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Jenny Sanford: Husband asked for affair advice

In a new memoir, South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford writes about seeing racy e-mails between Gov. Mark Sanford and mistress, and recounts that he sought her advice about his romance and dealing with the media after she found out about the affair.
/ Source: The Associated Press

In a new memoir, South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford writes that Gov. Mark Sanford sought her advice about his romance and how to deal with the media after she discovered his extramarital relationship with an Argentine woman.

Jenny Sanford, who managed political campaigns for her husband during their 20-year marriage, writes in "Staying True" that the governor used her as a sounding board, wondering aloud whether he should follow his heart to Argentina and if he would live a life of regret if he didn't.

"Clearly those are thoughts I wish he had kept to himself," Jenny Sanford writes in the book to be released on Friday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 214-page book, published by Ballantine Books, on Tuesday.

In an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, airing Friday on "20/20, " she says that from the beginning, her marriage was a "leap of faith" because he refused to include a vow of fidelity in their marriage ceremony.

"With the benefit of the knowledge I have about Mark now, I could point to this moment as a clear sign of things to come," she writes. But at the time, she found his honesty "brave and sweet" and thought he just had cold feet.

What ended it all
Jenny Sanford tells Walters that the final blow to the marriage was the publication of racy e-mails between her husband and his Argentine mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, whom Sanford called his "soul mate." The e-mails were published last year by The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

One e-mail from the governor to Chapur read: "I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light — but hey, that would be going into sexual details."

Jenny Sanford said that her children saw the e-mails and were devastated. "It just ripped me up, to see them reading these e-mails, to see them have to grow up so fast," she says.

Mark Sanford, once considered a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate, disappeared for five days last summer.

He returned to reveal at a tearful Statehouse news conference he was not hiking the Appalachian Trail, as he told his staff, but in Argentina seeing his mistress.

The revelations he made then, and during a subsequent interview with the AP, derailed his political career and ultimately unraveled his marriage.

Affairs with multiple womenIn the book, Jenny Sanford, a Georgetown-educated, former Wall Street vice president, traces the story of the Sanfords from the time the couple met in the 1980s to the trying events of the last year. The book includes eight pages of photographs of the Sanfords' wedding and family and of Mark Sanford's political career, which included three terms in Congress and two as governor.

Jenny Sanford discovered the affair in January 2009 after coming across a letter her husband had written to his mistress. She writes in her book she was "gut-punched all over again" when she found out the governor had dalliances with still other women, some of which she learned about from his interview with the AP when he said he had "crossed lines" with a handful of other women.

The book also gives a sense of the rumor mill that exploded in South Carolina in the wake of the governor's admissions. Jenny Sanford writes that, before the AP interview, the governor called her to say "he had more explaining to do" because another woman had suggested to a media outlet she had an affair with him.

She writes her husband told her at the time the relationship was "nothing much" and nothing she needed to know about earlier.

Jenny Sanford wrote her husband had admitted only one affair until that point and now "ever businesslike, he wanted to know what I thought he should reveal in the interview." She does not say what advice, if any, she gave the governor.

"Here he was again asking for my advice instead of first considering how the news might make me feel," she wrote.

It's unclear from the book the identity of that woman. The AP never reported on an extramarital relationship between the governor and any woman other than Chapur.

Sanford's office had no comment on Tuesday.

Governor refused to sign contractJenny Sanford also reveals in the book that following the revelation of the affair, she had her attorney draw up a contract under which she would not reveal the affair if her husband would stop seeing his mistress. She writes that the governor refused.

Jenny Sanford moved out of the Governor's Mansion last summer and now lives with the couple's four sons at the family beach house on Sullivans Island.

She filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery in December and a final hearing is scheduled for later this month.

The outside dust jacket of the book makes no mention of the affair, or even that the author is the first lady of South Carolina.

The cover has just the title and her name and a picture of Sanford sitting on the beach in a rose blouse and blue jeans. The back of the dust jacket contains an excerpt from the book that includes what the author calls the simple truth she has come to learn.

"What matters most is how you live your life, not what you have to show for it," she writes.