Understanding Melania

 

After last night’s “debate,” Trump left the stage alone, and shortly after, Dr. Jill was seen on camera guiding her elderly husband to the podium steps and assisting him down them ever so gingerly. After my first thought of the travesty of this open elder abuse that has been going on since he campaigned from his basement in 2019, my mind then went to Melania Trump, who has been in the shadows this entire campaign. And I’m fine with it. I actually understand it, though am not sure of her motivation.

While people are screaming, “Where’s Melania!” as if there is some sinister plot afoot, I am more of the mindset that first ladies should not be as prominent as Jill Biden, whether their husbands are candidates or in office. They also shouldn’t be so absent it’s noticeable. But I get it. Melania has been treated like a second-class citizen by the left and media (same thing), so I can understand why she would not want to go down this road again. She was constantly belittled, wasn’t good enough for the covers of magazines, was sold out by “friends,” made fun of for her White House Christmas decor, and much more. Why would any sane person want to go through that again?

Husbands and wives often agree that some things must be done, and, while we support our spouse, we might do it from the sidelines. I know something about this, but not on the national stage like Mrs. Trump. (Just a family stage, still harassed and belittled and made to feel badly about a decision in which I tried to always be supportive of my husband, but did not always participate in.) I’m not even certain she agrees with her husband’s decision to run for office again, but in this case, she’s behind him and has chosen the self-preservation route — I totally get it.

Ten years ago, we moved back home to Arizona from North Carolina, where we had been living for 15 years. We raised our kids there and were still homeschooling two of them in high school. My husband’s dad was dying from 2 kinds of cancer and his mother would need some practical help. So, we uprooted our family, since no one else would take on the task, and moved back across the country one July. (An aside: try not to move to or from Phoenix in July. We have done both.)

There was a reason we moved across the country in the first place. We were not close to the family here and there was a lot of baggage my dear husband carried from childhood, yet he was the one who chose to come back and do the right thing in honoring his father and mother, with my support. Long story short: after 7 years of helping, cooking, driving, and doing absolutely none of those things correctly, I stopped doing them. My now-adult children became very aware of why we did not live near their grandparents after being subjected to lunatic rants and being made to feel less-than.  I cracked one day and decided I could no longer participate in the care and keeping of someone who, for 30 years, had treated me and my family in such a terrible way. She was of sound mind and made a choice to do this. No dementia, no Alzheimer’s. None of the things one would normally give a pass to. There was no reason for it, and I ended it. Getting older and wiser is a wonderful thing.

My husband fully understood and supported my decision. He often said he didn’t know what took so long. He had grown up with that toxicity and did a lot to overcome it in his adult years and felt he could just let it ride while he did what he needed to do. He would continue his visits over the next 3 years, doing the grocery shopping, fixing things at the house, visiting with her, arranging appointments, and everything else a 90-year-old needed, even when having full-time in-home care. (That’s a whole other post.) I, on the other hand, did not fully understand and didn’t always support the chaos, which is why I believe my husband is a much better person than I am. However, it was ultimately a mutual decision, even though it was difficult and tested us as a couple and as a family. It was not the warm and fuzzy time having Sunday dinners with grandma that I had hoped for.

One of our daughters said something to me one day while I agonized over this. She said, “If I was in a bad relationship and was being treated that way, you wouldn’t want me to stay in it. There is no reason to keep going through this just because she’s a relative. Boundaries are acceptable.” Yes, they certainly are. I hope the boundaries Melania has set for herself and her son in this season of life work out for their family. There is some angst in doing so, but there is also no point in being a martyr for another 4 years in a very public role, in which a lot of people dislike you for the dumbest reasons. If her husband wins the presidency, we may never really see her, but hopefully she is behind the scenes supporting the man she married as best she can.

This is a big task sometimes. Even when your husband is not Donald Trump.

Published in Marriage
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There are 16 comments.

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  1. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Who knows? Second term (lame duck) Melania might be fun. 

    A very nice post. 

    • #1
  2. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Thank you for your very open and gracious note. It sounds as if your immediate family is healthy and resilient in the face of hard extended family work. Doing the best one can is often the best choice, even if it’s not popular or even the easier choice. I’m glad your family’s choices were in favour of establishing necessary boundaries. You and your husband lived an important standard for your daughters. 

    I, too, understand and endorse Mrs. Trump’s (rumored) decision to treat the White House as a ceremonial location. She apparently knew the role of FLOTUS better than others who had the job: an unpaid position with no policy role and no authority under the Constitution. There’s no reason she can’t meet ceremonial responsibilities with her husband living elsewhere than a public government building. (No one seems to think that it’s odd that the Biden’s don’t live in the White House – they live in Delaware and leave occasional footprints in DC.) 

    In the first Trump administration she showed an amazing awareness of the importance of ritual and symbol and displayed a strong respect and love for her country when she represented the USA in public. She set the definitive standard for dress by spouses at ceremonial events – her choices for dress in foreign State visits were right out of Queen Elizabeth’s play book. They reflected significance of the event, respect for the immediate location and the people who lived there, were appropriate for the season and her age and they fit properly. Nothing she wore would embarrass her (then) young son in front of his friends. 
    Mrs. Trump owes no one any explanation for anything relating to her marriage or living arrangements. The chattering class hopes nothing more than that they divorce in a messy public way. I hope she continues to live her life with her husband and family and ignores them all. She doesn’t work for any of them. 

    • #2
  3. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    philo (View Comment):

    Who knows? Second term (lame duck) Melania might be fun.

    A very nice post.

    Thank you. I agree that she might do things a bit differently this time. 

    • #3
  4. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    EODmom (View Comment):

    Mrs. Trump owes no one any explanation for anything relating to her marriage or living arrangements. The chattering class hopes nothing more than that they divorce in a messy public way. I hope she continues to live her life with her husband and family and ignores them all. She doesn’t work for any of them.

    Thank you and amen. 

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Beautiful post, Laura. And it sounds like you have a very wise daughter. I suspect she got that from you.

    • #5
  6. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Does Melania have as much security as might be needed?

    Biden Administration has been really horrid to RFK Jr’s requests for security. It might be that election season is currently  in full gear so he now has needed protection. But given how the Kennedys are targets, he should have gotten the protection the instant that he requested it.

    Trump was known to provide his own security detail when he was in the Oval Office. I guess if security was a reason for Melania to avoid the debate, the Trump family could have provided it.

    On the other hand, she is one astute woman and maybe she just wanted to avoid an evening spent trying to decipher Sleepy Joe.

    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    As a guy who benefitted enormously in the professional world because I have a wife who quietly kept everything together behind the scenes I very much understood that Melania Trump might not want to be front and center on stage all the time with her husband. In fact, I find it hard to understand what appears to be Dr. Jill’s desire to push her husband beyond his capabilities so that she can enjoy the spotlight that comes with his job. 

    The last place my wife wants to be is in most of my professional environments. Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a professional conference in a very nice hotel. But my wife preferred to do her things at home rather than travel to a swanky hotel for a few days. 

    Her capabilities at keeping the home fires going so I could come home to a peaceful and welcoming home after I spent the day (or days) slaying dragons in the professional world are a big part of why I was able to have as much professional success as I have had. 

    Her ability to drop me at the airport as I departed on a business trip, drive 400 miles to take charge of moving my mother into a new assisted living facility (my mother adored my wife as the daughter my mother wanted but never had), drive another 600 miles to move our son out of the dormitory after his first year of college, and still pick me up at the airport at the end of the week, gave me the freedom to accomplish professional success that eluded my colleagues. 

    If Melania Trump does not wish to be as publicly visible as her husband, I can understand, and I can relate. 

    • #7
  8. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Beautiful post, Laura. And it sounds like you have a very wise daughter. I suspect she got that from you.

    Thank you, Susan. University did not destroy my kids, thank goodness! 

    • #8
  9. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I got into a discussion on this site comparing Hilary Clinton and Malania and their motives for marrying who they did.

    I saw a difference.  Hilary married Bill out of political ambition.  Melania may have married Donald for his money, but it wasn’t political power she was after, so it was less of my business (really none, before Donald got elected).

    Melania did not sign up for this.  She wanted a mostly private, but luxurious, lifestyle.  When Donald got elected for his first term, she took her time moving into the White House, ostensibly to support her son while he was still on high school.  Whether that was true or Donald just had to entice her to move in, the fact is she wasn’t drawn to that kind of power.

    The thing of it is, unlike Jill Biden or Hilary Clinton, we really don’t know what she thinks of all this, or whether she supports what Donald does unreservedly as his wife, because she continues to be a private person in public, and at this point, at least, doesn’t care what the public thinks of her.

