And the wild regrets and the bloody sweats none knew so well as I,
For he who lives more lives than one,
more deaths than one must die. – Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gael
Conscience is the inner voice which warns us somebody may be looking. – H.L. Menken
Axiom #1: Infidelity is so multifaceted and determined by so many factors that it is impossible to make blanket statements about a specific example, particularly regarding its destructiveness, without a detailed exploration of the psyche of those involved.
Axiom #2: Infidelity is almost always so disruptive of the internal harmony of the unfaithful individual that it is rarely worth it. Anyone seriously contemplating it should consider getting professional therapeutic help or a divorce before carrying it forward.
Axiom #3: Any therapist encouraging infidelity or missing its unconscious significance is at risk of being destructively in collusion with a very problematic part of the patient and should consider obtaining supervision or personal therapy.
Axiom #4: All humans have baby level phantasies about those around them that include imagining having an affair ( President Jimmy Carter’s lust in one’s heart). This is normal and human, although almost always idealized and infantile (i.e. originating at a baby core level of the personality). It is taking ACTION on these phantasies that is problematic and often evidence of emotional disturbance.
OVERVIEW OF INFIDELITY HISTORICALLY:
1 – OED Definition of Adultery: “Sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than one’s spouse”
– cultural mores affect one’s definition of and attitude toward adultery.
2 – Cultural practices, values, etc. can foster or override natural unconscious human tendencies.
– i.e. the micro culture (e.g. family) and the macro culture (e.g. community and society).often powerfully affect which parts of self dominate behavior and with which internal versions of mom and dad
– historically, cultural attitudes often had practical reasons which determined whether both sexes could have lovers, what value was placed on patrilineage, whether females of pubertal age came with dowries, whether the offspring were considered legitimate, whether the lovers could be married or had to be single, etc.
– as a general rule, societies that tacitly condone extra-marital sexual relationships do require that they are kept private so as to not subject the spouses to jealousy or humiliation
– in societies with no double standard, women avail themselves of opportunities for adultery as eagerly as do men
3 – Helen Fisher in “Anatomy of Love” thinks our long evolutionary history suggests :
– men have tended toward multiple partners to spread their genes
– women have evolved two alternate strategies: (1) be relatively faithful to a single man in order to reap a lot of benefit from him: (2) engage in clandestine sex with many men to acquire resources from each
4 – Adultery first became linked with god and sin in Western history, beginning with ancient Hebrews starting about 500 B.C., even prescribing how often intercourse should occur between husband and wife
– for several centuries after Christ, despite the sexual freedom of Rome and Greece, there was a parallel trend of asceticism and celibacy which was exemplified by Saint Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.) in his later years as he converted to Christianity.
– despite threat of death for adultery, there has apparently been no society in which it has not existed
5 – In the U.S. infidelity has been commonplace, a source of family violence and divorce, and made less dangerous with the advent of the birth control pill and no fault divorce:
– in the 1920’s = 1/3 of all married men and ¼ of women
– in the 1940’s and 50’s = ½ of all married men and 1/3 of women
– by 1970’s = similar numbers but with an earlier start date and an equaling of men and women
– now the numbers are probably something like 70% of all married partners have an affair sometime during their married life
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF INFIDELITY AND THE UNCONSCIOUS:
1 – Love, Compatibility, and Commitment:
– these are the necessary minimum components of a successful marriage
– love and compatibility can usually be taken as a given in the marital selection process and do not normally start out as a problem that will initiate infidelity although they are commonly problem areas by the time infidelity takes place
– the difficulty is in sustaining a commitment to be loyal and faithful as some stressor ushers in the willingness to be unfaithful, always with a concomitant projection into the spouse in the process
– this can usefully be conceptualized as representing a later version of a very early, primal inability to remain lovingly attached to one’s first love object, i.e. mother, in the face of frustration and various other mental pains
2 – Conscious attitudes:
