Melania Trump has been plagued by rumours she’s “counting down the minutes” to divorce the former president – but there’s one reason she won’t.
Long before Donald Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden last November, rumours swirled over how long his third marriage would last when he eventually exited the White House.
Melania Trump was “counting down the minutes” until she could divorce her 74-year-old husband, according to former aides, “friends” and even Mr Trump’s niece, while others declared the former model had “checked out”, mentally and emotionally, from her role as First Lady and her “very strange marriage”.
While Mr Trump held on to power as his presidential term came to an end, fighting tooth and nail for weeks and claiming that election fraud was behind Joe Biden’s stunning and historic election victory, the 50-year-old was focused on orchestrating a swift exit from Washington DC.
And yet, as they settle into life as (somewhat) private citizens at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, those in the couple’s “inner orbit” insist that Mrs Trump will be standing by her man, who she married 16 years ago in a splashy $US2.5 million wedding.
“The likelihood is 99.99 per cent they will stay together. I’d truly be shocked if Melania formally separated and divorced from her husband,” a “friendly acquaintance” of the Trumps, society publicist R Couri Hay, told The Times.
“She grew up in a pseudo-communist difficult life. When she married, she wanted stability, romantic stability, financial stability, and through it all the one thing still standing is that marriage.”
Former aide and friend of the Slovenian native, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, has also spoken of what Mrs Trump may have sought from Mr Trump when the pair first met – describing their marriage as “transactional”.
“Donald got arm candy, the Vogue cover legitimised Melania which legitimised Donald as well, and Melania got two dynamic decades,” Ms Wolkoff, who released an expose on her relationship with the mother-of-one last year, told BBC’s Newsnight.
“She was a young model, she was striving, she didn’t have the success yet. She met Donald, she married, she had a son, she became an American citizen and 10 years after that, she is the first lady of the United States.
“So I do believe it was a magic moment and I also believe it was a made-for-TV moment.”
The fact that Mrs Trump would even want to stay with the self-described billionaire after a saga of tumultuous events that began long before he was elected president is, no doubt, surprising to many.
“The reports of his infidelities, his affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, infuriated Melania. They were so apart that people worried that she actually could walk (away from the marriage),” author of The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, Mary Jordan, told the paper.
“But what I heard over and over again was that a bunker mentality developed, and she felt closer to him because both of them were taking criticism.”
Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Women: the Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, agreed.
“When you feel like you’re under siege, it does make some marriages stronger,” she said.
“Melania is one of the few people who hasn’t abandoned Trump.”
Nothing sums that up better than Mrs Trump’s reaction in 2016 after the leaking of her husband’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape.
“I believe my husband. I believe my husband,” Mrs Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“I know he respects women.”
Ms Wolkoff alleged her then-friend acted “as if nothing happened” and was “radiant and smiling”.
She “knows who she married”, Ms Wolkoff said, and “knew what she was getting into”.
Divorce might not be on Mrs Trump’s post-White House agenda, but she will spend her time establishing her own office in Palm Beach, CNN reports, and intends to “maintain ‘Be Best’”, her much-maligned campaign for children, one source told the broadcaster.
The initiative – a broad, loosely defined platform around children’s wellbeing – addressed issues including cyber-bullying and the impact of the opioid crisis on children.
There’s some conflict, though, over how much of a public presence the famously-private former FLOTUS will maintain. While Jordan said it’s possible she’ll “come out swinging”, Andersen Brower said Be Best is “dead in the water” and Mrs Trump is “all about herself and the family”.
Mr Hay agreed. “Melania will disappear,” he said. “There’s not going to be any Instagram posts or Twitter posts, you’re not going to see it. Melania is not a political activist any more than she is a social activist. When she married Donald Trump, that was the top of the ladder for her.”
In a separate interview with The New York Times, he described Mrs Trump as “a reluctant first lady (who) did it for her husband”.
“I think that you will find that she will be even less visible and less available,” he said.
“Quite frankly, I think America should just let her go.”