19 February 2015

The Story of Seamus and How He Learned a Lesson

Seamus Mullins was caught cheating on his wife. Seamus felt bad. He had forgotten. About his wife. When he was with the other woman his wife became like a far off silhouette. She was nothing that he thought about — when he was with the other woman. Seamus would mention her but only to assure his lover that his wife was of no significance. In fact she was something of a pain. Seamus didn’t go into details.

Seamus was really good at a lot of things. One of them was compartmentalizing. For example when he was with his lover the rest of the world didn’t matter. Not his wife, not his children, not his job. Just her. When he was with his wife and children he gave them, to quote the Great Emancipator, the full measure of his devotion. It was the same with his job. Magically, Seamus kept one are of his life separate from all others. Thus Seamus felt no guilt about his affair because while he was with the other woman he thought of nothing else. Simple.

It should be obvious that Seamus had a sickness. Being caught cheating helped him start to see that. Oh you could say he was a lothario or philanderer or an adulterer. But those are tags, however accurate. It was more complex than that. Seamus had huge moral and ethical blind spots. He was so good at compartmentalizing that he could not imagine there was anything wrong in what he was doing. Indeed he only thought of his lover, the other woman, as Laura. In his mind she was in a completely different universe than his wife. His wife’s name, by the way, was Lori, and Seamus had so separated the two that the similarities of their first names never occurred to him. Seamus never arranged to see Laura when when he was with his wife or family or at work. And when he was with Laura he didn’t think about his family or work. Only her.

Seamus was caught when Lori’s sister — who had always thought very highly of Seamus (everyone did) — saw Seamus kissing Laura as he left her house. Coincidentally Lori’s sister knew Laura, though Lori did not. Lori’s sister immediately confronted Seamus, just as he was getting into his car. Seamus confessed everything. It was his only choice. In a strange way, Seamus was a very honest man. He never denied the world he was in. Lori’s sister had caught him in his affair world and Seamus could no more deny its existence than he could have denied having two legs.

Well, said Lori’s sister, you’re going to have to tell Lori. She’ll call me afterwards so I’ll know if you didn’t tell her. Then I’ll have to do it and I don’t want to. I’ll tell her, Seamus promised. I have to own up to what I did. I can’t face it myself if I don’t tell Lori. Lori’s sister wanted to know if he was going to end it with Laura. Yes, that world is over, he replied. Lori’s sister was confused by the answer but took it to mean the affair was over. Lori’s sister also decided that she’d right then and there go tell Laura that the affair was over.

When Seamus drove off, Lori’s sister went and rang Laura’s doorbell and told Laura that they’d been caught an it was all over. She wouldn't see Seamus again. Laura cried. Not because she was losing Seamus, but because she felt so awful about what she’d done. It had now hit home. Laura promised to stay away from married men. This was her second affair with a married man and it wasn't worth it.

Meanwhile Seamus went home. After a nervous dinner, a little TV and putting the kids to bed, Seamus sat down with his wife and told her about the compartment in his life that had closed for good — the affair. Lori was shocked. She was angry, hurt and wanted Seamus to explain why he’d had an affair. I don’t really know, he said, I’ve always been perfectly happy with you. It was just something I did, I guess without thinking. I’m not sure where my mind was when I was with her. I think I should go into therapy.

Lori agreed that therapy would be good for Seamus and also insisted that they go in for couples’ counseling. They’d need a process to help them get over this. Now was not the time but Lori would eventually have to confess to a one-night stand she had recently had with an ex boyfriend when she was supposed to have been visiting a cousin.  She'd felt terrible about it since the day after it happened and confessing would relieve that pain. It would all come out and their relationship would be stronger. Of this Lori was certain. She was also sure that if Seamus ever cheated on her again she’d get the best divorce attorney money could buy. But hopefully that would never happen.

Seamus went to therapy. He talked about compartmentalizing and different worlds and how it made sense in some ways — like not bringing home work or not bringing personal problems to the job — but could be quite bad in other ways as his affair had clearly demonstrated. Seamus had learned a lot about life and himself from the therapy sessions and as a consequence led a more fulfilling life. Seamus had learned that life can't be so easily sorted into categories. It's like trying to divide the water in rivers into sections.  His marriage had always been good but now it was better. He was initially upset to learn about Lori’s fling but given his own indiscretion, could not really complain.

Seamus had gotten a second chance. No more compartments. Seamus was a lucky man.

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