– it is always useful to play the devil’s advocate and assume that the infidelity cannot be explained by the patient’s conscious attitudes, explanations, or justifications (of what are commonly idealizations, infatuations, etc. on the positive side and excuses and rationalizations on the negative side)
– it is helpful to think of infidelity as a symptom with a multitude of determining elements, almost all of the important ones being unconscious, especially since the above reactions (i.e. idealizations and infatuations) are a universal part of daily life, something additional has to be added to lead to action based on these baby feelings
– e.g. faulty early attachment to one’s primal object
– e.g. some characterological problem making adult restraint inoperative as an aspect of living ones life
– e.g. some external problem leading to emotional impoverishment and excessive need and temptation
3 – As a therapist, it is almost never helpful to think of infidelity as an issue of morality, i.e. right and wrong, but rather it should be conceptualized and differentiated along the lines of:
– are the states of mind coming from a part of self that is more adult or more infantile in nature
– if infantile, is the part poorly developed and/or confused
– what is the degree of object relatedness, i.e. turning toward or turning away from someone
– what degree of felt baby injury exists in the unconscious inner world and how much anger is retained toward the primal object, i.e. mother or father
– is the behavior stemming from a perversely destructive part of the self, i.e. that feels justified or takes some satisfaction in causing another person emotional pain
– to what extent are the behaviors problematic in the external world
– to what degree is the individual’s unconscious internal harmony being impacted, e.g. at an unconscious level is something destructive felt to be occurring
4 – Until proven otherwise, infidelity should always be presumed to represent a coupling of (1) infantile mental pains and external opportunity with (2) faulty or confused early development, (3) manic defensive maneuvers, and (4) varying degrees of narcissistic personality organization.
SOME COMMON PATTERNS OF INFIDELITY:
1 – A long term, stable affair with genuine mature love. With some exceptions this usually overlays faulty early splitting-and-idealization which led to a retreat in adolescence to a latency quality of splitting processes for the sake of peace. When such an individual finally marries for the first time, they commonly end up with an adequate marriage, often focused on raising children, but lacking real romantic passion.
This compromise of passion for calm commonly results in a void of meeting baby emotional needs and a lack of confidence that true, stable, sexual, fully satisfying marital relationships can exist. When partners in such a marriage inadvertently meet someone later in life who fits with them, they may gradually find themselves in a relationship that meets each others baby level emotional needs, more satisfyingly than does their marriage. This may result in an affair, often with considerable guilt regarding their marital partner, about whom they may care deeply, but more as a “good sibling”.
2 – A single brief, insubstantial infatuation with infantile neediness, idealization, and confusion underlying it:
– The marriage is likely to also be either insubstantial or a latency based “siblingship”.
– The event is a wake-up call and leads either to work to improve things in the marriage, or it leads to divorce.
– This is the type of situation that is most liable to be improved by marital treatment and/or individual therapy.
3 – Serial, intermittent affairs, lasting as long as convenience allow, with a mixture of infantile neediness, faulty early splitting-and-idealization, and some narcissistic personality organization underlying it.
4 – Habitual, compulsive, affairs, one night stands, and brief to medium length affairs based on opportunity are invariably a function of infantile confusions coupled with a narcissistic personality organization.
– This may include an envious spoiling element in the personality of the serial cheater that leads to an ease of justifying being disloyal to the spouse.
– The marriage itself is always at serious risk because of the lack of capacity for deep attachment. The risk of divorce increases greatly as the degree of underlying, unconscious anger and cruelty increase
DEEPLY UNCONSCIOUS UNDERPINNINGS AND ORIGINS OF INFIDELITY:
1 – All infants have a task of making a primal bond with their first object, mom. They must establish in their inner world a view of a mom that is reliably “good” and be able to differentiate that view and hold on to it in the face of a bad mom who also causes the baby pain in the form of frustration of need, separation, envy, jealousy, etc. (= the task of splitting-and-idealization in the paranoid/schizoid position). The infant must grow to recognize and learn to tolerate the awareness that this mom is unique and irreplaceable and her loss would be devastating (= depressive position).
