Skip to main content

Why does Huma Abedin put up with Weiner?

By Pepper Schwartz, Special to CNN
updated 9:39 AM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Huma Abedin stood beside her husband, Anthony Weiner, on Tuesday, July 23, as he once again addressed issues surrounding sending explicit messages over the Internet. At times she smiled, other times she appeared solemn, but her message was clear: She is standing by her husband. Abedin has worked for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for more than a decade, and while she's known for shying away from the spotlight, she can often be seen just offstage. Huma Abedin stood beside her husband, Anthony Weiner, on Tuesday, July 23, as he once again addressed issues surrounding sending explicit messages over the Internet. At times she smiled, other times she appeared solemn, but her message was clear: She is standing by her husband. Abedin has worked for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for more than a decade, and while she's known for shying away from the spotlight, she can often be seen just offstage.
HIDE CAPTION
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
Who is Weiner's wife?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pepper Schwartz: Why did Huma Abedin stand by husband in new sexual scandal?
  • She says it's likely a combination of things: her ambition for her husband, faith in marriage vows
  • She says Abedin may believe a woman stands by her man and wants to preserve her family
  • Schwartz: Abedin may be in "tending and befriending" mode -- Weiner doesn't deserve her

Editor's note: Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the author or co-author of 17 books, the latest of which is "The Normal Bar." She is the AARP love and relationship ambassador and writes the Naked Truth column for AARP.org. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that gathers research on American families, and chief expert for perfectmatch.com.

(CNN) -- Tempted as I am to write about Anthony Weiner's sexual compulsions, I think it is more important to talk about his wife, Huma Abedin. What the hell was she doing at Weiner's press conference Tuesday, where he once again asked her and the public for forgiveness for a new set of sexual transgressions, instead of being at her attorney's office?

If this were a multiple-choice test for my students in my class on intimate relationships at the University of Washington, I might phrase the question like this:

Pepper Schwartz
Pepper Schwartz

Two years after the former congressman (and now New York City mayoral candidate) left his office in disgrace because he had "sexted" revealing pictures of his body to women, he was alleged to have once again taken on an anonymous identity, reportedly making sexual overtures and exchanging explicit pictures with a young woman. Why did Abedin stand by him and defend him in a press conference?

A) She is insanely ambitious and wants to be the wife of a successful politician.

B) She believes he has a problem and she is going to help him with it because that's what a woman does for her man.

Standing by your man helps in polls?
'AC360°' daily podcast
Anthony Weiner's latest gaffe

C) She believes in her marriage vows and can't stand the idea of breaking up her family.

D) All of the above.

D is probably the right answer.

Congress and lewd photos: An Anthony Weiner timeline

It's one thing to stay with your guy when he has a big problem. It's another to support him going after public office only to find yourself dragged in front of the cameras again after he engages in the same compulsive sexual behavior that you forgave before. She could have said, "OK, we'll fix this, but we need you in treatment, not in public office." Obviously, leaving public office isn't in the cards, and that's significant.

But A and C also ring true. Abedin's behaviors are squarely in the realm of women's high esteem for love, friendship and loyalty, and for tending and befriending the weak and the beleaguered, as described by UCLA psychologist and professor Shelley Taylor. This gives the impression of being a doormat, but the woman thinks of it as being stalwart and noble. Abedin may not be quite in this category -- but she seems dangerously close to it.

Finally, there is the role of family. For some women "till death do us part" means just that. They believe in staying in a marriage no matter what, especially when a small child is involved. If the man is a good father -- and there is every indication Weiner is -- a wife will go to extremes to stay married

So why does Huma stay? We don't know, but it's surely complicated. Her steadfastness is hard to watch though. She doesn't deserve this, and he doesn't deserve her.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pepper Schwartz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT