Last Sunday, when the story of Gordon Ramsay’s alleged seven-year affair hit the newsstands, his wife, Tana, did what other apparently cuckolded spouses of high-profile figures have done before – she appeared, smiling, by his side in a public show of unity.
The message was clear – she was standing by her man. Assuming the newspaper claims are true and Ramsay has indeed been having a fling with so-called “serial mistress” Sarah Symonds, you can view Tana’s stance in two ways: either she is weak and lacks self-respect or she is strong and is willing to accept her husband’s adultery for the sake of keeping the family unit together.
Whatever her reasons, for a long while to come the Ramsay household is not going to be the happy place we’ve glimpsed on the television screen. Gordon’s numerous public pronouncements on the strength of his 12-year marriage, such as how Tana is “the only woman who can turn me on”, will no doubt come back to haunt her over the coming weeks and months.
A “wronged” spouse might be determined to cling on to their marriage – for financial, family or emotional reasons – but it is hard for the relationship to survive in the long term. In many ways, the initial decision to “stand by” an errant partner is the easiest bit – it’s the subsequent day-to-day living that is tough. Holding it together for the cameras is one thing; holding it together permanently can be a Herculean feat of endurance.
However sanguine someone might be about their partner’s fondness for the opposite sex, once they have been forced to confront the evidence of betrayal all vestiges of trust are likely to dissolve. How difficult it must be to see that wife or husband jetting off on a business trip or spending a day at the shops and not wonder what they’ll be getting up to while they’re away.
It’s this kind of thing that can erode a marriage, despite the protagonists’ best efforts to restore it to health. Papering over the cracks can suffice for a time but - without mutual soul-searching, frank communication and acknowledgement of the gamut of emotions adultery throws up - the relationship will struggle to recover.
In my line of work, I regularly hear people say they have “forgiven” their spouse for cheating on them; what often leads these same people to my office door is that,in the end, in spite of valiant effort, they weren’t able to forget.
* Diane Benussi is managing partner with Birmingham-based matrimonial law firm Benussi & Co