Why do women stay with men accused of affairs or crimes? The Tammy Wynette Syndrome
Listen: The Tammy Wynette Syndrome – Why do women stand by men who cheat or commit crimes?
It was 1968 when country music star Tammy Wynette told women everywhere they need to overlook their husband’s shortcomings and faults if they truly love him.
“Stand by your man and show the world you love him. Keep giving all the love you can. Stand by your man.”
After all, he’s just a man.
Hillary Clinton did it. Holly Petraeus stands by her husband of 38 years after the former General’s affair with Paula Broadwell.
Kari Bales does the same as her husband, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, faces a possible court martial after her husband was accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan.
“This is not him. It’s not him,” the Lake Tapps wife and mother told reporters soon after her husband was arrested in March. Nine months later she’s still with him.
The wife of Danford Grant, the Seattle attorney accused of raping several women at massage businesses, has been in court supporting him.
Hours after Hope Solo’s fiance Jerramy Stevens faced a judge following a domestic assault arrest, she married him.
We see this over, and over again.
“Wives choosing to stand in front of America and say, ‘I’m gonna stick next to him and go through this’ doesn’t mean they’re saying it’s okay,” says Renessa Rios, a Bellevue-based relationship expert.
She says there are three basic reasons for what’s sometimes called “the Tammy Wynette syndrome.”
“Number one is that women are forgiving. We come from a place that we want to make things work out, especially as mothers,” she says.
Women also look at their investment in a relationship.
“We look at the person as a whole, not just the one interaction of cheating or a crime,” says Rios. “Should we pull out, should we not? We really weigh out those pros and cons based on the entire relationship.”
The third reason involves communication. Often after an affair, or crime, the man “all of a sudden” starts to talk to his partner in an emotional, vulnerable way.
“It’s a big turn on for women when her partner communicates,” Rios says.
The wife often feels victorious after a cheating situation too because even after an affair, the husband usually chooses to remain with his spouse.
We see this scenario played out in high-profile cases in the media, but it also happens every day in ordinary lives too.
Choosing to leave can be more than staying in a relationship after an affair or crime allegation.
“If several years of marriage and children are involved, many women will sacrifice her humiliation in order to keep the family together,” Rios says.
Some women are more willing to accept abuse than others, and Rios says the affair General David Petreaus had was “clearly abusive” of his wife Holly.
“Her integrity has been affected, her emotional even her sexual safety have all been compromised,” Rios explains. “Just because she wasn’t hit with a bat or by a punch with his hand, her mind and her heart is all being completely abused and affected right now.”