– the failure to successfully create a “good” version of mom internally that can be retained in the face of mental pains like separation, envy and jealousy generates a very significant difficulty in knowing if someone is “good” to marry and can remain “good” in the face of life’s trials and tribulations
– one outcome of this failure is to create an excessive reliance on superficial factors to create an idealizable object whose goodness is thus neither stable or enduring (the trophy or safe partner)
– the struggle to maintain a good internal figure in the face of mental pain often has the consequence of resorting to excessive, rigid, concrete splitting characteristic of latency (Madonna / whore dichotomy)
– thought separated from feeling
– objects separated and desexualized
– objects obsessionally controlled
– this is likely to lead to a “sibling” like marriage, with an emphasis on career or children rather than a loving relationship, with long term underlying emotional needs not being met and/or being denied
2 – Differentiating adult and infantile sexual states of mind
– “adult sexuality” is private and discreet, by definition has the welfare of both partners in mind at all times, can only be evaluated by its unconscious meanings and consequences, and is not an issue of morality but rather of human relatedness and concern for external welfare and internal harmony of both
– clues to adult sexuality being contaminated by problematic infantile sexuality:
e.g. the sexual act does not lead to an increase in a sense of harmonic closeness and contact
e.g. the identity of the partner is being changed in fantasy to that of another person (not just qualitatively into a “naughty …” or “big, strong…” where the person retains their central identity)
– “infantile polymorphous sexuality” = this is a function of the early equation of bodily zones and functions with a desire to gain pleasure through all of them, mimicking the infantile phantasy that mom and dad are having a banquet/orgy of gratification via every bodily zone in every possible manner; it is thus driven by a sensual greed and experimental curiosity which is bounded only by the limitations of shared interest and enjoyment of each partner, but it presumes, by definition, that no destructive elements are consciously or unconsciously involved
– “infantile perverse sexuality” [Quote: “A stiff prick has no conscience!”]
– the leading internal figure is the destructive part of self and its motive is to not be bound by the
limitations and potential consequences of loving, caring feelings for a unique, irreplaceable object
(which would lead to object’s needs and welfare being as important as those of the self)
– it will usually exploit the confusions that are always nearby in infantile polymorphous sexuality
to rationalize behavior (e.g. “if it feels good it can’t be bad”) and justify ruthlessness (commonly
by only looking at conscious consequences and avoiding any focus on potential unconscious ones)
(e.g. “no one will ever know”)
– the operation of this aspect of the personality always leads to a deterioration in unconscious
internal harmony which will be evident in dreams before it eventuates in external manifestations
3 – Manic defenses aim to avoid the inherent risk of loss of this unique, irreplaceable mom by a
combination of maneuvers. These usually include: (1) possession and/or control of mom so as to avoid
acknowledging the need for her (in psychic reality); (2) diminution of her value so as to not recognize
how much she is needed and how great a pain it would be if she were lost; (3) substitution of inanimate
“things” (e.g. especially money) as a source of satisfaction of one’s needs (= very early confusion about
food and one’s own bodily products)
– there are maneuvers which an infant can be predicted to use to cope with this problem of dependence on
a unique mom who is irreplaceable unique and very needed
e.g. get possession and control of mom from the inside or outside
– getting “inside” is often effected by masturbation generating an unconscious phantasy of being
inside the object (i.e. an omnipotent state of mind whipped up at the moment that the pain of being
separate is threatening or felt to be too great)
– if one stays separate from the object then the control has to be effected by some form of
possession and control (e.g. of a slave with varying degrees of enticement or overt subjugation)
e.g. deny and/or contemptuously denigrate the value and uniqueness of what the object to offer so that
it doesn’t matter if one loses it or matter how one treats it (e.g. no need for guilt)
e.g. deny ones need of the object for anything by creating an illusion or delusion that all one needs can
be provided without the object’s help, i.e. from one’s own body and bodily products (omnipotent
– confusion about what constitutes proper food makes it easy to then confuse the source or quality of
what one needs in life:
– e.g. excitement and physical pleasure = happiness
– e.g. sex = love
– e.g. beauty = goodness
– e.g. power and possession = desirable elements in a relationship, etc.
