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Dr. Drew: Allow Weiner to save his marriage

By Drew Pinsky, Special to CNN
  • Drew Pinsky: Weiner likely didn't understand his motive or the consequences
  • Weiner displays signs of a narcissist, Pinsky says,
  • His actions were cheating, despite apparent lack of physical relationship, he writes
  • Pinsky: Priority is for Weiner to try to save his marriage through treatment

Editor's note: Drew Pinsky is the host of "Dr.Drew" on HLN, shown weeknights at 9 p.m. ET and PT. A practicing physician, he is on the staff at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California. Pinsky is also assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Keck USC School of Medicine.

(CNN) -- He's finally come clean. After days of lying, Rep. Anthony Weiner has admitted to what he couldn't cover up any longer.

Here's what everyone wants to know: Why did he lie? Why did he tweet a photo of himself bare-chested, to a woman he'd never met?

Why did a middle-aged, newly married man need attention from women who were strangers? Is he technically a cheater?

Rep. Weiner answered the first question himself. He said he lied because he was embarrassed and didn't want to get caught. Fair enough.

I'll address the others. But I can't say I know what he was thinking, because I don't.

Dr. Drew: Weiner apologizes for "terrible mistakes"

Rep. Weiner doesn't truly know why, either. He certainly didn't contemplate the consequences of his actions. It's hard for most of us to make sense of what people are trying to gain from these sorts of exchanges. What exactly are they hoping to evoke from the people to whom they are sending images?

Rep. Weiner: What was he thinking?
Would Weiner ethics charges stick?
Why did a middle-aged, newly married man need attention from women who were strangers?
--Drew Pinsky

I tell young people all the time, and now I'm telling anyone, no matter what your age: You can't take back the stuff you put out there on Twitter and Facebook, even e-mails. If you don't want the world to see something you're sending, stop and think before you put it out there. And now I have a question: What don't people get about that?

Let me be clear. This is not just a weakness. It's a big problem. It's pervasive. Reputations, relationships and careers are at stake. Sadly, many people can attest to this.

I do not know Rep. Weiner. But I do know he seems to have the features of a narcissist. Narcissists feel empty. Narcissists feel invincible. But their emotional landscape is barren. They are trying to evoke something through these inappropriate experiences. They feel they are entitled to these interactions.

And those of us watching from the sidelines are drawing the erroneous conclusion that this is the totality of what's going on. It's not. With many men, it's sex addiction. I do not know if Rep. Weiner is a sex addict, but he could be.

So, is it cheating? Yes. You don't have to have a physical relationship with someone other than your spouse or significant other to betray him or her. That's why the guilty party tries to prevent the truth from coming out. They know they are cheating and they don't want to get caught. Rep. Weiner said it straight-out -- he wasn't protecting his wife. He was protecting himself.

Here's what I am most concerned about: Rep. Weiner has been publicly shamed. Shame is a shattering experience for a narcissist. He simply can't avoid it because of who he is and how his lies came to light. People who are narcissists and experience such shame can develop depression, or commit self-destructive acts. I would keep a close eye on this man. We have to remember, this is a human being at whom we're all taking aim.

We have judged, criticized, and even condemned Rep. Weiner, and that's where our own responsibility comes in. Let's think about the consequences of that.

I'm not saying that what Rep. Weiner did was OK. But let's allow him to get his personal life in order. That's what the priority is now. His marriage can be saved. With treatment, he and his wife can end up in a relationship that is stronger, and better, than ever.

Let's give them that chance.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Drew Pinsky.

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