Updated 11:07 a.m. ET, 7/25
(CNN) - While Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin say they're trying to move their marriage past Weiner's repeated sexting scandals, friends of Abedin's told CNN that upon the former congressman's confession to his wife last fall that he had relapsed into exchanging lewd messages, Abedin was furious and seriously considered ending the marriage.
She was done and ready to leave him, the friend said. Another friend said she was "this close to walking out the door."
After some reflection, friends said, Abedin felt that taking their toddler son from his father was not what was best for him, and ultimately decided to continue with therapy in an effort to heal their relationship and help him with work through his issues.
On Tuesday, the Democratic New York City mayoral candidate admitted to engaging in lewd chats a year after the same dubious habits forced his resignation from Congress in 2011. In an extraordinary news conference, Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, pleaded for voters to forgive the embattled candidate.
Unlike his public resignation two years ago, Abedin spoke up for her husband Tuesday at the news conference, saying she's pushing beyond her husband's problem and urged others to do the same.
"What I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as I have said from the beginning, we are moving forward," said Abedin, a longtime senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, adding that Weiner had made some "horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress, and after."
"But I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage," she continued. "It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son and for our family."
Members of her inner circle said Abedin was out there Tuesday because she wanted to be. And when the scandal first broke in 2011, Abedin wanted Weiner to keep his congressional seat, not resign, according to a friend from Abedin's days in the Clinton White House.
Known as a deeply private person, Abedin's presence in the latest dustup-a noticeable difference from her decision to stay away from the media during Weiner's congressional resignation-has spurred questions of "why?"
Why help him out? Why stick with him? Why this time?
John Avlon, senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and CNN contributor, argued Abedin is simply following the model set by Hillary Clinton.
"Part of the Clinton playbook is success heals all wounds. Let's just win and all this tawdry mess will be in the rearview mirror," he said on CNN's "New Day."
Others believe it simply comes down to love. Noting that Abedin is someone with a highly successful career, friend and CNN contributorPaul Begala told CNN's Chris Cuomo that Abedin is clearly "not a woman trapped without options."
"I fall back to philosopher Blaise Pascal, who says, 'The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.' In other words, I don't think this is simply a strategic decision for her. I think Huma loves this guy. She's going to stick with him. She thinks he'd be a good mayor," Begala said.
A Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser in Bill Clinton's administration, Begala said Abedin gave Weiner "the only chance he's got" to continue with his bid for mayor. She could have easily ended this, he argued, and "no one would have thought less of her for that."
"What you saw the other day at the press conference was the real Huma–very emotional but also very committed," Begala added. "That's why I don't think this is any kind of strategy. I think it's just her revealing her heart, which must be an incredible painful thing for an intensely private woman."
Calls from editorial boards and opponents for Anthony Weiner to withdraw from the New York City mayoral contest have been pouring in after his admission that he sent the lusty messages more than a year after resigning from Congress.
As Weiner resisted those calls to drop out, CNN was able to identify the 23-year-old recipient of those sexually charged messages.
The woman who participated in the lewd chats with Weiner was identified by an acquaintance as Sydney Elaine Leathers of Evansville, Indiana.
The acquaintance, Lou Colagiovanni, told CNN he met Leathers on a political Facebook page he moderated in 2010. After Leathers confided in Colagiovanni about the Weiner sexting messages, he says the two discussed making money off the revelation of Weiner's improprieties. When Leathers took the messages elsewhere, Colagiovanni said he decided to go public.
The messages were published on the Gossip website TheDirty.com almost a year after they were exchanged, just weeks before the Democratic mayoral primary in New York City.
In a lengthy e-mail to supporters earlier Wednesday, Weiner declared: "New Yorkers don't quit, and I'll never quit on you." He added that he "answered every question about these mistakes" before and after announcing his run for mayor but expressed regret that he did not specify "when these exchanges happened."
In his e-mail to supporters, Weiner said the exchange was "a terrible mistake that I unfortunately returned to during a rough time in our marriage."
– CNN's Jessica Yellin, Alina Cho, Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak, and CNNMoney's Erica Fink, and Laurie Segall contributed to this report.