Sanford Digs Deeper: The Bridges of Columbia County

Sanford seems determined to get out of his marriage. At first he grasped at some vestige of integrity, but now he’s clearly goading Jenny into leaving him by humiliating himself and his family — what we might call the last straw of infidelity. Mark seems to want out, but he doesn’t want to be the one who calls it.

COLUMBIA, S.C.—South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Tuesday that he "crossed lines" with a handful of women other than his mistress—but never had sex with them. The governor said he "never crossed the ultimate line" with anyone but Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine at the center of a scandal that has derailed his once-promising political career.

"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford said. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

During an emotional interview at his Statehouse office with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sanford said Chapur is his soul mate but he’s trying to fall back in love with his wife.

He said that during the encounters with other women he "let his guard down" with some physical contact but "didn’t cross the sex line." He wouldn’t go into detail.

Sanford said the casual encounters happened outside the U.S. while he was married but before he met Chapur, on trips to "blow off steam" with male friends.

Sanford also admitted he saw Chapur more times than previously disclosed, including what was to be a farewell meeting in New York chaperoned by a spiritual adviser soon after his wife found out about the affair.

If Gov. Sanford’s relationship w/ Chapur had more daily bread and less "open air dancing" in Uruguay, the words "soul mate" would not likely come so immediately to mind.

But Gov. Mark values his family and considers himself a man with integrity. All of this self-flagellation by way of public confessions of the most intimate sort only embarrass his wife, his family, and most of all himself. Says Ruth Marcus in today’s WaPo:

What I admire most about Sanford’s response is that she has apparently concluded — correctly so — that the person who is humiliated by her husband’s affair is, in fact, her husband, not her. And so she is not standing by his side, but she is not hiding in a hole, either.

Instead, she took the kids out to see the tall ships — and breezily told the press mob, "I wish we had room on the boat for you all, but we do not." He rambled on in a news conference; she crafted an elegant and thoughtful statement.

I admire her mature view of adultery as not a one-strike (or even three trips to Argentina) and-you’re-out transgression and her refusal to tolerate its continuation. "We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect and my basic sense of right and wrong," Sanford said in her statement. "I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago."

Oh, Mark. Collect your thoughts, get your act together, and realize that it’s very easy to find your "soul mate" in someone you’ve met only at her very best (and, cf. Sanford, in fact only three times). It’s easy to fall out of love with someone you see run the daily gamut from best to worst. But marriage is about promising — indeed, contracting — to want what you have. You wounded your wife and permanently injured your own integrity when you kept looking for "what you want" — now cash it in, zip up, and act like the man — the husband — you promised to be.

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