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xxii

But then, when I was twenty-seven, two things happened to tear those bedcovers away. First, my mother walked out on my fa-ther, refusing to return until he agreed to stop having affairs and start counseling. Later, while I was putting together a family history for a graduate course I was taking in family therapy, I brought my parents along, and I made the dramatic discovery that my parents had also buried their own unbearable memories.

Under the skillful questioning of my mentor, the family therapist Thomas Fogarty, M.D., my mother broke down and confided that she knew her father had carried on an affair with the family’s housekeeper.

Then, as Dr. Fogarty prodded him gently to recall his child-hood traumas, my father, too, began to cry. Haltingly, as Dr. Fogarty urged him to confront the emotional emptiness inside himself, my dad finally voiced the shameful secret he had carried alone for more than forty years.

“I came home unexpectedly at the age of ten and I saw this strange man with my mother. By the looks on their faces and their strange behavior, I always wondered if my mother had been unfaithful to my father,” my dad revealed.

At that moment, I began to see that adultery—much like alcoholism or abuse—is a multigenerational plague.

My father, too, had tried to hide under the covers. But even without acknowledging his terrible secret—not in eight years of therapy—was he driven by it, trying to get back at his mother and avenge his father by sabotaging all his other relationships with women?

My mother, meanwhile, had tried to remake her own childhood through marriage, picking a playboy who resembled her father and then struggling to reform him.

I, too, was scarred by my burdensome secret; while I had not committed adultery, I could not trust men and was terrified of intimacy.

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