October 16, 2019

Lessons From A Man In Denial

In 2011, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was forced to resign his position when it became known that he had tweeted lewd photographs of himself to a woman.  At first he denied the accusation, but eventually the evidence was too strong for him to continue the charade. Keep in mind that Weiner is a married man, and his wife was expecting at the time.  In a short statement, Weiner said, “Today I am announcing my resignation from Congress so . . . that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused.”  He then apologized for his mistakes and “the embarrassment I have caused.”

All well and good. Fast-forward to this year.  Weiner was attempting to revive his political career by running for mayor of New York.  The campaign was going well, and his poll numbers were positive.  Unfortunately, his “mistakes” from two years ago had also revived.  At an uncomfortable press conference on July 25, with his wife Huma Abdedin, by his side, Weiner revealed that he had sexually explicit online relationships with six to ten women and that some of these relationships had started after he had resigned from Congress.  He again admitted that he had made embarrassing mistakes but rejected calls to drop out of the race.  His wife told the press, “ . . . I strongly believe that [his sexting] is between us . . . I love him; I have forgiven him; I believe in him . . . and we are moving forward.”  She added that she thought it was worth it to stay in the marriage and “give it a try,” especially for the sake of their young son.

Fine.  After all, it’s her life, her husband, her child.  She can do whatever she chooses.  But then I happened to come across an article on the internet that was published five weeks beforeWeiner’s latest confession, and it suggested that he had never really dealt with his problem.

Writing for Buzzfeed.com, on June 17, 2013, Ruby Cramer points out that after his resignation from Congress, Weiner enrolled in a program that was not designed to find the root cause of his problem.  Shortly after his resignation, Weiner spent three days at the Gabbard Center, a psychiatric evaluation center in Houston Texas.  He told the Daily News that his stay there was key to him becoming a “new man.”

But keep in mind that the Gabbard Center only does evaluations; it does not treat sexual addictions.  Cramer quotes Robert Weiss, a sex therapist with twenty years of experience:

No one gets treatment in three days . . . Somebody who’s crashed and burned at that level needs very intensive short-term treatment, followed by long-term less intensive treatment . . . You get them in residential treatment for 30 to 40 days, then follow through with more therapy.

For his part, Weiner has consistently denied that he has an addiction problem.  He told theNew York Times Magazine that he was working with a therapist who “ . . . didn’t tell me: ‘You have a sex addiction! You were abused as a child!’  None of that stuff, which in a lot of ways, I’d kind of prefer.”

Cramer turns to Weiss again: “I’ve never worked with a client yet who got through treatment and couldn’t say, ‘I know exactly why I did that.’  If you don’t know why you did something, why wouldn’t you do it again?”

According to Cramer, this is a crucial point, because if Weiner has an addiction, he would definitely need intensive long-term treatment.  She quotes psychotherapist Zelik Mintz for elaboration:

Addiction runs deep. It takes a lot of time and work. I get the impression that he [Weiner] sees this as an anomaly, that he’s fine and fixed now.  It doesn’t read to me that he is dealing with the issue and problem–he’s just presenting it as a mistake.

Cramer finishes her article with this from Weiss:

But even if you take the sex out of it and look at it as maladaptive behavior, three days of anything is just not gonna do it . . . But I understand that someone political might want to be coming out of this with the ability to say, ‘Yeah, I went to some three-day thing and I have some things to work on, but it’s fine.

The reader will note that I have not gone into any detail about Weiner’s online escapades.  They are too disgusting to repeat.  But I think there are lessons here that all of us must consider.

First, whether it’s Facebook or twitter, the anonymity makes it very easy for people to use words and photos in a prurient manner that they would probably not use in a face-to-face encounter.

Second, our sex-saturated culture is leading to many sexual addictions that are destroying families.

Third, spouses of those with such addictions must not enable their partners by granting forgiveness without insisting on extensive therapy and verifiable changes in behavior.

The last lesson is for parents.  There are many useful websites that parents can access that provide excellent tips for keeping their children from being the victim or the perpetrator of sexting.  Naivete often leads to deep regret.

As for Weiner and his family?  Pray for them.

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Written by
Thomas Addis

THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children's book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.

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