To some degree, when we become adults, most of us have not put away our childish things. In the very process of choosing our mates, and of being chosen and then, in elaborating upon our separate, past lives in the life we create together we are deeply influenced by the patterns for being that we observed and learned about very early in life, and that live on inside our heads. The possibility that there may be other options, other systems for being in an intimate relationship, often doesn't occur to us, because we don't realize that we are operating from within a system, one that was internalized in our original families. What has been, and what we've known, seems to be "the way of the world"; it is reality itself.
Perhaps this is why the way it was feels, to so many people, like the way it has to be. Perhaps this is why one stumbles across so many coincidences in the lives of families. And certainly, when encountering them, one wonders, is it coincidental that a man whose mother was hypochondriacal and depressed married a woman who was warm and outgoing, and then, a decade later, finds himself the disgruntled husband of a seriously depressed and somewhat suicidal wife? Is that bad luck, or is it the present bending to the will of the past?
It may be that the tendency "to get into repetitive patterns of relationships" (to quote Pincus and Dare again) is based more than anything else upon our need to remain in a relational world with which we are familiar.
The case that Pincus and Dare cited, for instance—the daughter of an alcoholic who marries an alcoholic—can be understood in terms of that woman's staying in the only kind of world that she knows. She knows what life is like when you live with an alcoholic. What she doesn't know is what it's like when you don't. When it comes to dealing with a mate with a drinking problem, she knows how to behave; she is dealing with the devil she knows.
What she does know may not be pleasant, and may be frankly undesirable at a conscious level; but what she doesn't know (so goes the unconscious reasoning) is alien, and might be far more threatening in ways she can't realize. It is for these sorts of reasons—plus the fact that repeating the past is a way of remaining psychologically connected to the past—that people will remain in uncomfortable yet familiar kinds of emotional scenarios.
I don't mean to suggest that each generation is a carbon copy of the preceding one. This is obviously not the case. My point is that there is a tremendous affectivity within families and that the interconnectedness of generations is often insufficiently appreciated.
Emotional Triangles: Infidelity
In the late 1940s and early 1950s when Kinsey and his co-workers published their landmark findings (in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female), the statistics on adultery took most people by surprise. In that era of "family togetherness" well before the development of relatively safe and effective contraceptive procedures, the sexual revolution, and the women's liberation movement—extramarital experiences were, apparently, not at all uncommon. Kinsey's data indicated that a full 50 percent of husbands had engaged in sex with an outside partner before the age of forty. And so had 26 percent of wives.