Revenge is sweet for the modern wronged woman
Elin scores hole in one for dignified victim portrayal
THERE was an expectation of a big bang. But when it came to it, the response was more of a dignified whimper.
Having safely landed an estimated 100 million of Tiger Woods's dollars in her divorce settlement -- and getting away without agreeing to a confidentiality clause -- Elin Nordegren could have been forgiven for bludgeoning her love-rat ex with a metaphorical four iron (as opposed to the actual one she was rumoured to have brandished when she first heard about his infidelity). But in an emotionally controlled interview with US 'People' magazine this week, Nordegren achieved a public relations triumph by focusing less on her anger at Woods's bad behaviour and more on the hurt and humiliation he caused her.
Her heartfelt, simply stated response, which spoke of sadness rather than revenge, sounded more convincing to my ears than the kind of celebrity sound bites you usually hear trotted out at the end of a marriage. This wasn't just a wronged celebrity wife with a few killer lines up her sleeves, it was a real woman expressing what real women feel. She could have been any woman who had been cheated on, regardless that her husband was one of the richest sportsmen in the world and his affairs played out across the world's media.
"I never suspected," she told 'People'. "I've been through hell. It's hard to think you have this life and then all of a sudden -- was it a lie? I felt stupid as more things were revealed -- how could I not have known anything? The word betrayal isn't strong enough. I felt like my whole world had fallen apart."
Doesn't this sound like all the women you know who have been cheated on? Don't you just want to give this wronged wife a hug and tell her everything will be all right?
According to Marriage Care's head of relationship education Bridie Collins, Nordegren's comments closely mirror the emotions her clients express in counselling. "I picked up this sense of her feeling foolish and naive, which is commonly how women feel. There is this sense of hopelessness, and the question how can I ever trust again?"
So a birdie to Nordegren for eliciting worldwide sympathy. And a hole in one for portraying herself as a victim without being vengeful, hopefully making Woods feel even more guilty and ashamed than he already does ... or at least ought to.
Baring your soul as Nordegren has done is not, of course, the only way to deal with betrayal. It has become fashionable for wronged wives to kick back with what some would regard as a little more oomph. "I'm looking forward to wearing high heels again," said Nicole Kidman devilishly when her marriage to Tom Cruise ended. That must have surely hit a shorty like Cruise where it hurt.
Jerry Hall, on the other hand, didn't pack her punches when she referred publicly to Mick Jagger as "the lying, cheating, no-good slimeball". The Princess of Wales scored a spectacular success on 'Panorama' when she tilted her head in her characteristic way and sighed, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded". She added to her triumph on the night the Prince of Wales admitted to adultery, by stepping out at the Serpentine Gallery in a shimmery black dress and a dazzling smile. More recently, Cheryl Cole endeared herself to us all when she described the errant Ashley as having "a young mentality for his age".
As a journalist who often writes about personal experience, I was also faced with the dilemma of how much to reveal when my husband decided to go off on a gap year, prompting the end of our marriage. Though fidelity was not the issue, there were many aspects of the death throes of a relationship I felt qualified to write about. I wrestled with whether to maintain silence or express my feelings. In the end I decided to speak out.
Writing about my marriage not only helped me identify what had gone wrong in our relationship but seemed to resonate with the many readers who wrote to me. Whether that's a justification for what I wrote, I'm not entirely certain. Was there an element of revenge in what I did? I didn't rant or rave or even apportion blame. I tried to be even-handed, but I can't be sure that I didn't get the teeniest bit of satisfaction from exposing my husband's peccadilloes in public. And since he's not a journalist I knew he was unlikely to demand a right of reply in print.
Writing as revenge is something of a time-honoured tradition. Taking to heart Ivana Trump's mantra, "Don't get mad, get everything", author Olivia Goldsmith turned her divorce into a novel and movie, 'The First Wives Club'.
There is one thing to be careful of when baring private matters in public. The feelings of anger you have may change in a few months, and if you were to want your ex back, it may be too late for reconciliation. You can't imagine Chris and Ingrid Tarrant getting back together since Ingrid talked about his sexual shortcomings on television, describing him as often going to bed smelling of fish.
This year Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director. Her war thriller 'The Hurt Locker' scooped six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while 'Avatar', directed by her ex-husband James Cameron, won only three minor gongs.
For the modern wronged woman, revenge doesn't get sweeter than that. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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