Life can turn on a dime. Just ask Huma Abedin, profiled in the April 14th Sunday Times along with her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, now an NYC mayoral contender.
The day before Abedin's life started unraveling, she dined with the Queen of England (literally) along with her then-boss Hillary Clinton and other members of the State Department: a career highlight. By the next day, she was headed into the storm of her husband's humiliating Twitter sex scandal, ending in his resignation from office. To make matters worse, Abedin was pregnant.
What to do? Abedin faced two devastating losses: trust in her husband and a public loss of face. No matter how brilliant her career, she now owned an unfortunate legacy: being the wife of a congressman brought down by his own judgment lacuna and his botched handling of the crisis.
Yet, reading about Abedin and the emotional support she received during this terrible time, I count her among the lucky.
As a therapist practicing in Manhattan, I've witnessed many marital meltdowns between couples -- even power couples like Abedin and Weiner -- and I've seen what women, in particular, need to weather marital storms: professional, financial and emotional resources. Abedin drew on all of these to survive a tough time and muster the strength to stay the course with Weiner. She not only had options, but the self-confidence to choose either to dig in with Weiner or separate.
Women who feel they have resources can emerge from marital wreckage intact. In particular, those with independent lives often benefit from the self-esteem that gives them an equal seat at the table in their own marriage. Underlying every successful negotiation (in marriage as well as in work) is the knowledge that the parties are mutually independent and dependent. To put it bluntly, if they had to, either the husband or the wife could choose to walk away.
The ability to think and act independently brings symmetry to a relationship -- and it gives a woman the self-respect she needs to avoid the pitfall of victimization. Clearly, Huma Abedin is no one's victim. According to the Times article, Weiner has spent the past year as a house spouse -- and a good one, it seems -- after undergoing what sounds like good therapy.
Yet, Abedin benefited from equally from close ties to people outside her marriage, including her boss Hillary Clinton. (Have the words "I feel your pain" ever been more apt?) and her family who literally flew to her side.
For all women, the Times article on Weiner and Abedin's post-scandal marriage is truly a teachable moment. Resources equal options. Options endow women with a sense of control -- and self-respect. In marriage, self-respect counterbalances the melding of two lives. It helps demarcate life's most important border: here's where you end and I begin.
Abedin may not be the poster girl for a happy marriage. But she does serve as a model of the importance of having a life of one's own.