Let me start right out by saying that I don't know Huma Abedin personally, nor does she know me from a gnat. And I also want to concede up front that the very idea of offering advice to someone you don't really know is kind of presumptuous. Also, the only information I have about Ms. Abedin's marriage to Rep. Anthony Weiner comes from what he himself has said publicly, as well as what the media has reported.
Having acknowledged all of that, however, I still want to share what I would tell Huma Abedin if she were my own sister, or a good friend who found herself in this unbelievably painful and humiliating situation. So here goes…
The first thing I would tell Huma Abedin if she were my BFF is that in my opinion, those who are now asking whether what her husband did actually constitutes adultery or "cheating" are asking the wrong question. It doesn't matter whether what he did fits the technical definition of adultery. Why? Because what he did does fit the technical definition of disturbing.
Adultery is generally defined as some sort of extramarital and consensual sexual activity between two adults. The activity might or might not include sending poorly lit, nekkid photos of oneself to the person with whom one is having l'affaire, but the defining factor of adultery isn't the same thing that primarily defines Weiner's behavior.
Anthony Weiner is not an adulterer. Anthony Weiner is a sex offender. The man sent lewd pictures of himself to virtual strangers who had not requested that he do so. Chatting someone up briefly on Twitter is not an invitation to be flashed. He had no real connection to, or relationship with the people on the other end of his exhibitionism. They were totally impersonal victims to him. He didn't even know for certain that they were not minors.
Weiner has been evidencing the classic behaviors of an exhibitionist, and exhibitionists are a well-accepted category of sexual offender. While exhibitionism may be a symptom of the sexual addiction for which one assumes Rep. Weiner is currently being treated at some undisclosed location, it's not a victimless symptom like if he were spending too much time alone in the man cave with his iPad. No, exhibitionism involves proactive criminal activity against innocent victims, and psychiatry and our legal system see exhibitionism as part of the same continuum as rape.
Could Anthony Weiner "get well?" Of course he could. I mean, anything is possible. He might return from inpatient treatment, start attending regular therapy sessions, start taking some sort of medication, and never, ever do anything like this again. But what I'd tell my friend, if my friend were Huma Abedin, is that life is full of risk-benefit analyses, and now that she's about to become a mama, and she's faced with this terrible situation, it's time to conduct such an analysis. I'd tell her that in my opinion, the odds are really, really not in her favor if she were to choose to continue to make a go of it with a man who is obviously unable to control his urges to commit risky sex crimes, even when when stood to lose his entire career, and most importantly, even at a time when he's a supposedly besotted new husband with a baby on the way. (In fact, according to experts who work with sexual offenders, it was those very risks that likely fueled Weiner's criminal behaviors rather than mitigating them.)
I'd give my friend Huma a huge hug, and tell her that this is NOT about a husband who cheated or a man who is sincerely sorry for his regrettable one time mistake. This is not about a marriage that's hit a rough spot. This is about an honest woman having inadvertently fallen in love with and married someone who will almost certainly be driven to hurt her again and again by compulsions he clearly can't control, and that even our best doctors don't yet totally understand.
Breaking it off with a bad man whom you happen to love hurts just as much as any other break-up. But if Huma Abedin were my friend, I'd be encouraging her right now to take a deep breath, rub her beautiful, pregnant belly, summon up her courage, and rip that band-aid off now, rather than later.
Because later will be worse, both for her, and for her baby on the way.
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