As I listened to CNN cover the aspects of the Anthony Weiner story, two questions stuck with me from the various reports:
1. Is Sexting Cheating?
2. Why does his wife stay?
Question 1: Robin Meade asked, as the station went to commercial break:
“Is Sexting Cheating?”
This question implies that his behavior is a question of morals. As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist who teaches workshops to therapists on the subject of the marriage impacted by sex addiction, I am interested when I hear people think about compulsive behavior as a moral issue. As a credentialed chemical addiction counselor we know the first collateral indicator for screening in addiction is: “Continuation (of the behavior) despite negative consequences.” I remember in the 1970’s, chemical dependency was viewed as a moral issue. Similarly, we used to think about depression in a similar vein. “Well why can’t they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and just get on with things?”
Mr. Weiner’s previous sexting behavior caused him to resign from office. We suspect his behavior caused him relationship stress in his marriage by the reports of their seeking marital counseling together. These are negative consequences and yet he has continued this behavior (Continuation despite negative consequences).
Is sexting cheating? What is cheating? Cheating is: to do something duplicitous, dishonest, and deceptive. While he may not be physically having “sex with that woman”, I wonder what expectations does his wife have about fidelity? Would he do this behavior with her looking over his shoulder and would she, in free will, comply with and encourage this behavior? If not, Is this dishonest, deceitful, or deceptive? If she was complicit and aware of this behavior it may not be cheating. While it would not be the marital contract most of my clients would approve of, nor I personally would want to live, it is not considered “cheating” in that way if it is not duplicitous or hidden. I don’t know if this is cheating according to their marital contract, but it certainly could be considered a problem that is worthy of exploration for addictive or compulsive behavior. If it is hidden behavior, it is certainly problematic, and would result in the feelings of betrayal. The fact that he has an online name and not openly representing himself creates the deceitful behavior from the get-go.
Dr. Frank Pitman, psychiatrist and Marriage and Family Therapist, wrote a book called Private Lies. His work on affairs in relationships noted that it is not the acts that are damaging to the relationship as much as the SECRECY. The secrecy is the most damaging contributor to trust issues and largest contributor to feelings of of betrayal. Lying and hiding are hallmarks of addictive behavior. We learn to lie early in our lives when we have to hide parts of ourselves or hide our feelings.
Often, in addictive family systems, we learn to push down parts of ourselves that are not “pretty” or acceptable. That is the set-up for the duality of behaviors. We show the world what we think is acceptable but hide the parts that have not been acceptable. People who struggle with sexually compulsive behaviors struggle with the phenomenon of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The hallmark of sexual addiction is the split of good vs. bad and what one shows versus what one hides. Carlos Danger…hmmmmmm. Carlos DANGER hides behind the Mayoral candidate who wishes to do good for the largest city in our country.