6 Love Lessons from Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards and children
Buzz, Love

We reflect on the advice Elizabeth Edwards left us on love, coping with infidelity, and more.

The sad news broke yesterday that attorney, public speaker, best-selling author and activist Elizabeth Edwards, 61, passed away after her ongoing battle with breast cancer. Taking the public stage initially as the wife of 2004 Democratic candidate for vice-president, John Edwards, Elizabeth spent the years following the '04 election coping very publicly with John's infidelity, and her fight against cancer. However, in the midst of one tragedy after the next, she became a shining example of grace, vitality and courage. As a mother, wife and friend, Elizabeth demonstrated strength of character that made her a heroine to many.  

Here, a few of the lessons on love and relationships we learned from Elizabeth Edwards:

1. Don't allow your partner's betrayal to take over your life. In 2008, John Edwards admitted to fathering a child with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. Every tabloid and blog had their own version of the story, so Elizabeth decided to speak out with hers. In her book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities (Broadway Books, 2009), Elizabeth wrote, "Just as I don't want cancer to take over my life, I don't want this indiscretion, however long in duration, to take over my life either. But I need to deal with both; I need to find peace with both." Many would scream, cry, or run from the truth. Elizabeth faced it head-on—and was better for it. How To Help A Partner Grieve

2. Lean on friends to get through the toughest times. When Elizabeth and John's first-born son, Wade, tragically died at the age of 16 in a car accident in 1996, the family was grief-stricken. Ten years later, Elizabeth opened up about the trying time. "Connections have enriched and sustained me; they have strengthened me by holding me up when I needed it, and they have strengthened me by letting me hold up my end when it was needed," she wrote in her memoir, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers (Broadway Books, 2006). 

3. Mind your own business ... at least when it comes to other people's relationships. In 2007, Elizabeth "came out" as a supporter of gay marriage, even though John was only in favor of civil unions. She was quoted as saying that the marriage of another couple "makes no difference to me," just as it would make no difference to her if a neighbor painted his house a different color. "It seems to me we're making issues of things that honestly... don't matter."

4. Love isn't black and white. In May 2009, nearly a year after John's affair with Rielle Hunter had gone public, Elizabeth Edwards spoke with Oprah, who asked her point-blank if she was still in love with John. Contemplative and poised, she responded, "You know, that's a complicated question." Although some thought she would have filed divorce papers and others painted a picture of a little lady who "stood by her man," the reality fell somewhere between the two extremes—and Elizabeth wasn't afraid to explain those shades of gray. She said the couple was taking their relationship "day by day, month by month."  

5. There's something to be said for history. Although the couple was legally separated, Elizabeth welcomed her estranged husband back to the family's home in her final days. Many reports say she died with him by her side. Despite all of the hardship, controversy and distrust, she clearly honored the relationship they shared for 33 years enough to include John in her final moments. Her actions seem to echo words John used in '09 to describe their relationship: "Perhaps not the great love story that we hoped, but maybe a great love story nonetheless." What 'Love Story' Taught Us About Love

6. Gratitude equals bliss. In her last public message, posted on her Facebook page this week, Elizabeth wrote, "It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel towards everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day." Even when facing the end, Elizabeth was thankful for a life filled with love—a trait that undeniably brought her great peace of mind and set a valuable example for us.


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