7 Brutal Passages About Mark Sanford From His Ex-Wife’s Book

Jenny Sanford wrote a candid 2010 book called Staying True about her marriage to the former South Carolina governor. Ouch.

1. Buying her a $25 used bike as a half-birthday, half-Christmas present and delivering it months later.


“I remember the first birthday I celebrated after we moved south. Mark gave me a hand-made birthday card with a picture of him holding birthday balloons on the front. I thought it was sweet that he drew a picture for me himself. But inside the card, strangely, was a picture of half a bike. I didn’t quite understand the picture. Mark explained I would get the other half in the future. Well, that Christmas he drew me a picture of the other half of the bike, and months later, he delivered the gift to me, a used purple bike he had purchased for $25! My reaction at first was disbelief; he had given me nicer gifts while engaged. In time, however, I came to know this was just part of who he was.”

2. Telling her he didn’t want to include a vow to be faithful in his wedding vows.


“A short while before the wedding, when Mark and I were picking readings and vows, Mark told me that he didn’t want to use a wedding vow that included the promise to be faithful. He was worried in some odd nagging way, he said, that he might not be able to remain true to that vow. In retrospect, I suppose I might have seen this as a sign that Mark wasn’t fully committed to me, and with the benefit of the knowledge I have about Mark now, I could point to this moment as a clear sign of things to come.”

3. Forgetting her birthday (Sept. 11) and needing to be reminded by his staff until 2001.


Once in office, however, his habits deteriorated and he even forgot my birthday once. Thereafter, I nudged the scheduler to remind him. (My birthday is on September 11, and since 2001 Mark has learned to remember it without a reminder.)

4. Refusing to go with her to childbirth classes.


“Mark joined me at one Lamaze class before deeming it a waste of his time since, as he explained, “I’ve spent many long nights helping cows give birth and I know what to do when the baby gets stuck.” Of course, many fathers still didn’t attend births in those days, so Mark didn’t really feel he needed to know too much about the human birthing process. Instead, my sister Kathy came to be with me for the birth. We spent lots of time taking bike rides on the cobblestone streets in Charleston hoping to help nudge delivery along, to no avail.”

5. Asking her for advice on how to deal with his extramarital affairs in interviews.


We were all together the day Mark called to tell me that he had more explaining to do. Another woman, it seemed, had come forward and suggested to a member of the press that she had also had relations with Mark, which meant he would likely have to address the accusation with an AP reporter who would be interviewing him later in the day. I was gut-punched all over again. Mark had sworn to me when I’d discovered his secret back in January that Belen was the only “other” woman. Now he explained that there had been nothing much at all with this new woman, nothing he had felt I needed to know about before. Ever businesslike, he wanted to know what I thought he should reveal in the interview. Here again he was asking for my advice instead of first considering how the news might make me feel. Here again he was only really admitting his indiscretions because the woman had come forward, forcing him to come clean. I would soon learn—secondhand from the AP interview—that Mark had had yet more dalliances over the years, but that in his opinion he had not “crossed the line” as he’d done with Belen. When I pressed him for details when I saw him a few days later, I understood fully that his and my definition of an appropriate line were not at all the same.

6. Arranging a nice scavenger hunt for a gift when he couldn’t be there for her birthday, then returning it when he saw the gift and didn’t like it.


One birthday during the later congressional years, Mark decided to do something very nice for me. He had a friend pick out a diamond necklace and he had a staff member hide it in my closet. Then he faxed clues to the campaign office in our basement as to where I should look to find my birthday gift. I had the boys join me in the scavenger hunt and, working together, we found it. I loved it! Not only did I love the necklace, but this reminded me of what I loved about Mark Sanford. The scavenger hunt was clever and his notes and clues were ever so boyishly sweet. A few days later, he arrived home from DC. We had dinner guests, and I was proudly wearing my lovely new necklace. As soon as he saw me wearing it, he said “That is what I spent all that money on?! I hope you kept the box!”

7. Not picking her up at the airport early in their relationship and leaving a car for her to drive to his family farm. Then ditching her for a party.


Mark had told me where to look for the car in the Charleston airport parking lot and that the directions for the fifty-mile drive to Coosaw, the family farm, would be on a clipboard on the passenger seat. I hadn’t anticipated the car would be a stick shift. Though I’d tried before, I didn’t really know how to drive a stick.

“‘Good God, you’re by yourself in Jacksonboro!’ she exclaimed. Evie told me that Mark was already at the party—he’d left Coosaw without waiting for me. She gave me directions to her house and said she would let Mark know I was on my way. I arrived to the party well underway. Evie—wearing a necklace of blinking Christmas lights (how could I not love her immediately?)—welcomed me warmly and began to introduce me around conspiratorily: ‘This is Jenny, Mark’s date. Can you believe he left his car for her at the airport and she made it here on her own on a night like this?!’”

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