Politics & Government

August 18, 2009

Sanford is having midlife crisis, first lady says

First lady Jenny Sanford says her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, is in the midst of a midlife crisis and it is up to him to save their marriage.

First lady Jenny Sanford says her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, is in the midst of a midlife crisis and it is up to him to save their marriage.

While Jenny Sanford has asked the media for privacy and retreated to the family’s beach house on Sullivan’s Island with the couple’s four sons, the first lady appears in this month’s Vogue magazine, on newsstands this week.

An accompanying photo shows Jenny Sanford in a short beach coverup, a straw hat in hand, as she leans in the beach house’s doorway.

“All I can do is forgive,” she told the magazine, circulated nationwide. “Reconciliation is something else, and that is going to be a harder road. I have put my heart and soul into being a good mother and wife. Now I think it’s up to my husband to do the soul-searching to see if he wants to stay married. The ball is in his court.”

Gov. Sanford’s spokesman Ben Fox declined to comment on the article.

In June, Sanford admitted to a year-long affair with an Argentine divorcee, Maria Belen Chapur, whom he secretly met in Buenos Aires, unbeknownst to his staff and lawmakers.

Jenny Sanford likened her husband’s interest in Chapur — who Mark Sanford called his “soul mate” in an interview — to an addiction.

“Over the course of both pastoral and marriage counseling, it became clear to me that he was just obsessed with going to see this woman. I have learned that these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography. They just can’t break away from them,” Jenny Sanford said.

In the weeks since the governor admitted the affair, allegations have surfaced about Sanford’s use of state aircraft for private and political reasons, which is barred by state law. Sanford also has flown on expensive business class tickets on overseas flights. State law requires elected officials to use the most economical mode of transportation on state business.

The Vogue interview does not touch on these subjects. Instead, in it Jenny Sanford and friends talk about her role in the troubled marriage.

The first lady downplays the role that many of the state’s politicos say she once occupied for her husband, serving as his chief strategist, someone who enjoyed the political game.

Politics wasn’t her dream, Jenny Sanford told Vogue. But she agreed to support her husband when he told her of his surprise decision to run for Congress.

“He’s always searching for something else,” Jenny Sanford said, “something bigger.’”

While the first lady said she ended up enjoying campaign work, she also said she worried when rumors began to swirl about her husband being a possible running mate for 2008 Republican president nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Jenny Sanford told Vogue she silently prayed McCain, who ultimately chose then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, would not select her husband.

Jenny Sanford told the magazine she has a theory as to why male politicians don’t understand how affairs hurt their families and careers.

“Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world,” she said. “I saw that from the very beginning. They’ll say they need something, and ten people want to give it to them. It’s an ego boost, and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid.”

Midlife crises are different for women, the first lady told the magazine.

“Mark is worried about what his next job is. He worries about making money, running for office again, his legacy. I know my legacy is my children. I don’t worry about that,” she said.

Long run, Jenny Sanford’s friends are hoping she finds her own soul mate — in her husband or elsewhere.

“For too long, I think, Mark has been dead on the inside,” an unnamed friend of Jenny Sanford told Vogue. “Jenny has just lived with it, doing all the work of bringing up the kids and not complaining. She deserves a soul mate, too. It would be ironic if this Argentinian woman was the person who woke Mark up, but if they were both willing to do the work, Jenny could ultimately benefit from that.”

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