Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt

With their personal lives in order (more or less), now comes the awkward part, where our wayward former leaders Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer seek to repair their relationship with the voting public, post sex scandals. You might think that this is where the marriage counsellors exit and the spin doctors step in. But what if the marriage counsellors stuck around? When a husband betrays his wife, experts recommend various therapeutic techniques to help him regain her trust. Perhaps Weiner, who is running for mayor, and Spitzer, who is running for Comptroller, could use some of the same tactics to rebuild their relationship with us.

Christina Curtis, a psychotherapist with fifteen years of experience in couples reconciliation, got together with a few colleagues last week for an impromptu counselling session devoted to the damaged voter-politician relationship. Infidelity causes trauma, she said, which is easily reactivated by "visual and auditory cues." She explained, "For a betrayed spouse, there's just the reminders all the time." Ditto the Weiner and Spitzer campaigns: "With these people in our face all the time in the media, we, too, are getting the cues, and we're remembering, 'Oh, yeah, they did that.' " For a voter, even seeing Weiner's face on TV triggers flashbacks to June, 2011, when he announced that he couldn't "say with certitude" whether the crotch in a photo that he tweeted was his.

"And you remember the look of that woman," another therapist, Dr. Jim Walkup, added, referring to Spitzer's escort, Ashley Alexandra Dupre.

Curtis said, "And his wife"--Silda Wall Spitzer--"having to go up to the podium, and the humiliation."

The therapists had gathered, along with Dr. JoAnn Magdoff, in Dr. Walkup's midtown office. There was a maroon analyst's couch and framed medical degrees; outside, in a waiting area, speakers emitted soothing ocean sounds. Dr. Magdoff discussed the sense of betrayal that voters might have. She pointed out that victims typically feel more than rage: "It really evokes their old attachment injuries as well."

Dr. Walkup said, "What we're getting right now is apologies. And most spouses will say, 'Gosh, I feel like I've heard this before. I'm not sure I can trust this.' " Along with the painful flashbacks, he said, we may be experiencing "a very powerful need to interrogate, a constant 'Let's go back over those details.' " It's the same impulse, he said, that makes reporters "keep digging up whatever they can. …

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