Cheat Sheet

The perennial struggle — the good wife versus the other woman — has had a 21st-century update.

In days of old (and in plots for CBS television shows), the good wife stood by her erring husband’s side, no matter what his misdeed. Her mute presence bespoke an abiding — if shaken — faith in her mate’s redemption. She was the anchor and often the mother of his children, dragging him back from the devil’s temptation and helping him reintegrate into civilized society.

Today, not so much. Now that kind of tolerance looks like enabling, forgiveness smells like capitulation, and a really good wife gets her priorities straight — like reading the small print on the prenup and getting out of sin city.

Being the strong, silent type hardly helps when the mistress gets a bully pulpit via her magazine spread. Spreads aren’t new, of course (church secretary Jessica Hahn bared herself in Playboy after the 1987 sex scandal involving televangelist Jim Bakker), nor is the history of good wives storming out (see Jim Bakker’s ex, Tammy Faye).

These days, though, especially in the political realm, the wives are high-powered themselves. Husband and wife slug it out side-by-side on the frontlines. And if her husband sneaks out, the more fool she for covering his back. His duplicity becomes hers, like it or not. Plus, in the 24/7 news world, where bloggers and reporters compete for any nugget of information, a shameless hussy can last quite a few news cycles.

In 2010 there were, sadly, plenty of tales of men behaving stupidly and getting caught red-handed with the text message. The bigger, better, badder story was of their paramours speaking up (“I’m not a homewrecker“) and the wives speaking out. Some exes sought revenge by People interview, others by memoir. Most, if not all, handled betrayal with grace, not to mention some savvy PR.

Either way, the good wife/bad girl circuit was a well-traveled route in 2010. Learn from the masters — and maybe some of the mistresses.

–Vera H-C Chan

The Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead, Vera H-C Chan dissects news events and search trends to share the why behind what’s hot online. On Yahoo! her writing can be found all over, including in Buzz Log, TV, Movies, and her Shine blog Fast-Talking Dame. Chan’s a good wife, as she reminds her husband.

Also contributing … Kimberly Chun has written for the alternative weeklies such as San Francisco Bay Guardian, dailies like the San Francisco Chronicle, and such magazines as Nylon, 7×7, Bitch, Oakland, Magnet, and Cineaste. She also draws a mean cartoon, bakes a delicious pie, can dance the hell out of “Play That Funky Music,” and owns THE Elvis bass.