Melania ‘Knew,’ But This is Worse

It’s clear some of us marry with an agenda unknown to our partner— and perhaps even some deception

Whether you’re a fan of Melania Trump or not, one thing is clear — she doesn’t look too happy in her marriage to The Donald nowadays. And recent allegations that Trump had an affair with Stephanie Gregory Clifford, aka porn star Stormy Daniels, while Melania was pregnant with their son Barron, can’t help. Yet, in an op-ed in The New York Times, Charles Blow writes that Melania knew who Trump was all along: She knew that Trump cheated in his previous marriages, she knew that he bragged about grabbing pussy, she knew the way he talked — inappropriately — about his own daughter Ivanka, and yet she seemingly ignored the numerous red flags when she said, “I do.’

As Blow writes:

through it all, Melania has remained. So, that’s their marriage. They clearly have some sort of understanding, some emotional elasticity — or financial dependency — that is beyond my comprehension.

Well, it may be beyond his comprehension, but it’s not really beyond mine. The Melanias of the world know exactly what they’re doing when they marry a man of wealth and privilege such as Donald Trump. They are willing to ignore “indiscretions” and dismiss red flags in exchange for the lifestyle they want. And the men they marry know exactly what they’re doing when they marry women like Melania, too: he gets youth and beauty, she gets money and safety. It’s not that hard to understand. Some may want to paint women like Melania as gold-diggers, but that ignores the fact that these kinds of marriages — what we call safety marriages in The New I Do — are pretty transparent arrangements; the man knows his money and status are essential to getting the kind of woman he wants. He flaunts it, she bites and they live happily ever after — or some version of that.

That may not be a marriage you or I want, but here’s a truth about those marriages: each spouse is clear about what their marriage is about. It’s a deal, perhaps unstated but always understood, especially if it includes a prenup, and the Trumps have one as did the late Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris. Still, their marriages, no matter “the understanding,” the “emotional elasticity — or financial dependency” that seems to be beyond comprehension, are no less a “real” marriage than anyone else’s. Those couples are savvy to the reasons they’re marrying, and they know that, at their core, marriages are legal arrangements with huge financial consequences.

Ignoring the red flags

Melania “knew.” Then so would anyone who marries someone who cheated on a former partner. “Once a cheater, always a cheater” isn’t a given, but hey, there’s a history and so it’s a gamble.

But what’s more worrisome to me is that many more of us aren’t clear on why we’re marrying and also ignore red flags when we walk down the aisle. In fact, Jennifer Gauvain, co-author of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy discovered that 30 percent of divorced women knew they were marrying the wrong guy on their wedding day but they went ahead with the wedding anyway. That’s huge!

Are those marriages any more comprehensible than the Trumps’?

Agendas and deceptions

Before we get too quick to judge Melania, let’s think about this: she and Trump at least had a pretty transparent deal — a lot more transparent than the women (and however many men) who walked down the aisle knowing they were making a mistake but whose partners were oblivious. And the Trumps’ arrangement may even be more transparent than the couples who wed with all the faith and hope of having a loving, equal partnership only to be deceived later because hubs always knew he’d put his career above his wife’s, or he knew he was gay but married anyway because it’s what he thought he should do, or she’s been hiding a huge amount of debt (as 1 in 5 of us do).

It’s clear some of us marry with an agenda — and perhaps even some deception.

It’s pretty obvious Melania knew who Trump was when she married him. What’s less obvious is how many of us also know that we’re marrying someone who is not who we truly want to be with, yet we commit anyway. Why?

Want to individualize your marriage? (Of course you do!) Then read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.




Award-winning journalist, author of “Not Too Old For That: How Women are Changing the Story of Aging,” coauthor of “The New I Do,” mom

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Vicki Larson

Vicki Larson

Award-winning journalist, author of “Not Too Old For That: How Women are Changing the Story of Aging,” coauthor of “The New I Do,” mom

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