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41

~ 3 ~

All in the Family

This above all, to thine own self be true.

— William Shakespeare

W

hatever the ostensible motive, adultery is almost always a family affair. I see scores of troubled couples every year, and in nine out of ten cases, either the straying partner, his/her mate, or both partners had adulterous parents. Most often, my patients are unaware of this fact until we uncover it in therapy.

A bent for infidelity is not transmitted genetically, like blue eyes or high blood pressure. It is an emotional inheritance, passed along in subtle ways. Many adulterers can’t or won’t make the family connection immediately. Like my father and myself, they repress their suspicions or darkmemories until multigenerational therapy brings the family secret to light.

Sometimes the suggestion that a predilection for adultery is passed along through family behavior patterns is greeted with skepticism or embarrassed laughter. “My grandfather? My mother? Fool around? That’s crazy!” an uncomfortable client will scoff. “Bring them into therapy? They’ll never come. It’s ridiculous. It won’t change anything.”

But think, for a moment, about a few of the famous cases you already know about. Take the Kennedys: the swashbuckling patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, boasted openly about his long liaison

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