(CNN) — Huma, please say it isn’t so.
That was the overwhelming sentiment of women I chatted with on Facebook, Twitter and over e-mail after I heard reports that Huma Abedin, wife of embattled New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, might partly blame herself for her husband’s return to sexting.
An Abedin family member reportedly told People magazine that she blamed herself, in part, for ending couples counseling last year and focusing on her newborn son around the same time Weiner got back to his explicit digital contacts with women.
I checked in with women around the country, most of whom I interviewed last week about Abedin’s decision to stick with her husband, to take their pulse.
“What a sad thing to hear, that Huma blames herself, but it’s not so unusual, is it?” said Jessica Dukes, a mom of two and freelance writer in Brooklyn, New York. “When relationships hit the rocks, doesn’t everyone have those ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ thoughts.”
Andrea Kristina says she knows exactly what Abedin is going through. She put up with her husband’s infidelities for years, she said, and that battered her self-worth.
“When a woman’s self-esteem is already low, and she is already so insecure, it is easy for a man like this to bend her thinking in a way that makes her feel as if she is the one who failed somehow,” the divorced mom of a teenager said. “For so long, that’s how I felt.”
Pam Selker Rak, a married public relations executive in Pittsburgh, said if she were Huma’s friend, she’d tell her she feels terrible she is choosing to “carry this burden on her own shoulders.”
“But this is not her burden to carry,” she said. “Her husband is an adult who made choices, and those choices resulted in actions that have impacted his family, his career and even himself.”
Allison Kluger, a married mom of two in Palo Alto, California, believes Huma’s “self-blame stance” is “very generous.”
“I don’t really believe that she believes this, but she is very brave in voicing that a relationship — all the ups and downs — involve two people,” Kluger said. “What saddens me, but does not make me think negatively of Huma, is that she seems to be making all the sacrifices to keep her family, her husband’s career and her career together.”
It is not surprising and very common for women to blame themselves when a spouse or partner strays, says Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and associate professor at Pepperdine University.
Women in these situations, says Bryant-Davis, are looking for hope, power or control.
“If I acknowledge I am powerless to stop his behavior, that is very disheartening,” she said. “If I can figure out what I did wrong, I can figure out how to fix it, and if you tell me that I didn’t do anything wrong, then what do I do with that?”
Bryant-Davis also said it can be very hard for a woman such as Abedin, who has been very successful in her career and is not accustomed to “losing.”
“It can be very disorienting to say how is it that in every other area of my life, I’ve been able to achieve, and now in this area it looks like a failure,” she said, adding the best advice for women who are in Abedin’s shoes is to get individual counseling as well as couples therapy.
Meg Watt, a married mom of two, says she knows plenty of people who have blamed themselves for their significant other’s choices, and that she was also guilty of it in a past relationship.
“But either you live in denial of reality or you eventually face the facts in the situation: she didn’t make him seek something outside their marriage. He did that all on his own,” she said.
We, as women, are wired to be fixers, Watt added. “But the important thing is to realize that the only person who can ‘fix’ infidelity is the one who chose to commit it.”