Hunter Biden's Affair With Dead Brother's Widow Seems Inappropriate, But It's Not Uncommon

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Hunter Biden's Relationship With Beau's Widow Hallie

Hunter Biden has opened up about dating his late brother Beau’s wife, a relationship that almost cost him his reputation and career. 

The president’s son began dating Hallie Biden in 2017, two years after his older brother succumbed to brain cancer. Biden had separated from his own wife, Kathleen, months after Beau’s death and was first linked to Hallie in March 2017.

Needless to say, in the eyes of the public, the relationship was scrutinized and became just another one of Hunter Biden’s questionable decisions that would be continuously used against him and his family as political ammunition. 

 "I think people were confused by it. And I understand that. I mean, I really do," Hunter told CBS as he addressed the relationship that ended in late 2017 before he met his current wife, Melissa Cohen.

"To me, it's not something that is difficult to explain. Because it came out of a real, overwhelming grief that we both shared."

Grief can tear families apart and rebuild them in the most disruptive of ways. It's not hard to imagine that while grieving a brother or partner you might find comfort in those close to the situation. 

There is also a historical precedence for these kinds of relationships. A practice known as levirate marriage was historically common in Judaism, Islam, and in Western monarchies. These were marriages between the brother of a deceased man and his widow that were meant to ensure she and her children had a male protector. 

That’s not to say that this is what was going on with the Bidens, but it is not misguided for a man to feel a sense of duty to his late brother’s family even if this duty becomes somewhat convoluted by grief. 

Trauma is complicated and pushes families to make decisions that may look distorted from the moral high ground that Hunter Biden’s critics seem to stand on. 

RELATED: In New Book, Hunter Biden Reveals The “Beautiful Things” About His Past — And Wants Our Forgiveness

Relationships — like Hunter and Hallie Biden's — that grow from grief aren’t as rare as you think

To learn more about the bonds of trauma, we spoke to Brooke Sprowl, psychotherapist and founder of My LA Therapy, who guides clients through grief, depression, and trauma codependency. 

Sprowl has not personally encountered a relationship like Hunter and Hallie’s in her work but says it is not uncommon for people to become bonded by grief. 

Going through trauma, grief and loss can be a way to really open up and connect with people emotionally. Your walls are down so you bond and develop a close connection,” Sprowl tells us. 

Sprowl likens Hunter and Hallie’s relationship to the bond created by soldiers in war who experience a trauma that no one else in their lives can relate to. This is a sentiment Hunter himself has echoed in the past. 

“We were sharing a very specific grief,” Hunter recalled in 2019. “I started to think of Hallie as the only person in my life who understood my loss.” 

The couple officially started dating shortly after Hunter spent time in a rehabilitation facility while battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. 

In his book, "Beautiful Things," Hunter reveals that the relationship was part of his struggle to let go of his brother. 

"I was madly trying to hold on to a slice of my brother, and I think Hallie was doing the same," he writes. 

The complicated nature of grief and trauma can cause the mind to work in strange ways in an attempt to make sense of loss. The judgment and shame that Hunter and Hallie experienced were created in the minds of people who had likely not experienced pain like theirs, or who at least lacked the compassion to understand that grief impacts us all differently.  

"We were together, and trying to do the right thing," Hunter told CBS in 2021. "That grief turned into a hope for a love that maybe could replace what we lost."

RELATED: This Is Why Your Trauma Still Affects You (& How To Heal)

Is a relationship born from trauma destined to fail? 

Biden and Hallie didn’t have it easy during their short-lived romance. Aside from grieving a shared loss, the pair were subjected to widespread criticism once their relationship hit the tabloids. 

Biden opened up in 2019 about begging his father to publicly show his support to the couple in the hopes that backlash would subside. 

But even getting the future president’s seal of approval couldn’t keep Hunter and Hallie together. They separated in late 2017. 

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“All we got was sh*t from everybody, all the time,” Hunter said. “It was really hard. And I realized that I’m not helping anybody by sticking around.”

In 2021, Biden also revealed that he lost business connections and clients because of the relationship. 

Sprowl tells us that this is the outcome she would expect for a relationship that arises out of shared pain. 

She says these kinds of connections run the risk of, “Being a false bond that is manufactured as a result of the traumatic experience.”

While there is certainly a possibility of finding joint comfort within a new partner during times of grief, Sprowl says the likelihood of building a lasting connection outside of this grief can be a bit more difficult.

“My instinct would be that this would create codependency that would not last beyond the trauma.”

But she also tells us that this does not mean we should criticize anyone for finding comfort, albeit temporary, in a relationship like this. 

“People need support to just grieve in the way that they’re grieving and get what they need,” she says. 

While anyone in a Hunter-Hallie dynamic may want to proceed with caution, they deserve as much kindness and compassion as anyone else grieving a partner or sibling.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.