e.g. where unconscious envy is intense, any of the above maneuvers have the potential to generate
a sense of triumphing over the object
4 – Manifestations of manic defenses in marital relations:
– behaviors and phantasies designed to possess and control ones spouse
– an inability or unwillingness to feel and/or express caring, loving, tender feelings
– an unwillingness to have “all of one’s eggs in one basket”
5 – Narcissistic Personality Organization:
– this is invariably the result of early failures in the mother-infant relationship and the resultant mental pain and/or intolerance of mental pain leads the good baby parts of the self to be susceptible to being influenced and controlled by the destructive, bad part of self with the result that the good baby parts turn away from the good parents and family both internally and externally
– where one partner in a marriage has this personality organization, the spouse also has some
compatible personality structure, e.g. equivalent baby level sets of pain and unconscious
willingness to turn away from good objects
– never assume that if one cheats, the other won’t also
– often the spouse that cheats is recreating and projecting the infantile feeling of being abandoned and/or
jealousy into their spouse (who usually has significant unconscious “receptor sites” for such feelings)
6 – Sexuality activity as an evasion of having a mind
– excitement to evade depression, loss, etc. (i.e. a generator of omnipotent self sufficiency)
– sexual contact and orgasm as an evacuation of states of mind and mental functions (+/- possession)
– mindlessness following fusion with thinking no longer needed
7 – Sexual contact confused with love
– probably especially true for women
– baby neediness makes one especially susceptible to this, especially where one’s bond to one’s primary object was more tenuous and concretely linked to physical skin to skin contact
COMMON BABY STATES OF MIND UNDERLYING CONSCIOUS URGES: [“The Enticement”]
1 – Physical attraction:
– a feeling of very powerful attraction, usually physical and aesthetic, often difficult to consciously explain, that permeates and (pre)occupies the mind and conscious thought = ?mom or dad of infancy, sometimes the very earliest object of aesthetic experience
2 – Mental attraction:
– an intense feeling, often without thought, (unconscious phantasy actually driving it) that this person is so desirable that possession of them would create enormous happiness and fill all sorts of baby needs and voids = ? a link to an aspect of the earliest aesthetic objects of infancy
– A more conscious idealization of what a person would be like in a relationship with imagined interactions etc. that seem perfectly in harmony with ones own felt needs or desires = ? an imagined version of a very desirable mom or dad from infancy who need not have ever actually existed
3 – Infatuation = A temporary, strong attraction, usually based more on wishful idealizations, from baby aspects of the personality, than on adult, realistic evaluations and reactions to another person.
– commonly based on a physical attraction which in turn links to a baby reaction to someone’s appearance that has a primitive aesthetic component, commonly dating back to views of mom or dad in infancy, and when intense, it often overrides more realistic adult appraisals of the object and the situation/context.