    And that’s why I respect her.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    In fact, I find it hard to understand what appears to be Dr. Jill’s desire to push her husband beyond his capabilities so that she can enjoy the spotlight that comes with his job. 

    Hers is a level of thirst for attention that rarely survives the toddler stage. That is arrested development.

    • #10
  11. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    I got into a discussion on this site comparing Hilary Clinton and Malania and their motives for marrying who they did.

    I saw a difference. Hilary married Bill out of political ambition. Melania may have married Donald for his money, but it wasn’t political power she was after, so it was less of my business (really none, before Donald got elected).

    Melania did not sign up for this. She wanted a mostly private, but luxurious, lifestyle. When Donald got elected for his first term, she took her time moving into the White House, ostensibly to support her son while he was still on high school. Whether that was true or Donald just had to entice her to move in, the fact is she wasn’t drawn to that kind of power.

    The thing of it is, unlike Jill Biden or Hilary Clinton, we really don’t know what she thinks of all this, or whether she supports what Donald does unreservedly as his wife, because she continues to be a private person in public, and at this point, at least, doesn’t care what the public thinks of her.

    And that’s why I respect her.

    Just so – other peoples’ marriages are none of our business until/unless their behaviour directly affects our immediate lives through family or in the Clinton and Biden cases, our political or institutional lives. No one knows what goes on in others’ marriages and it takes some strength and courage to remain constrained as Mrs Trump does when so many express fervent opinion about hers. She did not ask to be such a public figure or political actor. I figure she gets to set the boundaries. 

    • #11
  12. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Melanie is and was the perfect First Lady. She supported her husband, raised their son, and wasn’t a media hog. We need more like her. Invisible except when duties required her presence.

    • #12
  13. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    Melania did not sign up for this. 

    That comment reminded me of an adjustment our then-church had to make when with one of the pastors we hired. 

    Those of you who have known pastors well  (at least most Protestant Christian pastors) have no doubt seen that “pastor’s wife” is a very involved, often public role. Congregations often expect a lot (and assume a lot) about the pastor’s wife (she will be involved in women’s ministry, often involved in children’s ministry, sing in the choir, host or at least majorly help with social activities, etc.)

    Well, one pastor we hired, when he was in seminary and got married, his career plan was to become a professor or other academic. Not a parish pastor. God had other plans and brought him to us. But his wife did not want, and was very uncomfortable with, the role of “pastor’s wife.” As you put it, she did not sign up for that when they got married. She expected a life in academia. So we had to learn that it would be unfair to expect this pastor’s wife to fill a role of “pastor’s wife” for which she had not signed up. 

    • #13
  14. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    I got into a discussion on this site comparing Hilary Clinton and Malania and their motives for marrying who they did.

    I saw a difference. Hilary married Bill out of political ambition. Melania may have married Donald for his money, but it wasn’t political power she was after, so it was less of my business (really none, before Donald got elected).

    Melania did not sign up for this. She wanted a mostly private, but luxurious, lifestyle. When Donald got elected for his first term, she took her time moving into the White House, ostensibly to support her son while he was still on high school. Whether that was true or Donald just had to entice her to move in, the fact is she wasn’t drawn to that kind of power.

    The thing of it is, unlike Jill Biden or Hilary Clinton, we really don’t know what she thinks of all this, or whether she supports what Donald does unreservedly as his wife, because she continues to be a private person in public, and at this point, at least, doesn’t care what the public thinks of her.

    And that’s why I respect her.

    However she felt about the non-stop malevolence, more than any First Lady in my lifetime Melania Trump acted like it was an honor to be the First Lady. The way she acted in that role had the effect of exposing her detractors for what they are. (And I loved the way she decorated the White House for Christmas.) I would be so happy to have her again as our First Lady.

     

    • #14
  15. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Melanie is and was the perfect First Lady. She supported her husband, raised their son, and wasn’t a media hog. We need more like her. Invisible except when duties required her presence.

    She never seemed to be trying to be invisible, though. I would say she acted like she didn’t have a need to make herself the center of public attention.

    In different ways, both Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, as First Ladies, acted like they thought they were too good for the role of First Lady. Laura Bush came across as timid.

    Melania seemed to recognize that her husband and the country needed a First Lady. She just humbly and graciously and gracefully did a beautiful job.

    • #15
  16. JosephCox Coolidge
    JosephCox
    @JosephCox

    When we got married my wife established only one rule: I couldn’t go into politics.

    It isn’t hard to see why.

    • #16
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