How much can a Swedish woman forgive? Ask Elin Nordegren

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When Tiger Woods returns to golf at the Masters this week, his wife Elin won't be at his side.

The world has been watching to see if she would join him, and some women have been puzzled that the 30-year-old former model hasn't already left her cheating husband. She is, after all, from Sweden -- a nation famous for its strong-willed and independent women.

In her homeland, too, there has been some bewilderment that Elin Nordegren hasn't split considering the scope of her husband's infidelity.

 But relationship counselors in the Scandinavian nation aren't that surprised. Sweden is still a champion of women's rights, but in recent years a more conservative view highlighting the merits of an intact family has been making a comeback.

Like Nordegren, many Swedes have grown up with divorced parents, and are increasingly focused on building homes and keeping their families together, said Lena Gustafsson, a psychotherapist who works in relationship counseling.

Woods and Nordegren have two children, a daughter Sam Alexis, 2, and a 1-year-old son, Charlie Axel.

 "Many of the couples I see continue to live together, they solve their problems," Gustafsson said.

That was not the case for Nordegren's parents, who divorced before she started school and separately developed their careers -- her father, Thomas Nordegren, as a correspondent for Swedish Radio and her mother, Barbro Holmberg, as a politician.

In Sweden, divorces peaked at around 27,000 annually in the mid-1970s, at the height of the women's liberation movement. Since then divorces have slowly declined to about 20,000 a year. Sweden's population is about 9 million.

Gustafsson said a gradual return toward the family as a cornerstone in Swedish society has come as a reaction to a culture that many people viewed as too obsessed with individual self-fulfillment.

However, repeated infidelity is not something that is taken lightly, even in Sweden. When Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant in November and the extent of his extramarital affairs was revealed, the message in Swedish media and blogs was close to unanimous: Dump him.

 Many Swedish commentators praised how Nordegren handled the situation, and more than one reference was made to how she smashed the back window of the car with a golf club.

The couple told investigators she did so to unlock a door and pull her husband out of the car, and Woods has strenuously denied his wife abused him. Still, the incident was seen here as a strong-willed Swedish woman standing up for herself.

Source: AP

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