Learning from Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin: The Post-Scandal Playbook

Life can turn on a dime.  One moment you’re happily married, and the next you’re facing sexual infidelity in your marriage. How to recover and rebuild trust?

As a therapist practicing in Manhattan, I’ve witnessed many marital meltdowns between couples—even power couples like the would-be mayoral contender Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, and I’ve seen what couples need to weather marital storms.  Even after a public Twitter sex scandal, it appears that this power couple’s marriage has survived. How did Abedin muster the strength to stay the course with Weiner after a public sex scandal?  What gave her the strength to dig in instead of leave?

Women who feel they have resources and emotional support from family and friends can emerge from marital wreckage intact.  Underlying every successful negotiation (and marriage is more often than not a negotiation) is the knowledge that the parties are mutually independent and dependent on each other.  To put it bluntly, if they had to, either the husband or the wife could choose to walk away. Freedom is a prerequisite of commitment.

The ability to think and act independently brings symmetry to a relationship—and it gives a hurt spouse what she needs to avoid the pitfall of victimization. According to the Times article, Weiner has spent the past year as a house spouse—and a good one, it seems—while undergoing therapy.

Abedin benefited equally from close ties to people outside her marriage, including her boss Hillary Clinton. (Have the words “I feel your pain” ever been more apt?)

For all women, the Times article on Weiner and Abedin’s post-scandal marriage is truly a teachable moment.  Resources equal options.  Options endow partners with a sense of control—and self-respect.   In marriage, self-respect counterbalances the melding of two lives.  It helps demarcate life’s most important border: here’s where you end and I begin. Critical to any healthy relationship.

Abedin may not be the poster girl for a happy marriage.  But she does serve as a model of the importance of having a life of one’s own. This endows a woman with the emotional freedom to stand up for herself and her marriage.

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