It seems the ridiculous is courting the sublime these days in terms of headlines to write about, talk about, and wonder about… I mean, really! A congressperson spending his days online sending crotch shots to girls who “liked” his facebook page? Sexting? So with our daily dose of humor at the water cooler, it seems worth wondering just what in the hell is going on here. What would make a man, who has arguably reached a level of success that many only dream about, risk so much professionally and personally for a moment of thrill? It might help to think about this behavior as chasing a high. This is not to equate the behavior with addiction, however, the high of exhibitionism, of risky sexualized behavior, might in fact trigger a surge of endorphins that feels worth the risk. In conjunction with this theory, it might in fact take riskier and riskier behavior to trigger the same rush, thereby causing people to push the envelope until they are, ahem, exposed…In my clinical opinion with what is now being “revealed” by even more photos that we are looking at a person with what now will be called “Hypersexual Disorder”.
Speculation on the various news sources has been around the motivation for this kind of behavior, whether this constitutes cheating, and whether Representative Weiner should resign. Motivation could very simply be about that endorphin rush, the excitement of doing something naughty, sending an image for the almost immediate gratification of a response sext or instant message. The immediate gratification piece is, I think, what makes this an interesting psychological conversation. As children we (hopefully) learn how to delay gratification. In infancy, it’s impossible so we become frustrated, even enraged until our need is recognized and satisfied. As we grow up, our tolerance for frustration is increased until we’re able to differentiate between want and need in order to make decisions that allow us to be successful and healthy individuals. Often times we might find ourselves coping with stress or anxiety by turning to things we want as if filling a need and so it might become difficult to make good decisions. This is not an excuse for bad behavior, certainly we still maintain the responsibility of thought, however motivated purely by emotion I know I have reached for chocolate and said “I need that now if I’m going to get through this day.” Sexting, or other “virtual” behaviors might be like that. An impulse that feels motivated by some need of relief or distraction that is satisfied in literally seconds. This behavior might seem mostly harmless and traceless, until of course it’s not…
When it’s discovered and the lies begin, that is where this becomes more like cheating and more devastating to the voting public or to the unknowing partner of this person. I think we still want to believe that the people we vote into office are somehow better than us. Motivated by more than physical and emotional drives, we like to believe that the work they do as public servants is all they think about 100% of their days. When Weiner’s are uncovered (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) we want to believe their lies. Yes, of course he was hacked. His twitter account is simply for keeping in touch with his constituents, he wouldn’t use it in that way. Someone else did this. We really want to believe. So when the truth comes out, as it invariably will, it’s painful. Is it bad enough for someone to lose his or her job over? At this point I would say most likely. I think if I had an employee that was spending as much of their day utilizing social media for personal connection, as it seems he was, that might be something to discuss at a review meeting and could lead to you losing your job. If this employee was also using my companies facilities to engage in these inappropriate activities such as our conference room or gym, let’s say, the thought of being “fired” is nearing a boiling point. The resignation rhetoric, comes from a place of being embarrassed for believing in someone who ultimately seemed to betray us, it seems clear his resignation may be imminent. What is unknown is if he will also lose his marriage and family.
So is this cheating? Yes. If we are doing things sexually with anyone other than our partner and are hiding said activities, it is infidelity, period, whether there is physical contact or not. The recovery from this type of betrayal is a difficult and long road for any couple. As a relationship expert I have sat with many couples that engage in different marital contracts than the one we have typically come to expect. So ultimately the only one who can answer if this marriage is going to even try to survive is Huma Abedin, Representative Weiner’s pregnant wife.
I will say this; his behavior was despicable, shameful and risky. His inappropriate behavior and subsequent lies are no doubt a source of public humiliation for those who are close to him and especially his wife. Anthony Weiner’s aggressively selfish behavior does not only do harm to him and his future, but also to the future of his family. For a marriage to survive this sort of self created assault, and I do think it could, it would require real honesty and deep work as a couple with a Psychologist trained in doing this type of therapy. Through working on these sorts of issues, and some of the behavior like this that we have seen in the news lately, work within the scope of an intimate relationship for these sexual/compulsive disorders might prove to have the most enduring results. The one I wish the most strength and courage for is Huma.