In her New York Times book review, â€œFacing Scandal, Keeping Faith,â€ Janet Maslin describes Jenny Sanfordâ€™s new book, â€œStaying True.â€
Jenny, wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, notes many typical warning signs of stealthy, manipulative, controlling bullies when she describes her husbandâ€™s behavior in their early marriage arrangements, and during the public unraveling of his attempted cover up of lies to her and the people of the State heâ€™s supposed to represent.
Some of Governor Sanfordâ€™s typical behavioral warning signs of bullies:
- Theyâ€™re more important than you are.Â Their whims, wishes, desires count; your needs donâ€™t.
â€œEven in his young and footloose days, when Mr. Sanford worked in commercial real estate and Jenny Sullivan was the rare female analyst working at Lazard FrÃ¨res in New York, he showed signs of being unusually demandingâ€¦He drew up a facetious prenuptial agreement that laughingly stated the husbandâ€™s right to control the family finances and be the final arbiter in all matters.â€
And, â€œAfter their wedding there were warning bellsâ€¦When Ms. Sanfordâ€™s beloved grandfather died, Mark saw no reason to attend the funeral.Â When she was pregnant with their first son, he got bored after a single Lamaze class and insisted that he needed no instruction.Â As the book colorfully recalls, he said, â€˜Iâ€™ve spent many long nights helping cows give birth and I know what to do when the baby gets stuck.â€™
- Everyone is a pawn in their plans.Â They use you and justify it logically.
â€œMark Sanford had relied on his wife of 20 years for professional and moral support, even if his reasons for recruiting her services were not always the most noble.Â â€˜But youâ€™re free,â€™ he once pointed out, explaining why she should run his first Congressional campaign.Â He wasnâ€™t referring to her uncluttered schedule.â€
By the way, their reasons and justifications tell you what their most important priories are.Â And that your expected role in life is to help them satisfy those priorities.
- Itâ€™s all about them.Â They think they know best about everything.Â Their rules should rule. They should control everything.
Governor Sanfordâ€™s first move after the teary news conference last June, in which he expressed his sincere love for his Argentine girlfriend, was to get on the phone to his wife as soon as the cameras were off, and ask her: â€œHowâ€™d I do?â€
â€œHe even sought her permission to continue his affair, and expected her to empathize with his loneliness, she says. â€˜What he does not see is how morally offensive it is to me even to listen to this.â€™â€
- Their excuses should excuse.Â They lie and when theyâ€™re caught theyâ€™ll justify and argue relentlessly, including splitting hairs like a lawyer and changing the subject.
â€œAmazed by the ego stroking that came with a political career, Ms. Sanford writes, she watched her husband morph into a restless, distant character.Â He stopped bothering to be strict with their four children. He worried about his bald spot. And he spent more and more time away from home, telling what turned out to be flagrant lies about his reasons for travel.Â A trip to New York to talk with publishers about his book on conservative values turned out to be a surreptitious tryst with the Argentine woman.â€
â€œOnce Ms. Sanford figured out what was going on and fought vehemently with her husband, he sided adamantly with his lover. (â€˜She is not a whore!â€™)â€
Jenny Sanfordâ€™s bright and perceptive; she saw the signs of harassment, bullying and abuse.Â She tolerated his behavior.Â She ignored or hoped that he wouldnâ€™t take the path he did.Â Thatâ€™s a choice common to people who end up in Jennyâ€™s situation, whether experienced under the microscope of national television or in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
Of course, bullying women also show these same warning signs and men go along for the ride.
Great people, people on great and consuming missions show these behaviors.Â What you do in response to these signs is your business.Â You may be willing to tolerate bullying in service to the person you love and to the mission.
Itâ€™s really about where you draw the line in the gray area.Â For example, suppose the fame and adulation didnâ€™t go to Governor Sanfordâ€™s head?Â Suppose he stayed in love with Jenny, didnâ€™t get a huge crush for this mistress (or others we donâ€™t know about) and cared more for his children?
Many great people have.Â In that case, Jenny wouldnâ€™t have written that book and we wouldnâ€™t be having this conversation.
But hubris and infatuation have long been recognized as leading to great falls in life.
Resources Cited: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/books/04book.html
Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs â€œHow to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,â€ â€œParenting Bully-Proof Kidsâ€ and â€œEliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.â€ He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.Â To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).