Give him a nickname. Names are important in relationships. To Rielle, John Edwards was Johnny Reid Edwards, his childhood moniker, and that allowed him to be more "real" with her.
By the way, do you always call him Johnny? [laughs] Isn't that funny? You know, when I first met him, the first week of our relationship, I said to him, "For some reason I cannot call you John, it doesn't come out. Could I call you Johnny?" And he said, "That's my name." And I didn't know that, but that's his actual birth name.
Let men be men and stop offering them advice.
Did you encourage him earlier to be truthful? Um, once again, in a male-female relationship, you can offer… I mean, the way that I have learned to keep a relationship going is to offer your advice when asked for it, and love unconditionally when it's not taken.
That must be hard to do. It's beyond difficult. To allow a man to be a man. The biggest mistake that I find is that women attempt to make men women. You know, we want them to be like we are. We want them to get it immediately and do things the way that we want them to do them. And men are men. And I love him for being a man. But oh, my God, yes, it's been infuriating so many times.
Practice unconditional, non-demanding love.
On his denial of their relationship during the TV interview. I had this thing in my head like a lot of women, where you want your man to stand up on a cliff and scream, "I LOVE HER." You know, the knight in shining armor. And that wasn't what was going on.
Did he call you after the interview? Yes. And I said, "Ouch, that hurt." And he said, "I'm sorry." And "It doesn't mean anything." And it didn't. I know he loves me. I have never had any doubt at all about that. We love each other very much. And that hasn't changed, and I believe that will be till death do us part. The love doesn't go away. It's unconditional. It's unconditional on my part, but our connection is profound. There's a lot of passion there.\
And on July 30, John and Elizabeth renewed their wedding vows. What was that like for you? Um… it was challenging. When you're in love with someone who takes actions that go against your belief system, it's extremely challenging to continue loving, instead of becoming righteous and judgmental. But see, I believed, and believe, that what I see in him is there and correct. He's a good man and he will figure it out. And he has and is figuring it out.
Frustrated in a relationship? Look to yourself first.
If you could change anything about Johnny, what would it be? Um… [laughs] That's a great question. I would change nothing about him. I would change, within myself, my, um, inability to be more accepting in certain areas. I get frustrated. And when I get frustrated—all under the story line that he's not doing what I want him to do or he's not acting the way I want him to act—I lose patience. So I would wish for more patience. Having a child helps with that. But it's not him, it's me. Because he's doing the best he can. With the awareness level he has. He's a man. [laughs]
About being the "other woman."
You mentioned that it did go through your head, on that first night, that Johnny was married. Did that bother you? Oh yes. Before I met Johnny, I had a lot of judgment about infidelity. Now I have a much deeper and greater understanding and acceptance of people's processes. It's hard and complicated for a lot of people to pull the Band-Aid off, so to speak. So I did have problems with it. Many. But once again, the force field of our love overrode any issues that would arise from my belief systems about, you know, "It should be going different than it is. He should be behaving differently than he is."
How were you able to reconcile learning these things about her, from him, at the same time knowing that she's ill? Well, his relationship with her and the problems in it really had nothing to do with me. You remove me from the equation and they still exist. They existed before I was there. They're still existing. His dynamic with me is completely different.
Practice radical honesty, refraining from judgment and anger.
When did Johnny start to tell you that there were problems in his marriage? Well, I was aware of it from the get-go. He doesn't lie to me.
How can you be sure? He doesn't lie to me. He discloses everything to me. And he has no fear of lying to me. Part of the problem—it's the fear of what's gonna happen that causes the lie. And the hiding. The fear of the repercussions. And, well, first of all, infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages. The break in the marriage happens before the infidelity. And that break happened, you know, two and a half decades before I got there. So the home was wrecked already. I was not the Home Wrecker.
Because he doesn't have to worry about the repercussions? He's not afraid of me. He'll tell me anything and everything. Even disclosing to me when women hit on him, and everything that was said, and if he flirted. He has no fear that I'm going to abuse him. And I believe what happened in his marriage is, he could not go to his wife and say, "We have an issue." Because he would be pummeled. So he had a huge fear. Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. He's allowed himself to be pushed into a lot of things that he wouldn't normally do because of Elizabeth's story line. And the spin that she wants to put out there. He was emasculated. And you know, the wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath.
Photo via GQ.