The XX Factor

Should a Wronged Wife Embrace a Love Child-Or Pretend It’s Not Happening?

DoubleX is starting a new partnership with The Washington Post Magazine . Each week our contributors will argue over a certain question, and we invite you to join in. This week, recent talk about whether John Edwards is the father of mistress Rielle Hunter’s child makes us wonder: How should a wronged wife handle a love child?

Emily Bazelon : If Elizabeth Edwards wanted to give her husband a public flogging, I’d hand her the wet noodle. And if there was a way for her to wreak revenge on his mistress, Rielle Hunter, without hurting the baby, I’d give her that, too. But there isn’t. And to despise the child would be wrong and also soul-killing. Even (especially?) if the father of that child is your husband. A wronged wife should somehow set aside her own anger to give a rat-fink husband the space to have a relationship with his baby. A financial one, for sure, and visits, too. If she can’t countenance that, then she should get rid of the rat fink.

Hanna Rosin : That all seems lovely and humane and correct-but totally unrealistic. Even a woman as brutally honest and smart as Elizabeth Edwards has blind spots. I don’t think a wife should despise a love child. But I do think she should have the right to ignore the child. I guess what I’m arguing for here is some old-fashioned repression. Once upon a time, you could deal with these things quietly: Keep it all under wraps and save everyone’s dignity. A cheating husband should accept responsibility, but a wronged wife should be allowed to continue to pretend that it all isn’t happening.