Loyalty is not a sign of weakness

IF you listen closely enough, you should be able to make out the angry words above the din: a cacophony of female voices raised to the rafters with one common message for their menfolk.

"If you ever even consider doing anything like that, don't imagine for a moment that I will stand by you. You'll be out the door faster than you can say sorry."

The "anything like that" of course, refers to the activities of Tim Allen who was convicted on Thursday of obtaining child pornography over the internet. Fortunately for him, he will not be contemplating his sad and sordid crime from the inside of a prison cell. For that he has to thank not only an uncommonly merciful judge but also the extraordinary bravery of his wife, Darina.

As the court resounded to arguments over whether her husband was a 'monster' or a 'demon', she stood by him literally as well as metaphorically holding his hand tightly, caressing his arm, and only finally releasing her grip to allow him take the stand.

The body language was unmistakable. The message for anyone who cared to read it was clear: "this is my husband, the man I married, the man I vowed to love, the man with whom I bore four children. I will not let this defeat me and my family. I will not be a victim of his wrongdoing."

It was a bravura performance, a triumph of courage over adversity. The awful circumstances in which Darina found herself were clearly not of her making but the way she dealt with those circumstances was. Her handling of them was masterly.

The Allen family stood as one. The PR consultants were to hand, the media were met although not exactly embraced, the accused did not attempt to duck in a side door to court. He strode, immaculately dressed, to meet his fate with head held high. By his side, as always, was Darina.

The question many are asking, though, is why. Why would a highly intelligent, highly attractive, highly successful woman decide to remain a rock of support to a man who betrayed his upbringing, his marriage and his family? The Allens are Quakers, part of a religious community that values wholesome simplicity and, eschewing hierarchical religion, seeks salvation through a personal relationship with God.

Why would Darina wish to tempt shame and disgrace being brought upon her own head as a result of staying by his side?

Why, in such circumstances, would she consciously choose to remain and even heighten her considerable public profile when the instinct must surely be to run and hide?

Why wouldn't she just kick him out?

The answer is a mix of genuine love and affection, human compassion, the desire to protect her children and determination not to be humbled into submission. "I absolutely still love him", she declared yesterday. "You can love the sinner without loving the sin."

The map of the human heart is not always easy to navigate and many women of substance go the extra mile to support an errant spouse. The most famous of recent years was undoubtedly Hillary Clinton. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and hugely embarrassing revelations emerged of her husband's sexual conduct, she refused to be cowed. Although declaring publicly: "I'm not going to be some kind of Tammy Wynette standing by her man," that is exactly what she did.

It was a gamble at the time. No-one was sure whether the President would be fatally damaged, least of all his wife. The gamble paid off and Hillary Clinton is now a high-profile New York Senator and the prospect of her becoming President herself is no longer laughable.

Jeffrey Archer's wife, Mary, also took the road less travelled. When he was charged with perjury she remained at his side throughout a traumatic and very public trial. Even when he was put behind bars she did not desert him. She did not allow his sentence to become hers as well.

In contrast, Princess Diana went public about her husband's affair, declaring that "there were three people in our marriage." The result was that she received far more pity than admiration. Darina Allen has, through skill and daring, managed to evoke both in equal measure.

Love, like human nature itself, is never entirely rational and, perhaps, that is just as well.

Tim Allen is a luckier man than most.

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