Photo Credit: Getty Images
In the wake of Round 2 of the Anthony Weiner scandal, a lot of people are criticizing his wife Huma Abedin for standing by him. While it’s easy for us to say she needs to get out, the area can be a bit gray, especially for those involved. What’s the line between forgivable and inexcusable? Is there always a path to reconciliation? We asked the experts and here are the questions they suggested the victim must ask herself and the Weiner before taking him back.
Questions to Ask Him:
Was this a one-time thing or an ongoing affair?
If he’s in a new, deep relationship, there may be no future worth pursuing for the two of you. If it was a one-time dalliance, you need to decide if you can forgive him.
“If it was an impulsive one-night stand that he regrets, there is more reason to consider forgiving him than if it was an affair,” says Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. “An ongoing affair entails countless lies and betrayals in addition to the countless sexual encounters.”
Are you in love with the other person?
“This is the most important question to ask and the hardest to get an honest answer to, partly because he may not be sure of the answer himself,” says Lieberman.
But if his answer is “yes,” it’s time to move on.
Are you still seeing the other person?
If they work together it might be a little hard for him to avoid her all together. But, “If he chooses to see the other person when he’s not obliged to, you should not forgive him because he is continuing to betray you,” says Lieberman.
What actions will you take to assure me this won’t happen again?
Verbal apologies are nice, but is he willing to take any concrete steps toward changing?
“If he just brushes this suggestion off with pleas for you to just trust him -- that it won’t happen again -- it isn’t enough,” says Lieberman.
What do you feel is missing in our relationship?
Find out what he’s looking for in others and if it’s even something you want to provide.
“Regardless of how he answers this, I can tell you that what’s missing is you’re not making him feel man enough,” says Lieberman. “Bad girls know how to make their men feel like the biggest stud on the planet. When a man feels emasculated, by your wearing the pants in the relationship or having more status than he does, he often cheats to try to feel like a big man again. This is what has been happening to women who win Best Actress, for example.”
What actions can I take to make our relationship stronger?
Finding out exactly what he needs from you could be the key to salvaging the relationship -- if you’re so inclined. Also, asking what you can do will help him be less defensive and pave the way for a more open conversation.
“He may not have the guts to tell you what he really wants,” says Lieberman. Maybe “What he really wants is for you to turn him on the way you did at the beginning of the relationship, when you paid more attention to how you looked and dressed, and were more playful and excited to have sex with him.”
Not getting what he “wants” is no excuse for cheating but asking this question can help you get to the crux of the problem.
Are you willing to go to couples' therapy?
A commitment to going to therapy shows that he’s invested in making the relationship work -- and facing his demons.
“Any time one person cheats on the other, it is an absolute necessity to go into couples' therapy,” says Lieberman. “Emotions are too volatile and complex for the two of you to cope with them effectively and get back on the right track. It is unlikely that he will honestly give you all the answers to your questions if there is not a therapist there to help him cushion the blow of telling you things that he knows you don’t want to hear.”
Do you still want to be in a relationship with me?
Some guys cheat to get caught and get out. Find out if he’s got an exit plan or if he wants to right what’s wrong.
“If you ask him this, you need to be prepared for the dreaded answer,” says Lieberman. “Letting you discover his cheating was [maybe] his way to get you to break up with, or divorce, him.”
Did you use protection (do we have to think that a baby or an STD resulted from this?)?
Cheating can cause more than just emotional hurt. Make sure that there’s nothing else you need to be worried about.
Did you/do you feel guilt/remorse?
“He knows he needs to say that he feels guilty and remorseful in order to get you to forgive him but this is something you need to feel beyond his words,” says Lieberman.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
Does he deserve my forgiveness? Consider whether he came to you and confessed or if you had to learn about his indiscretion from a third party.
“Whether or not he was originally forthcoming says a lot about any moral guilt he felt about cheating,” says Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D., author of Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover. “If you busted him (or he didn’t tell you), then it indicates that he’s not as ethical/moral of a person as you may have thought, and it can be a bit unnerving to stay with somebody like this. Who’s to say that he won’t do it again?”
Have I felt checked out of the relationship too or was I blindsided by this?
If you were both looking for an out, that’s one thing. But if you’re still into him, you have a lot to think about.
“You can beat yourself up forever over clues you might have missed, but the only thing you can do is figure out your role in the factors that led to your partner cheating,” says Fulbirght. “Note: this doesn’t mean you’re to blame!”
Am I willing to start fresh with him or will I constantly be throwing this back up to him?
If “forgiving him” actually means “make his life with me a living hell,” neither of you will be happy.
“Not everybody has it in them to forgive, and that’s okay,” says Fulbright. “You just need to be honest with yourself on this because if you can’t move on, then you’ll be torturing yourself and him for the rest of your days together.”
Am I staying because I am afraid I won’t find someone else?
“You need to make sure that you’re not settling simply because you’re afraid of your own company and of being self-reliant!” says Fulbright.
We promise: There are other fish in the sea.
Would I have cheated if given the opportunity?
If the answer is “yes,” your relationship was probably lacking the level of respect any relationship needs to survive. Time to move on.
When people are committed, they can show restraint and regard for their partners, even if they were stuck on a desert island with football cheerleaders.
Does it seem like he wants forgiveness or is looking for a way out of the relationship?
At this point you probably know him well enough to figure out where his head (and heart) is at.
In our relationship, does the good still outweigh the bad?
Making a pro and con list (to stay or to go) is a good idea when your relationship suffers this type of blow.
“Even if the good outweighs the bad, one bad thing (like cheating) can do a lot of damage,” says Fulbright. “What you need to look at is whether the good make you happy or are you still going to be mulling and hurting over this for a while.”
Has he done this (or other deceitful behaviors) before?
Think about whether this is a new behavior or a pattern that you’ve been trying your best to ignore.
“This can indicate just how much help he needs from a therapist, and how much effort the two of you need to invest in making things right again,” says Fulbright.
Do we still have the same goals?
Are you both still on the same page or was the cheating just a symptom of a larger problem in the relationship?
“Affairs give people the chance to reevaluate unions, and it’s important to make sure that you still want the same things,” says Fulbright. “The answers can really inform the investment you’re willing to make in sticking together.”
Why do I still want to be with him?
When you’ve suffered the hurt and humiliation of being cheated on, you’d better have some solid reasons for staying.
“This is loaded and very individual,” says Fulbright. “Many won’t agree with your reasons, which is why you need to be brutally honest in justifying them to yourself. In some cases, like staying for the children, you may be making yourself a martyr. In other cases, you may be needy, and that makes you vulnerable in moving forward. In still other cases, you may not want the major life changes that come with a split. Understanding what you want and why can help you to stay the course.”
WATCH: Why Do People Cheat On Their Partner?