Alienation of Affection: Jenny

Not By His Side

Dr. Phil meets with the former first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford, who recently divorced Governor Mark Sanford on the grounds of adultery.

"When this first came to your attention, that he was involved with this woman, your position from the beginning was to find a way to heal the problem, to reconcile the marriage, to keep the family intact. Is that true?" Dr. Phil asks.

"That's very true," Jenny says. "I believe in family, and I believe in marriage, and I think children, especially when you have a 20-year marriage, I think children deserve having parents try to work it out if they can."

"Early on, you decided you should be apart for a period of time to give him a chance to get his head together."

"I realized that I needed to do something more than just work to reconcile, and that was the idea behind separating," she says. "The thinking really was that if he could see what he was going to lose, it might wake him up. If family mattered, and I always thought family really mattered to him."

When Mark Sanford announced his affair with the other woman, Maria, after being absent from South Carolina for several days, Jenny did not stand by his side during the press conference, like many political wives do.

[AD]"What was your thought process?" Dr. Phil asks.

"First of all, he never asked me to be next to him. But at the time, he was coming back from Argentina. We had had six months of what was sheer hell for me, and the thought of standing by him when he had just done the unconscionable, it just never entered my mind. It just wasn't even a possibility for me," she says.

Jenny shares her reaction to her husband's press conference.

Jenny wrote the book, Staying True, about her family, career, faith and the scandalous collapse of her marriage. In the book, Jenny talks about how her husband agreed not to see this other woman. "He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I will not see her,' and then he did," she tells Dr. Phil. "I think he thinks he was in love with her."

Dr. Phil plays a clip from a news interview with Mark and reads a portion of an e-mail Mark wrote to the other woman.

"In looking back, what are the warning signs women need to be sensitive to, to watch for? Did you either miss or fail to react to some things early on?" Dr. Phil asks.

"You know, I don't like to look back that way. I like to look back and say, did I do the best I could with the information I had at the time? And I think, at the end of the day, I believed in him, I did the best I could in the marriage, and he didn't really pull his part," she says.

"Do you love him?"

"Yes, I love the Mark Sanford I knew, the one I fell in love with when we married. Can I ever be married to him again? Absolutely not."

Now that they are divorced, Jenny says she and Mark work to co-parent their four sons, ages 17, 16, 14 and 11. "He sees the children more now than he ever, ever has."

"What is his relationship with this woman now?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Frankly, I make a point of not asking. I have no idea. I've not heard that he's with her, and like I said, he's with the boys almost every weekend," she says. "We both made a commitment and a choice that we are going to raise the boys to the best of our ability as politely and as kindly with one another as we can."

[AD]"How would you sum up Staying True?"

"My message would be: marriage is hard, just like life is hard, and when you run into issues like infidelity, it's important and incumbent upon you to be very careful and very prayerful in the way you work toward reconciliation, or in the way you work toward divorce," Jenny says. "The other thing I think is very important in life in general is to make sure that A, you know who you are, and B, surround yourself always with strong relationships with your friends, and with your family, and with your god, because it's those folks who will help you stay connected to who you are."

Cindy Shackelford joins the conversation and the two women meet for the first time.

Dr. Phil asks Jenny if she thinks she'll be able to trust again.

"I can't predict anything, but I think you have to choose to be open to it again. I've chosen to move on, and I've chosen to be happy about it. I loved, and I gave fully in that marriage. There's no reason in the world why I couldn't do it again. I just have to make sure I pick someone who maybe loves me back," she says.

"It's interesting, because both of you talk about the fact that there were characteristics and behaviors that came forth during their infidelity that made them seem like a completely different person," Dr. Phil says. "I think it's trite to call it a midlife crisis. There's something that goes on that's much more complex than that."

"I would've much rather he buy a red corvette or something," Cindy jokes.

"It's like part of the process is you grieve the loss of the person they used to be, not the person they are," Dr. Phil says.

"That's a great way to describe it," Jenny says.

"I would've respected him more if he had just said, ‘I don't love you anymore, and I want a divorce,' instead of hiding it, and denying it, and saying it was alleged, and keeping me going, feeling like we're still married. It's just a really weird position to be in," Cindy says.

"Which was similar to what I went through," Jenny says. "Listening to the press conference, and the stuff he said, I think he might have been respected more if he had come home and said, ‘Well, I fell in love with a lady over here,' but he never said that."

[AD]Dr. Phil encourages the women to feel peace about their lives. "You two know for sure you survived, you're still leading your families, so when you look back and ask, ‘Can I afford to take a risk?' based on results, you can, because you did, and you survived, and it's an inspirational message as well."