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Eliot Spitzer's Morality Lessons for Sandwiched Boomers

Mar 24, 2008
The media spotlight the past few days has been on Eliot Spitzer, the Governor of New York, and his link to the Emperor's Club VIP prostitution ring. Whether his damaging behavior is related to an inflated sense of entitlement, the dark side of his self righteous attitude, a feeling that he's above the law, or high testosterone, seeing the anguished look on Silda Spitzer's face and knowing that he has 3 teenage daughters makes you wonder.

It now clearly looks as if crime buster Spitzer has fallen on his own sword. And buying high-priced sexual services has created a heartbreaking tragedy for his family. Although he raised the ethical bar in New York, he forgot to hold himself to this higher standard. By ignoring what may be the consequences of his acts, and the people he would hurt, he raises questions about his basic character as well as his moral development. Now that he has officially resigned, he has a very big job ahead - looking deep inside himself.

This scene - personal pain on display for all to see - has played out many times before in the political arena. There's a variety of ways to look at what motivates the betrayed wife, disgraced and humiliated, standing by her man. It could be a psychological defense mechanism, manifested as denial, shock or an out-of-body fugue state. Perhaps it's a combination of what she always does, a function of her identity derived from her husband's status or an effort in support of her own aspirations. It may even be plain love, a long history together, concern for the children and a desire to keep the family together. Whatever the case, it takes a lot of courage and the road to healing the wounds is long and hard.

The potential outcome of espousing a rigid morality and then living a life of reckless abandon is unpredictable, but it certainly can destabilize relationships and ruin lives. Spitzer is an extreme example of the disruption of equilibrium that can occur in long-term marriages.

As Sandwiched Boomers, your relationship issues may not be as dramatic, but classic - an empty nest, responsibilities for aging parents, your own health concerns, boomerang kids who can't live on their own, a career move or retirement. Understanding and working through the impact of these changes is important to the well being of your family in flux. As you read the examples below, do you recognize any of these transitions in your own marriage? Look carefully at the emotions that surface when you step into uncomfortable - or even chosen - new roles and give up the ones that have defined you in the past.

If either of you has made bad choices, such as being unfaithful or making independent decisions about joint finances, the emotional damage can endanger the future of the relationship. When trust is broken, there is a buildup of frustration, anger or disappointment, even despair as you make efforts to adapt to the new reality.

Time itself can erode your marriage if quality time together has been put on hold while raising your family. Now, without the buffer of children at home, it may be apparent how much you've changed and how far apart you've grown. What would it take to, instead, begin to anticipate getting to know each other again and creating a more satisfying future together?

Are you experiencing angst about your relationship or actively searching for some deeper meaning in your life situation? As you redefine your self and your partnership, it can lead to your gradually feeling more powerful. By accepting the person you are becoming, you will be able to go from being afraid of your future to feeling excited about what's ahead.

Perspective is valuable, whether you're hit in the face with a crisis, adjusting to changes in your identity or making a slow transition into the next chapter of your life. Expect a cascade of feelings - anxiety, the desire to hold on, resentment, sadness, fear, even a sense of freedom. The emotional roller coaster ride is normal. If you have the fortitude to step back, take a deep breath and face the situation squarely, you can't help but grow from the challenges.

(C) Her Mentor Center, 2008
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are founders of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers and family relationships. They offer free newsletter Stepping Stones.
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