South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.

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SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. — South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.

“I said absolutely not. It’s one thing to forgive adultery; it’s another thing to condone it,” Jenny Sanford said during a 20-minute interview at the coastal home where she sought refuge with their four sons.

She said that when her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, disappeared last week, she hoped he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as his staff workers told those who inquired about his absence. That he had dared to go to Argentina to see the other woman left her stunned.

“He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her,” she said. “I was hoping he was on the Appalachian Trail. … I was hoping he was doing some real soul-searching somewhere and devastated to find out it was Argentina.”

The Sanfords had separated about two weeks ago. She said her husband told the family he wanted some time away to work on writing a book and clear his head.

Gov. Sanford, who is staying at the official residence in Columbia, returned from Argentina on Wednesday to end days of speculation on his whereabouts, publicly confess his cheating and apologize.

Jenny Sanford, a Georgetown University-educated former Wall Street executive, did not stand next to her husband during his pained public confession.

She said she discovered her husband’s affair in January after coming across a copy of a letter to the mistress in one of his files in the governor’s mansion. He had asked her to find some financial information, she said, not an unusual request considering her heavy involvement in his career.

She would not comment on what was in the letter except to say it was “enough to figure out an affair was going on.

“It’s hard to find out your husband is not who you thought he was,” she added.

The first lady said she confronted her husband immediately, and he agreed to end the affair. She said she wasn’t sure Friday whether he had done so.

The governor declined to discuss details of the letter and how he handled it with his wife.

Jenny Sanford cried at the end of the interview, and said the couple had been to counseling. “When I found out in January, we both indicated a willingness to continue working on the marriage, but there’s not room for three people in a marriage,” she said.

About an hour after Jenny Sanford talked of her feelings of betrayal, her husband brushed aside any suggestion he might resign, citing the Bible and the story of King David, who continued to lead after sleeping with another man’s wife, Bathsheba, having the husband slain and marrying the widow.

“What I find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell mightily — fell in very, very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there,” Sanford told members of his Cabinet in a session called so he could apologize to them in person and tell them the business of government must continue.