Before your jaw drops open, read on.
According to Elizabeth Edwards, her husband John met his mistress Rielle Hunter one year before Elizabeth's cancer diagnosis. The couple decided to work through the affair--however John reportedly made a love pledge to Hunter earlier this month, saying, "We'll be together when Elizabeth is gone."
People are fired up over this, calling Edwards heartless--even downright despicable. After all, with not much time left to live, couldn't John have held off on cheating out of respect for his wife? It's no surprise that the public reacted strongly. Here are some message board responses to the scandal:
"He has a beautiful wife who has cancer and doesn't deserve this horrible treatment her husband has bestowed upon her."
"There is no way I would cheat on my husband, even if he is 'in remission.' I am so saddened and disappointed to find out he is just another philandering, shyster politician."
"This particular scumbag cheated on his wife while she is battling cancer. She might have been in remission at the time, but it is still a terrible time in her life."
But some say what about the terrible time his life? No one has denied Edwards was providing emotional and financial support for his wife and children, so does it also mean he can't seek solace and comfort in another person? And if Elizabeth really does have no hope for recovery, is John a monster to begin picking up the pieces and move on if he meets somebody else? Both John and Elizabeth pledged to stay together in sickness and in health, but if Elizabeth knew about the affair in 2006, she and John may have come to a resolution before the public found out.
If that's the case, is moving on before your spouse is gone horrible and heartless, or should we cut Edwards some slack?
"When a person is dealing with the loss of a spouse through divorce or death, many times they start to form a backup plan," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., marriage and family therapist. "It's a common reaction to dealing with the possibility of being alone for the rest of their lives."
"This is a family that has dealt with the death of a child, so it's possible the marriage began unraveling a long time ago," she adds. "What's more, since John has been Elizabeth's sole caretaker--an enormous weight to bear--he may have not been getting his own needs met, maybe even for years. That can take a toll on a marriage.
"What's more, when people hear the word 'affair', it's easy to think of the relationship as sleazy and purely sexual, but John and Rielle could easily be in love," says Greer.
"A marriage in the public eye is very different than a 'normal' marriage," says Greer. "Since politicians and their families are scrutinized and held to much higher standards, than say, a celebrity, many marriages stay intact through problems so their careers wont suffer." (Anyone remember the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton affair?)
"The bottom line is, it's difficult to judge anyone's marriage based on what you read in the papers," says Greer. "There's no doubt John Edwards made a mistake but it's Elizabeth's weight to bear, not the world's."