– these feelings are commonly lost within a day or two by separation or eroded by a progressive knowledge of how the person is, in reality, not like one’s desired ideal fantasy
4 – Needy motives:
– a temporary needy, lonely, maybe greedy urge to satisfy oneself without concern for others because no one is felt to be watching who will generate any guilt or paranoid anxiety of reprisal, it may be fairly well thought out, it may be mindlessly impulsive or even intensely self destructive unconsciously
5 – Angry motives:
– An angry, hurt retaliatory urge to please oneself without guilt because the injury, deprivation etc. from one’s partner justifies or excuses/rationalizes the behavior
6 – Characterological motives:
– a ruthless, competitive, greedy, possessive urge to triumph over or possess a desirable object or deprive someone else of the object, usually about the mother of ones infancy, occasionally acted out between siblings (e.g. “Desperate Housewives” stuff)
– an act of mercy or seeming generosity, with varying degrees of omnipotence, in which a needy baby part of self is projected unconsciously into the object and being serviced vicariously
– unconscious self destructiveness, out of guilt, etc. but usually at root about the destructive part of self getting back in control of the good baby parts (i.e. reestablishing a narcissistic personality organization)
EXTERNAL STRESSORS AND INFANTILE MENTAL PAINS: [“The Provocateurs”]
1 – The infidelity is typically a function of the unconscious baby anxieties provoked by external stressors, commonly within the marriage, which recreate some early childhood situation:
– e.g. separation is far and away the most common source of baby neediness leading to action
– e.g. jealousy is likely to lead to a consciously angry, retaliatory component and/or lead to an affair as a hedge against potential loss
– e.g. unconscious envy will always have unconsciously destructive goals and/or consequences with overt cruelty common in more severe narcissistic personalities
2 – The plan to marry
– loss of freedom to be completely self centered
– infantile phantasy that one will now never get the woman/man of one’s dreams (i.e. mom/dad of
– intolerance of dependence, responsibility, caring, etc.
3 – The birth of a child or second child, etc.
– this is invariably deeply unconscious, i.e. the infantile, preverbal elements may be quite separated off but are often hinted at within the conscious complaints of not getting enough attention, etc.
– recreating an early childhood loss that was associated with the birth of a sibling and the turning away from mom that resulted as a reaction. [Note that if one identifies with the first born (i.e. getting to be the only child) then the injury may only be recreated when the second is born, etc]
4 – Felt deprivation of physical or emotional contact
– need to differentiate an adult reaction to a real deprivation from an externalization of an infantile internalized) object relationship (and the resultant inability to be adult about it) that is commonly co-created by the two spouses in the marriage
– an adult reaction will have caring feelings about the person potentially cheated on, will not make that person all bad, will not try to manically deny guilt etc., will have faced and measured the situation, will not exploit anyone, will be open and honest in an appropriate fashion with all parties, will have the capacity to remain permanently mute about it if appropriate, will suffer deprivation readily if anyone else is at risk to be hurt, etc. (note: these are all functions of caring, not morality)
5 – Separation which is either painful or unleashes a manic bit of ruthless greed and destructiveness
GUIDELINES FOR THE THERAPIST TREATING INFIDELITY:
1 – When working with a couple, no other work can be done until the infidelity is worked on and stopped (because there needs to be some trust first and the baby jealousy is too hard to bear).
2 – Look for destructive consequences of the behavior and dream evidence of internal harmony being disrupted to help the patient see the harm they are doing externally and internally in order to avoid reinforcing the patient’s manic denial of the significance of their behavior.
– failure to openly confront such evidence the minute it appears is effectively collusion on the part of the therapist with the patient’s mania
– such confrontations require tact and dexterity to avoid becoming a bad object whose moralistic, old fashioned, or envious spoiling (of the good fun no longer available to the parent), leads to a dismissal of the unconscious significance of the behavior that is being conveyed by the patient
– you want guilt to be out of loving concern rather than a persecution that can be evaded as unfair
3 – Be alert for the patient’s reactions to your unconscious counter transference so that you can work to maintain a posture in which the patient feels you are being honest and straight forward about the problems involved with the patient’s behavior. The patient should still feel you are on their side and not just sitting in judgment (out of the above mentioned moral strictures or envy of the fun they are having).
4 – It is essential to portray to the patient how the current situation recreates some aspect of their past that is alive and active in their UCS inner world. Who does the spouse represent, who does the lover represent, and what are various parts of self doing to each and why?
5 – After trying diligently, don’t be surprised if you can’t save a marriage if the destructive, envious, or faulty foundation elements are too pronounced, they are often realistically insurmountable and the deeds done too hurtfully destructive to ever be forgivable or forgettable.
