So what does that mean, the imprint? It means, say, for a man, that he needed love from his mother but all he got was indifference. That lack is imprinted, sealed by the unfulfilled need permanently. It lies on a lower strata so that no matter how loving the girlfriend is, he needs more. Why? Because the nagging, “I am not loved” lies below, agitating him to go elsewhere. And he will become known as a womanizer because he needs to seduce many women, all for the same ending, more infidelity. That, “I am not loved,” drives him every day.
With a woman who was never wanted by her father; that is, who left her feeling unwanted because he was so bound up in his own pain, she is a “sucker” for anyone who really shows he wants her. That need, “I am not wanted,” drives her and makes her give in immediately when a man looks at her and says he finds her beautiful. And yet, no matter how much a man wants her, she needs to seek out other men because “I am not wanted” continually drives her. She needs constant reassurance and assuaging.
A promise is a top level cortical expression; never a match for a deep-lying survival force. How do we know? Because when patients feel that need in all of its agony, they no longer have to promise anything; their body will do it for them. And when we see the huge amount of pain/force involved in experiencing the feeling we know how big a motivator it is.
None of this is conscious. The old need remains pristine pure but the person is never aware of it. The “promise to be faithful” sits on top of, “I can’t be faithful until my mother loves me.” After a sexual encounter, there is that nagging feeling of malaise, not being satisfied. And the person won’t be until he or she feels the real need in its exact early context. Every so-called fulfillment, every affair, after the time of the critical emotional window when need had to be fulfilled is, by definition, a symbolic fulfillment. That is why it is not really satisfying. Remember, that need in the first months of life meant survival as an intact human being. It had to be gated and repressed. Meanwhile, the feeling/need circulates in a sort of reverberating circuit seeking connection and never making it. If it were not symbolic, then one love affair should be satisfying.
That is why all compulsive behavior has to be repeated time and again. It doesn’t matter if its food, pain-killers or sex. Need dominates. It is a way of papering over pain. And because it is a temporary palliative, like a tranquilizer, it has to be done ad infinitum. Of course there are any number of other reasons. But many marital guide books cover those. It is just the imprint that is missing.