Transparency a key to moving forward after spouse accused of sexual harassment
BY ALISON BOWEN
Since the news of Harvey Weinstein’s allegations of decades of sexual misconduct broke last October, headline after headline has exposed more men accused of harassment or abuse.
Many of these men are married. So what of the wives who choose to stay in the union?
How should women who stay with prominent men accused in the #MeToo era proceed? They are on the sidelines but still directly experiencing the aftermath of public humiliation and a marriage rocked by allegations.
So many wives have chosen to remain with high-profile husbands accused of misdeeds that an entire show, “The Good Wife,” was created with a character whose story begins with her standing beside an accused husband at a press conference.
The show echoes real examples, and they continue.
Huma Abedin continued in a marriage with Anthony Weiner as he tried to recover from scandal; he has since been sentenced to prison for sexting with a minor, and they are now settling their divorce.
More recently, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was charged with a crime after accusations that he took compromising photos of a woman. He and his wife acknowledged the affair and released a joint statement that said they were working on their marriage.
The next step
Sen. Al Franken was accused of inappropriate sexual advances, which he denied, and resigned his seat after thanking his wife of 42 years for her continued support.
Karen Lawson, a psychologist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, counsels individuals and couples who are dealing with problematic sexual behavior.
The next steps depend on what a wife wants, she said. “Some are going to keep working through. Others don’t want to.”
For those who do want to stay in the marriage, “Not being afraid to know the truth is certainly the starting point,” she said. But she recommends avoiding the news if it’s a high-profile situation and speaking directly with your spouse.
Transparency is key, she said.
Ideally, each spouse would have a different therapist, as well as an additional therapist for the couple who is qualified in treating marital infidelity.
These initial conversations will be hard, especially as they likely reveal hurtful incidents and longtime deceptions.
“That would certainly first start with asking the person, their partner, their husband, ‘What is your pattern? What are these people complaining about? Why did you get fired?’ Whatever the situation,” Lawson said.
“In my practice, we talk about being a complete open book,” she added.
A husband, she said, should provide complete transparency.
For example, she said, every password should be shared, every text should be available. His phone should be left out on the table when he showers and on his partner’s side of the bed when they sleep.
“Not that someone always wants to check,” she said. But this transparency is a first step in showing the partner is willing to work on the relationship.
Many of her clients wonder whether friends will stand by them or if people are gossiping.
“They can’t worry a whole lot about what the rest of the world is going to think,” she said. “They’re either there for you, and they’ll wait this out, or they’re gossiping too, and they’re not good friends to begin with.”
Lawson said that to move forward in the marriage, it is vital that there are “no transgressions, no backsliding.”
“It’s easy to try to start to build trust, but once it’s wrecked again, it’s not so likely that it’s going in a positive direction,” she said.