A woman writes in to Dear Prudence because she has a moral dilemma. She wants to know whether she should risk destroying her marriage, her reputation and the life she has built in order to try to bring down a conservative politician who might vote against a woman’s right to choose and who might not be friendly to the environment.
One suspects that this woman is a product of the American university system. Apparently, it taught her mindless zealotry… how to sacrifice your life and your family for the cause.
Here are her words:
Many years ago I had a brief, passion-filled affair with a co-worker. I had no kids (I now have one), and he had two (now has more). There was no fallout as our spouses (the same then as they are now) never found out. We were utterly enamored with each other, but never considered leaving our families due, in a large part, to our diametrically opposed political outlooks. I am incredibly liberal, he staunchly conservative. Were we to have attempted being together in the real world, the amount of strife caused by our differing views would have made the relationship unsustainable. Still, I do occasionally think back on our affair with intense longing. Eventually, he moved several states away, and I had a baby and got on with my life. I have never had another affair—for me it was about him, but I’m not sure if he ever has. We aren’t in contact, though I think of him fondly. He has transitioned into politics as a career, become even more conservative, and is now running for a powerful position. If he is elected, he will be able to enact what I consider to be very negative changes to women’s rights and the environment. I have proof of the affair that would likely derail his campaign—but maybe not, as he’s a charmer. I am now wondering if it’s my civic duty to come forward. I don’t think I could do this anonymously, but I think my husband and I could weather the storm. I also don’t want to hurt his wife or family. But maybe I should take this hit for the greater good, because there are millions of people who could be negatively affected should he win. What should I do?
Happily for all concerned Emily Yoffe thinks like an adult. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the letter writer isn’t thinking at all.
Speaking for all of us, Yoffe responds:
You’re right you can’t out him anonymously. While you hope your marriage would weather this, you actually have no idea how your husband would react. You’d be giving him a terrible shock, then opening your private lives to public ridicule. If he shares your political beliefs, he’ll be thinking that you slept with the enemy solely because the guy was so damn good in bed. Let’s say your confession causes your husband to divorce you. Telling your child you blew up your family so that a bad man wouldn’t vote for abortion restrictions or would allow fracking is likely not going to make you a heroic figure. If your ex-lover doesn’t win because of you, that just leaves an opening for another conservative in the next election. If during your affair he had impregnated you and assisted you in getting you an abortion, then he could kiss this election goodbye. But that didn’t happen, so while his views on reproductive rights may be repellent to you, he’s likely not running on an anti-infidelity platform. If it turns out he’s not a compulsive screw-around, he can say that years ago he made a terrible mistake, deeply regrets it, and all he can do is ask forgiveness of his family and the voters. Even you acknowledge there’s a good chance he’d receive it. Voters might even be sympathetic to a politician who got blindsided over a long-ago dalliance by a lover who simply hated his politics. If you want to do something to make yourself feel better, give the biggest check you can afford to his opponent.