1 – THE STABLE AFFAIR
History of the Infidelity:
– 50 year old stockbroker – very unhappily married for 26 years – one child – wife preoccupied with extensive hobby – he starts a very gradual affair with a coworker after several years of knowing each other and gradually developing a deep respect for each other’s capacities and qualities – fall deeply in love with each other – he had preserved over the years a belief about himself, that had clearly originated in early childhood that he was somehow fundamentally unlovable and could never expect a woman to actually value him or see his good qualities.
– it takes years for the two of them to feel safe in the relationship despite their obvious love for each other
– Both are quite neurotic and married with deep unconscious convictions that they would never be loved and receive genuine appreciation of their good qualities because neither occurred in their childhoods.
– Both are prone to anxiety that they are unlovable, both are obsessive, but they seem to genuinely fit together at all levels and do not take their distress out on each other.
– Each one seems starved for physical contact and to have a relationship with a person who will receive their affection and treat it as sincere and valuable.
– They both married originally with only mild attraction and with a feeling that this person was “good enough”.
– His wife was talented in her own right but very denigrating of any and all of his achievements. She was physically undemonstrative, and they progressively antagonized each other over the years to the point of having a marriage only in name, and because she cooked and he worked.
– He is eldest of four, having three younger sisters who were identified with and favored by mother
– His father was distant, critical, and always siding with mother mindlessly.
– Both his parents were anxious and apparently unconsciously envious of their son’s natural talents, intellect, and abilities, giving him almost no praise or support for his achievements (which he recreated in his marriage).
Unconscious Dynamics Underlying Infidelity:
– He was extraordinarily self-deprecating and self-critical when he came to treatment, seemingly preempting the negativity he expected to be directed at him. This simultaneously diminished any hope for positive regard and left him vulnerable to disappointment.
– He married originally to a woman who was consciously disappointed in, hurt by, and very angry with her father, and constitutionally completely intolerant of any guilty responsibility or blame, instead continuously seeing it (i.e. projecting) in other.
– The patient was out of touch with and frightened by his own anger, hence he tended to project it (i.e. his angry baby self) into his wife who was constantly finding fault with everything, and toward whom he was passively very provocative.
– His good, caring baby parts remained controlled by his destructive self. In turn his destructive self exploited his wife’s criticism as a justification for remaining aloof and not allowing any for any caring vulnerability.
– When this woman first joined his team at work, he didn’t like her, but he came over two years to see that she was consistently kind to everyone, a team player, and she had the people skills she lacked.
– They were both unhappy at home, gradually let that be known, and one day confessed their mutual attraction and the ensuing relationship developed over several years into a serious permanent commitment. It took some 5 plus years therapy before he developed a capacity to risk that intimate committed relationship.
2 – THE BRIEF INSUBSTANTIAL AFFAIR
History of the Infidelity:
– 38 year old accountant – happily married 8 years – 2 kids – wife a professional a few years younger
– He had been having affair with office worker for 3 months when his wife found out and insisted they go to marital therapy intending to divorce him unless I could talk her out of it. She was amenable to my suggestion that she not take the affair personally as he seemed on auto pilot with little awareness of why he was having the affair
– He was completely infatuated with this woman, some ten years younger than he is, and also married but without children. She had initiated the affair through aggressive flirtation.
– He seemed utterly lacking in any insight or psychological mindedness, almost like a mindless, “love struck” adolescent.
– He seemed also to have an unrecognized, implicit, almost delusional belief that this woman was totally in love with him because she couldn’t get enough of “sucking his penis and telling him how wonderful he was”.
– Although his wife was furious with him, she thought he was acting like a “giant baby, a fool and an idiot” and clearly not in his right mind. These impressions seemed to allow her to “not take his behavior personally”.
His Childhood History:
– He was the eldest of three with a brother 17 months younger and a sister 31/2 years younger.
– He felt he was mother’s favorite and in many ways acted like an only child, adopting a rather parental attitude toward his two younger siblings who were very close emotionally to each other
– The patient’s father was friendly but distant, the patient clearly favoring the mother.
