Georgina Chapman left Harvey Weinstein — but here's why other women stand by their men

Beth Greenfield
Senior Editor
Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman. (Photo: Getty Images)

Reports related to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s conduct over the years have come at a fast and furious pace ever since Friday’s initial news bombshell — including, on Tuesday, word that Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, was leaving him.

“My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the 41-year-old Marchesa designer said in her statement to People. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

The announcement, while perhaps expected on some level, was still a bit of a shocker to anyone who has watched how other high-profile infidelity stories have unfolded over the years.

“Georgina’s situation is unique in that she has two small children that she’s likely trying to protect. The storm of activity and new allegations against Weinstein isn’t something that most of us would have an easy time navigating,” Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat on Your Husband (With Your Husband), tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “On top of this, she has a successful fashion label that debuted a new line that she may be trying to protect. I don’t think that’s the main reason; but it could also be a factor in her decision to move out and separate herself from the scandal.” (The Marchesa jewelry line, it was reported on Wednesday, was in fact just dropped by a licensee.)

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin attend a benefit together on May 9, 2016, in New York City. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Syrtash adds, “Every person handles charges of infidelity differently. In some cases, the wives knew of their husband’s indiscretions. In others, they had no idea until the media broke the news. But it should be clear that they are generally victims in this situation.”

When news of now-imprisoned Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal broke in 2011, Huma Abedin at first stuck by him, not announcing their separation until 2016 — within 24 hours of fresh scandal involving an underage target. But it had been five years since the turmoil began.

Abedin was a top aide to Hillary Clinton at the time, and the whole affair was of course reminiscent of the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage — particularly Hillary’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

“She’s got more sense than her boss,” read just one of many tweets making the connection.

The list of other wives who have at least initially stood by their philandering men is long — and includes Elin Nordegren, who at first tried to work out her marriage with Tiger Woods but very soon after news of his cheating hit wound up filing for divorce; Silda Wall Spitzer, who left former New York governor Eliot Spitzer five years after his exposure in a prostitution scandal; and Anne Sinclair, the now-ex-wife of IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stood by him after rape allegations but left him a year later.

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

Dottie Sandusky, wife of Jerry, convicted Penn State serial rapist and child molester, has held fast to supporting her husband. As has, to the bafflement of many, Camille Cosby.

“Many women like to think that if they were in her shoes, they’d be throwing the bastard on his ass with one hand while calling their divorce lawyer with another, a pleasing fantasy of righteous anger unleashed,” noted Amanda Marcotte in her Daily Beast story “Why Didn’t Camille Dump Bill Cosby?

But not only did Cosby’s wife of 50-plus years stay, she’s been his fiercest defender, calling the prosecutors in his mistrial “heinously and [exploitatively] ambitious” and the judge “overtly arrogant and collaborating with the district attorney” and suggesting that her husband, in fact, may have been “the victim” in this whole alleged-rape narrative.

“In fact, when you tally it, it becomes clear that the norm is not for women to up and leave in a fiery rage after their man has done them wrong, but instead to stay and make excuses for him,” wrote Marcotte. “So much so that it was actually startling to see Jenny Sanford, wife of then-South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, refuse to stand with him at his adultery admission press conference. But most women do the walk with their man, even if they later wise up and decide to leave him after all.”

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, right, and his wife, Anne Sinclair, leave a hearing where he was released on his own recognizance at New York State Supreme Court in 2011 in New York City. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Beverly Hills–based marriage and family therapist Bethany Marshall tells Yahoo Lifestyle that when it comes to the various responses by these and other high-profile women, they typically have “certain ways of responding to infidelity that are consistent throughout the marriage.”

For example, she suspects, “Camille Cosby may have always been in denial. And maybe Georgina [Chapman] has always been digging, but never had anything to substantiate her suspicions before now. Because when you see it in print, you can’t deny it anymore.”

Except that sometimes you can. But Hillary Clinton, Marshall says, echoing the conjecture of many observers over the years, “maybe made a pact with the devil. Their relationship was based on something other than love; the reward system in the relationship may have been family as political institution.”

Sometimes, staying with someone who has cheated — even publicly and repeatedly — can be because of stubborn denial, she says. Other times, “it’s a reluctance to sever the attachment — like you won’t be able to live without this person.” Even more reasons can include a shared “paranoia,” Marshall notes, also described as a feeling that “the world is against us,” as well as stories on the part of women such as “he just can’t control himself” or “God put me here to save you.” Everyone, she says, “has a different narrative.”

For Chapman, she believes, “either it’s been bubbling for a while, or she uses what’s called ‘cutting off’ as a defense. Though I doubt it’s the latter.”

And if she has been hoping to make a move for a while, Marshall says, it could’ve been the public spectacle that finally gave her strength enough to make what must be a very difficult move.

“[Harvey Weinstein] seems very personally disordered … and we do see comorbidity with sexual compulsivity and personality disorders — such as pathological narcissism, a little like you see with Trump, where you relate to others on the basis of power rather than affection, and there is often a great deal of control exerted over their wives,” she explains. “He maybe had so much control over her she didn’t have the courage to leave before.”

It would be understandable, she explains, as men with sexual compulsivity have almost no accurate sense of what goes on in the mind of others, particularly how their hurtful behavior may negatively affect those around them. “They are profoundly selfish,” she says. “So you can imagine what that does to your self-esteem over time.”

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