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 2:12 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
updated 5:24 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
updated 7:50 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
updated 4:31 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT