Huma Abedin's personal essay for the September issue of Harper's Bazaar plays out an all-too-familiar scene in the theater of sex and politics. In this cast, there are only two characters: the Good Wife and the Better Man. In the article, Abedin christens her husband, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner "a better man" who pushed through his past mistakes (which, by now, we all know of). And in a telling editorial decision, the magazine titles the article and by proxy Abedin herself as "The Good Wife," one who has remained faithful by his side through it all.

It's a clean, PR-friendly image. This article was written and published online before the nation was introduced to Carlos Danger.

And now that Weiner's public vows to abandon his sexting exploits with other women have resurfaced as, shall we say, less than sincere, it's difficult to tell which of the couple is more infamous. The typecasts are quickly deteriorating, as America can't seem to make up its mind whether it's more outraged by Carlos Danger for straying, or The Good Wife for staying.

Countless motives have been ascribed to Abedin for "standing by her man"—that she's staying as a boost to her own political career, that her Muslim faith or Saudi Arabian upbringing compels her to leave divorce out of the options, that she's following in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton's example. We'll never know.

What can be said of Abedin, however, is that she did something many other politico's wives in similar situations did not. At a press conference with her husband, Abedin exercised a quality I admire in any woman: raising her own voice. She articulated to the press that hers is a personal decision she made "for me, for our son, and for our family."

But what happened next is where her position becomes problematic. Because in the next breath, Abedin extended her own choice to forgive and stand by her unfaithful husband as a prescriptive for all—for voters, for national viewers, and perhaps most dangerously, for all women who have ever found themselves in a cycle of broken trust.

This line of thought is consistent with her Bazaar essay, in which she invites readers to join her in the ranks of The Good Wife, even infusing her choice with moral force:

New Yorkers will have to decide for themselves whether or not to give him a second chance. I had to make that same decision for myself, for my son, for our family. And I know in my heart that I made the right one.

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Abedin may maintain her decision is a personal one, but the subtle invitation to follow her lead sends the message to women everywhere: The Good Wife is one who is ever faithful to her man, whether or not he is faithful to her.

Yet, in reality, relationships are far too multi-dimensional for such a clean caricature. In fact, The Good Wife does not—and should not—look the same from one marriage to another. For some women, it might look like bringing public accountability to her husband's destructive habits. It might look like checking herself and her children into a hotel for a night or two because their home has become physically unsafe. Certainly sometimes, the best thing a wife can do is to stand by her man. Yet other times, The Good Wife earns her name by standing up to him instead.

The point is, to construct a one-size-fits-all template of The Good Wife is socially irresponsible. It's a tired cast of characters, and not only in the scandal-studded political ring. It's a typecast that's long overstayed its welcome in the Christian narrative as well.

In some ways, it's easy to see why. The Christian convictions of male headship, female submission (in some circles), and the sanctity of marriage can lead some women to believe God calls them to stay in repeatedly unfaithful or abusive relationships. In fact, as William Bradford Wilcox reports in Soft Patriarchs, New Men, individuals with strong religious beliefs statistically stay in abusive relationships longer than others without religious moorings. In his study, he found that Protestant wives, at 2.8 percent, are the least likely among demographics to report domestic abuse in their home. Of course, this doesn't mean abuse isn't happening.

I recently listened in on a group of women as they described the ways they see the church perpetuating this image of The Good Wife as one called to remain in even a toxic marriage. As one woman put it, "The hammering of 'wives, submit to your husbands' was much louder than the idea of 'as long as what he wants doesn't go against God's will.'" Another watched her mother, married to a physically abusive alcoholic, receive the spiritual advice: "Pray for him, stand by him, and do not slander him." Another answered, "My own husband uses the Scripture of 'God hates divorce' to invoke guilt when he knows or thinks I've had enough. Basically, to him, the idea of marriage is more important than the people in the marriage."

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And yet, if we know anything about Jesus, it's that His divine mission and identity is rooted in proclaiming "freedom for the captives" (Isa. 61:1, Luke 4:14-21) advocating for the oppressed (Ps. 9:9) and defending the weak (Luke 10:30-37).

Likewise, if we know anything about God's design for men and women, it's that he is a creator of personhood—of male and female in the uniqueness of his image (Gen. 1:27) rather than rote templates. As a result, a singular definition of The Good Wife is not only inaccurate but to ask women to conform to it does a disservice to divine Image-bearing personhood.

In the end, the reality is we don't know the outer limits of Weiner's addiction, Abedin's forgiveness, or their commitment to each other. Weeks before the mayoral primary, the charade of The Good Wife and The Better Man continues—though given Weiner's latest poll numbers, it seems many voters don't want to play along.

But as Carlos Danger fades from the headlines, I hope The Good Wife image will likewise be retired—letting us get back to the dynamic complexity of humans as Image-bearing individuals, not as cheap typecasts.

Stephanie S. Smith is a freelance writer and current editor for Barna Group, previously at RELEVANT Media Group. She lives in Orlando with her husband, and you can find her at or tweeting @stephindialogue.