Unconscious Dynamics Underlying Infidelity:
– His jealous possessiveness of his mother, sense of triumph over siblings, and general shallowness, led him to feel diminished at home where his wife was the superstar.
– My impression of the woman at his workplace with whom he had the affair was that she was actually a quite disturbed and aggressive. I suspected that at a baby level she was an envious and narcissistic woman who was stealing all the “good daddy’s penis’s” and depriving the mommies of them.
– His infantile, narcissistic triumph came to an end when he discovered that his partner had also gotten a ‘blowjob’ from her, and thought of her as a pathetic “slut”.
3 – SERIAL INTERMITTENT AFFAIRS, FIRST EXAMPLE
History of the Infidelity:
– The patient was a 46 year old man, married 17 years, with three teenage children
– He had cheated many times from the beginning of marriage, despite loving her and seeing her as great wife and mother, and having an active sexual relationship with her
– They had begun drifting apart in recent years, maintaining a low conflict but more distant relationship, as she became more deeply involved in her dog breeding, showing, etc.
– When he had a job change, requiring extensive travel, he developed a number of regular ongoing affairs in a number of different cities.
– A friend recommended that he come see me for a consultation when it became apparent to the friend that the patient seemed to be depressed.
– The first visit to me was provoked by a massive outbreak of paranoid anxiety, stimulated by a rash in his groin which he assumed was “herpes”. He imagined it would be given to his wife, hurt her, and expose his infidelity.
– As he described to me, he became despondent with guilt after the rash appeared, and “borderline suicidal”.
– The description of his motives for infidelity was somewhat unique. He was quite musical by avocation, and described with a very detailed aesthetic sensibility, how he loved everything about women. He had a capacity to appreciate every aesthetic detail of their physical being, hair, skin, contours, smell, movement, etc. He would become intoxicated with the beauty of these elements and devote himself to their celebration by appreciating and devoting himself to satisfying and pleasing the woman in any and every possible physical way.
– H described how he had developed a “sixth sense” for women whose own baby selves (i.e. my way of thinking of it) would respond to this type of worship, and whose neediness would make them available for an affair.
– I got the impression that he consciously felt that what he did was not destructive because he was so “selfless” in his devotion to pleasuring the woman – plus he would fall madly in love with each one. He felt himself to be unable to resist the beauty of women, felt himself to be something like a sexual addict, but was really completely devoid of any insight into the meaning of his behavior.
– My emotional experience of him was one of a deeply deprived baby, desperate for contact with its missing mommy, saying at every turn, are you my mommy?
– He came across as being a decent, very caring human being, loved his kids, was deeply loyal to his friends, generous to a fault with many, but had fallen out of love with his wife.
– There seemed to be a lack of discrimination between the physical “mommy” of his childhood, for whom he pined, and the reality that each woman he was leading on was a unique human being with feelings of her own that would ultimately lead to each of them being hurt. He was thinking of them as extensions of himself and failing to be separate enough to put himself in their shoes.
– There was also a hint of greed and hostility (toward women in general) in the ease with which he acquired new conscripts into his harem but he seemed completely unaware of this aspect.
His Childhood History
– He was the youngest of three children, the next older of his two sisters being a half dozen years his senior, and he was never very close to either sister
– His father traveled a great deal during his childhood, also having many affairs until his mid forties when he divorced and then remarried, apparently happily, ending extra marital activities permanently
– The patient’s mother was a career woman who went back to work when he was only a few weeks old.
– He remembered spending a completely miserable childhood in daycare facilities until he started elementary school and developed friends.
– He viewed his mother to be a decent sort, dutiful but not very emotional demonstrative, and he was not aware of much feeling for her of any sort, and definitely not aware of hostility toward her.
Unconscious Dynamics Underlying Infidelity:
– I felt this man had suffered a deep wound in infancy from which he had never recovered, but had somehow retained a deep longing for the aesthetic object of his infancy.
