Why she's stays Mrs. Clinton

September 12, 1998|By SUSAN REIMER

"WHY DOES Hillary stay?"

After "Is Bill finished?" that is perhaps the most vexing question about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Why would Hillary stay married to this serial womanizer, who has subjected her to enormous public humiliation while at the same time wrecking their shared dream of a life of good works and social change?

How can she say, as she did when she introduced this man on the eve of the release of a report that would degrade her marriage, "I'm proud to introduce my husband and our president."

Why does Hillary stay? Let me answer that question with another: Why do any of us stay?

I think Hillary has stayed in her less-than-perfect marriage for the same reason any of us stay in a less-than-perfect marriage: It beats the alternative.

I am not being cynical here, but love is not the only reason people marry, and it is not the only reason people stay married.

Sometimes couples stay married because there isn't enough energy, not enough reason, to get unmarried.

Sometimes the good outweighs the bad.

And I think, not for the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton has weighed the good and the bad and decided that the scale continues to tip in favor of preserving her marriage.

Those of us on the outside of this complex relationship may see only the reasons for her to leave. President Clinton's sins are larger than life and they are known to us in excruciating detail. But the benefits to her of this marriage are also larger than life, and so are the consequences of ending it.

Leave him, and she pulls the pins out of what is left of the presidency, a life's mission she has shared and cherished.

Say what you will about her personal power trip, she didn't want to be first lady so she could decorate the White House for Christmas. Hillary has been dedicated to social activism since she was a teen-ager, and the best place to effect change is from the White House.

She has tolerated intrusions and indignities and betrayals of almost mythical proportions -- and not just from her husband. But in return she has had the pulpit, if not the power base, to do what she has believed was right since her days in Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Married women everywhere make the same kind of deal with the devil. It just isn't on so grand -- or public -- a scale.

He can't hammer a nail, but he is great with the kids. He travels 26 weeks a year, but his paycheck lets her hire help. He won't go to parties with her friends, but he praises her in front of his. He cheated, but she loves her kids too much to cast their father out.

Every day women take the measure of their relationships. I'm not sure we are even aware we are doing it, but we are constantly asking ourselves if it is worth it. According to the divorce 'N statistics, 50 percent of us will say "no" one day and we will mean it.

But the rest of us answer "yes" every day. Despite every broken promise, every dirty sock, every careless word, every angry bedtime.

If you asked any of us why we stay with our husbands, we might not be able to give any more than a quick, thoughtless answer. We might say that we've never thought of leaving, but that would be a lie. We have all thought of leaving, if only for a split second.

Only those women such as Hillary, who have endured sexual betrayal known by everyone in the neighborhood, have searched their souls for a reason to stay married, and their reasons do not deserve our casual scrutiny.

Why does Hillary stay? Only Hillary knows the answer. But we have all asked that question of ourselves. That Hillary stays should be the only answer we need.

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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