , the other woman, the child will in no way diminish her. John's infidelity doesnot define Elizabeth and I applaud her "Resilence"

    May 12, 2009 at 3:32 am |
  19. Pat from Minnesota

    Good for you elizabeth. I applaud your ability to do this YOUR way, and the strong boundaries you are managing to keep. It's unfortunate so many feel compelled to try to control what's none of their business. How wise to refuse letting yourself get pulled into discussing or thinking about people/topics that you don't want to populate your mind .You are right...it would do nothing for you...and you certainly don't owe anything to anyone.
    P.S. I find your refusal to use names liberating and a good example of self-care.

    May 12, 2009 at 3:08 am |
  20. Judy Hunter Oregon

    My husband cheated on me too. I understand how Mrs. Edwards feels.She is hurt,crushed. She thought her husband would be true to her because of their love. Men are like dogs more is better . They have no respect for their wifes, children, no one. Anything they do is just fine.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:52 am |
  21. Bylle

    Nobody knows how they would handle this situation until they are in it. The fact is this is HER story and she has a right to tell it no matter who her husband is. I think it is hypocritical for any woman to judge her and I hope she found great healing in sharing HER story. Whatever consequences Mr. Edwards and the other woman face because of this will become THEIR story and if they want to tell it, I am sure plenty would want to read it. God bless you Mrs. Edwards. You are pure strength.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:50 am |
  22. Dr. Glenn W. Murphy

    AC360,

    Mrs. Edwards did things to her children I would never do to my children.
    My children know that I am a promiscuous man who eventually divorced their mother; but, I would never expose them to details about my affairs. I definitely would not go on national TV to discuss specifics about the behavior of their mother like Elizabeth did about Senator Edwards.

    I question Mr.s Edward's decision to invoke sympathy by discussion of her terminal illness. Like the rest of us, Mrs. Edwards will eventually die. While family and friends might benefit from discussion of Elizabeth's cancer, the rest of the world has no need to know anything about her illness.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:48 am |
  23. AnnieBeGood, Durham, NC

    Ah, betrayal: John and Elizabeth to the people of NC and the nation.
    Both lied and covered up the betrayal bringing their self-serving selves down.
    Now the pathetic 'reveal' from Elizabeth in the form of a book.
    The only ones left standing are 'The Inquirer" who broke and dogged the truth story and Rayille (sp) with 'it' who have been and will continue to be supported and protected by Daddy Edwards. After all, what are trust funds for?????

    May 12, 2009 at 2:43 am |
  24. danielle

    I think Elizabeth Edwards is writing her history for her children *now*,
    as some insurance that others (her husband et al) will not rewrite it.
    If I were at deaths door, I'd probably want my truth to live on.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:42 am |
  25. JILL

    Mrs. Edwards,

    I also sense deception, in that you are in such denial. He was in no way targeted, Mrs. Edwards!! Let Us call a spade a spade and move on. His wrong has been exposed. It's now Mr. Edwards turn and privilage and commitment to turn the wrong into a right. Stop trying to save him. For God's sakes, Step aside, and let go of protecting him. When you do, He will step up, to honor you......

    My Best

    May 12, 2009 at 2:24 am |
  26. Martha

    How dissappointed is to read all these comments attacking Liz. Even Lisa Brown was so naive in saying "do they really need to see this" about Liz reason to write this memories for her children. Lisa, are you this naive? Children are very smart, they know this, and the public, including CNN will make sure they will never forget their dad's infidelity.
    Anderson, you should be talking about women that sleep with married man. Rielle is not the victim. The women that sleep with married man are not victims, more important, John is well know, she knew with who she wanted to have a baby. You should ask Rielle, why she went to bed with a married man, and why she didn't took her pills.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:07 am |
  27. JMM

    We can't judge her, nor him, we can't put ourselves in Elizabeth's shoes–very much in public eye; her years of fidelity, now aware of compounded lies (1 night stand expanded to ongoing affair during her illness) while she's been facing spread of her cancer and these lies in front of whole world.
    Too painful to contemplate her position and insufficient data to understand his. Both are paying a big price. She's is terribly ill, probably has not been the same person she was pre-illness , the illness now progressing despite nasty treatments, and has unfinished business, limited time to take care of it and this is her way of dealing with it.
    A personal choice, probably not one of the many paths most of us would take, and I hope she never regrets it, for the sake of her children, two of whom are too young to understand but who probably will read her book someday (I haven't and probably won't read it) and maybe look at their father, their only remaining parent, in a different way.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:05 am |
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