Elin Nordegren and Jenny Sanford are setting a depressingly rare example by actually leaving the powerful philanderers they married. “We're living in a culture saturated with mistresses and interns, sexting and sex addiction, and a parade of stony-faced wives somehow putting up with it all,” complains Sheelah Kolhatkar of New York magazine. Women are forced to decide whether they should support those women’s decisions, or view them as damning signs of dependency.
Most of these women gave up promising careers to back their husband’s ambitions—Silda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards, for example, gave up promising legal careers. Now, they’re not just financially dependent—really, they could clean up in divorce court—they also “suffer from a dependency of purpose,” reasons Kolhatkar. It’s hard “giving up a relationship that serves as a sort of career,” however toxic. Sanford and Nordegren have their own reasons for jumping ship, but their decisions at least burnish “old-fashioned notion of self-reliance.”