What’s our double standard this time? Multiple marriages: okay for men, something for women to be ashamed of.
WHEN Judith Giuliani recently revealed that she had been married not twice but three times, her disclosure caused a stir. In all the public accounts about her relationship with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, why had it never come out that she had an earlier, four-year marriage before she wed Bruce Nathan, long assumed to be her first husband?
Asked in an interview with Barbara Walters on “20/20” that was broadcast Friday whether she had deliberately hidden the first marriage “because it might look bad that you had now three husbands,” Mrs. Giuliani said Mr. Giuliani, now a Republican presidential candidate, always knew. But she acknowledged that his run for national office required her to go public.
“And when I was asked, we discussed it,” she said. “That was my decision.”
Note that this is the third marriage for each of them. Yet only Judith felt it necessary to downplay that fact. And only Judith was being asked whether it “might look bad” that she had been thrice-married. The concern was that conservative voters would not accept a thrice-married First Lady, not that they would not accept a thrice-married President.
A more relevant question would be the role that Judith played in the very public and very ugly breakup of Rudy’s second marriage, in which Rudy let his wife (the mother of his children) know he was leaving her by squiring Judith in front of reporters and making a statement to the press. On Mother’s Day.
But it’s fascinating that Judith wouldn’t have told anyone about her first marriage had the issue not been forced by Rudy’s presidential ambitions. And she’s not the only woman who feels necessary to downplay the number of marriages she has had even as divorce and remarriage becomes more common:
Although third unions are losing shock value, some of the multiple married say they are still fearful of negative attitudes. You can always blame the first divorce on the ex, some experts noted, but by the second and third breakup it gets harder to point fingers.
“Something must be wrong with you,” Constance Ahrons, a family therapist in San Diego who researches and writes books on divorce and remarriage, said of an attitude still seen today. “We haven’t gotten over that for second and third marriages.”
For her third wedding, Donna Leeds surrounded herself with 100 friends, relatives and clients and had the big celebration she had missed out on in her first two marriages.
The third time was not the charm, however, and six years later Ms. Leeds ended up divorced, again. “I stayed with him for six years because I was embarrassed of having been married three times and not making it work,” she said.
That’s very telling. Women are expected to carry the emotional burden of a marriage, and if it doesn’t work out, there’s a suspicion that she failed at making it work. Even when the marriage breaks up due to the husband’s infidelity, blame is often cast on the wife — I mean, how many times have you heard some guy explaining away his indiscretions by referencing his wife’s coldness, or nagging, or unwillingness to give him head, or what have you?
One marriage breaking up can be blamed on bad luck, but absent being widowed, when a woman goes through multiple husbands, a lot of people feel that there’s something about her that’s not quite right in terms of her womanhood — that the failure of the marriages means that she’s not doing the kinds of things a woman should be doing to keep a marriage together. Like looking pretty or being nice or being loving or what have you.
That’s not to say, of course, that men who are married three times or more aren’t looked at funny. It’s just that the focus tends to be on what they actually *did* to contribute to the end of the marriages, rather than what they *didn’t* do, or what they *should have* done. So when, say, a Rudy Giuliani leaves his second wife for his mistress and lets her know via press conference, or Newt Gingrich leaves his second wife for his mistress and lets her know via divorce papers served to the hospital room where she was recovering from cancer, the focus is on their actions. Whereas their second wives are left wondering if things would have been different if only they’d been younger, or more attractive, or flattered them more.
And even when a woman doesn’t have a history of divorce in her own past, she can be affected by a partner’s previous divorces:
Part of her shame was the double standard she said divorced women have experienced. In fact, some divorce lawyers said third wives have fared worse than first wives in divorce settlements in the past, especially if the woman herself has had previous marriages, because it was assumed that a third marriage was worth less than the first.
“It’s O.K. if the man goes out and gets married three or four times,” Ms. Kendrick said. “For the woman, it almost makes her look like she’s sleeping around.”
Wasn’t that something that the oxytocin people say about multiple marriages (not to mention serial monogamy)? That it’s just the same as sleeping around? It’s all part of the idea that women get used up a little more with each man they have a relationship with? It’s definitely an exception to the usual idea that marriage confers some kind of magical protection against the depletion of the pussy. I guess it doesn’t count, though, unless the pussy is delivered to one’s husband hermetically sealed. Once some other man’s been in there, the magic is gone.