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Jenny Sanford Offers Forgiveness After Husband's Affair

Aug 17 2009
In her first post-affair interview, Mark Sanford's wife tells 'Vogue' about learning of her husband's infidelity—and offering forgiveness.

You have to dig a bit, but Vogue's feature story on South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford is sprinkled with hints at the importance of her faith. The wife of Mark Sanford left the governor's mansion earlier this month to live in their home on the coast after her husband admitted to having an affair with an Argentine woman.

Unlike other women in high-profile political scandals, Jenny Sanford was praised by many for not standing idly by her husband during press conferences to save him face. She gave her first post-affair interview to Vogue, explaining how startled she was about the affair. "The person I married was centered on a core of morals," she says. "The person who did this is not centered on those morals."

The reporter's first description is a bit odd (the Sanfords have wine on the kitchen counter!), but it sets a scene for the rest of the article.

The Sanfords are conservative Christians, but they're not the teetotaling, proselytizing sort. There are bottles of wine on the kitchen counter. Ayn Rand is on the bookshelf, but so is Gabriel GarcÍa MÁrquez. The Bible sits front and center on the coffee table, alongside Forbes magazine. "You could be friends with her for 20 years, and she would never bring up the religious stuff," says her friend Marjory Wentworth, poet laureate of South Carolina and a self-described liberal who once worked for The Nation.

So we discover that Christians can drink wine and read and be friends with liberals. Moving on.

The author explains that faith was an important part of Sanford's childhood, but only touches on it briefly. "As a girl, she saw her father kneel next to the bed in daily prayer," Rebecca Johnson writes. "Faith also helped the Sullivan children cope with their mother's longtime battle with skin cancer and the debilitating treatments she underwent to fight it."

It was clear from her first statement after the affair that Sanford's children are her focus. "At heart, I am an old-fashioned woman," she says. "If the Lord blessed me with children and family, I knew that would be my calling."

Sanford comes across as hurt when she says that her husband's revelations about "crossed lines with other women" were nothing short of "punches to the gut," but she shows firmness. Sanford said that during pastoral and marriage counseling, her husband was obsessed with seeing the woman. "I have learned that these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography," she explains. "They just can't break away from them."

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