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Video: Gov. Sanford’s wife speaks out

TODAY contributor
updated 8/19/2009 10:05:51 AM ET 2009-08-19T14:05:51

Jenny Sanford, the wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, told Vogue magazine that finding out about her husband’s affair with an Argentine woman felt like “punches to the gut.”

Sanford, 47, has remained relatively quiet since her husband’s infidelity became public in June, but in an in-depth interview in the magazine’s latest issue, she pulls no punches of her own about her feelings.

Sanford and her four sons, ranging in age from 10 to 17, have moved out of the governor’s mansion and into the family’s home in Sullivan’s Island. She has been praised for her reaction to the affair, in contrast to other political spouses in similar situations who put on a brave front in public to stand by their men.

Roots of obsession
Sanford told Vogue that male politicians become blinded to how infidelity can poison their personal lives and political careers.

“Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world. I saw that from the very beginning,” said Sanford, who helped run her husband’s Senate and gubernatorial campaigns. “They’ll say they need something, and 10 people want to give it to them. It’s an ego boost, and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid. As a wife, you do your best to keep them grounded, but it’s a real challenge.”

Sanford, who found out about the affair in January, said her husband was “obsessed” with visiting the Argentine divorcee Maria Belen Chapur.

“I have learned that these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography. They just can’t break away from them,” Sanford told Vogue.

Mark Sanford, a conservative Republican who called President Bill Clinton’s philandering “reprehensible,” seemed an unlikely candidate for sexual scandal.

The affair came to light when Sanford, 49, could not be contacted over Father’s Day weekend. Aides initially said he had gone hiking in the Appalachians, but it soon came to light that the governor was in Argentina, visiting the woman he called his “soul mate.”

More humiliating still were the e-mails between Sanford and the woman then known only as “Maria,” in which the governor waxed poetic about his lover’s body and her “magnificently gentle kisses.”

Men and midlife
Despite those embarrassing e-mails, Jenny Sanford remained stoic in public and philosophical in her interview with Vogue.

Image: Friend helps Jenny Sanford moves out of home
Mary Ann Chastain  /  AP
Jenny Sanford (right) and a friend move clothing and boxes from the South Carolina governor’s mansion in Columbia, S.C. Sanford and her sons have moved to the family home on Sullivan's Island.

“I think my husband has got some issues that he needs to work on, about happiness and what happiness means,” she says. “I think when a lot of men get to this midpoint in life, they start asking questions that they probably should have asked a long time ago.”

Sanford said that men going through a midlife crisis react differently than women do. Especially with his political future unclear, Sanford said her husband is questioning his legacy and what comes next in his life.

“I know my legacy is my children, so I don’t worry about that,” Sanford said.

Jenny Sanford has not ruled out the possibility of reconciliation with her husband, but she makes it clear her husband has to decide what he wants.

“If you don’t forgive, you become angry and bitter. I don't want to become that,” she said. “Now I think it’s up to my husband to do the soul-searching to see if he wants to stay married. The ball is in his court.”

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