– He fell madly in love with every woman with whom he had a sexual relationship, worshipped their bodies, and seemed to equate sex with love, and also imagining that being physically joined up was the proper state of a relationship.
– His guilt at betraying his marriage was crushing. Although his wife was loving, she no longer seemed to need the intensity of constant sexual contact that he needed to stave off what seemed to be an underlying anaclitic depression related to his early separation from his mom.
– Adult and infantile sexuality were completely intertwined and confused with each other in his mind at an unconscious level.
3 – SERIAL INTERMITTENT AFFAIRS, SECOND EXAMPLE
History of the Infidelity:
– Patient was a 33 year old mother of 2, professional woman, was always flirting with men, had been married twice and cheated on both as opportunity allowed, without any real expectation of a long term relationship in her brief affairs.
– She was attractive, tightly wound, smiled often in a tense nervous fashion as if she felt guilty about existing, and was always expecting criticism which she felt she would deserve.
– Being in the same room with her generated an uncharacteristic feeling of hyperactivity or agitation in me. It was as if I anticipated being driven into an enactment with her, probably in form of criticizing her or telling her that she is crazy.
– She was the eldest of 9 children, born close together in age, to a paranoid schizophrenic mother and a distant “nebishy” father.
– She has felt all her life that she is running away from invasion by her mother who will infect her with craziness. This running has always taken her into the arms of men, but she then quickly feels claustrophobic in reaction to their desire to possess her.
Unconscious Dynamics Underlying Infidelity:
– She has a moderately strong narcissistic personality organization that is felt to protect her from a crazy mother and from being invaded with craziness.
– Her turning to men has little to do with a relationship. It seems to have more to do with finding a good daddy to protect her. This is never successful because the new relationship leads invariably to her projecting into them her own baby neediness. This then leads to the feeling that they threaten to invade and control her, leading to running off to privacy, and then a new relationship.
[This is a very distressing vicious cycle to find oneself in because there is never any relief to be found in a relationship and one is stuck with one’s own feeling of craziness.]
– There is a very oral quality to her sexuality that seems desperate and fundamentally unstable, here today, then gone with tomorrow’s claustrophobic anxiety.
4 – SERIAL, COMPULSIVE INFIDELITY:
History of Infidelity:
– Patient was a 35 year old man, working in real estate, never married, but had several long term girlfriends on whom he had always cheated. He had a conscious attitude that one woman was never enough for him and he surmised that it was because he had a “high sex quotient”.
– On deeper examination, it turned out that every woman he saw who was attractive to him, and with whom he had contact in any ongoing way, became the object of an overwhelming desire to “get inside her pants”. This probably had the unconscious meaning getting inside her body, and thus feeling in possession and control of her. This would then become a task to which he would then devote himself with all his salesman-like charm.
– Once a woman had been possessed, he still liked her, but no longer felt driven to be in physical contact with her.
– He was friendly, not overtly hostile or contemptuous of women, essentially likable, but someone who remained aloof from treatment and me. Most noteworthy was his inability to ever be sure that anything I said to him was correct, or that I was being honest and could be trusted.
– At the time he began treatment, he was in a relationship of about 8 months with a woman who was his age, had a child, and seemed a genuinely decent sort who loved him. Unfortunately, he confided to me that he could never see himself marrying a woman with a “child that wasn’t his”.
His Childhood History:
– He was the second of four kids, all less than two years apart, except the last who was born 4 years later.
– His father was away a great deal in the military, and the patient described his mother as a good, dutiful woman with whom he was never very close, though I could never tell if it was due to her or him.
Unconscious Dynamics Underlying Infidelity:
– This man was very shallow and not psychologically minded. He seemed deeply narcissistically injured as an infant and child, though he could not give me a history of his infancy, even when prodded to talk with his mom.
– His dreams showed a severely entrenched narcissistic organization which he had no interest in giving. I did succeed in keeping him in treatment for three years, until he moved to a new job in another city.