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Letter to an Adulterer

September 11, 2000

Dear Neal:

You hurt
my daughter.

You hurt me
and my family.

and you used
my wife
to pleasure your lonely heart
as her boss and her lover
seventeen years.

You were an
before I met you,
she says.
Before I married her
you were already
a cheater. A deceiver.
A liar.

She was vulnerable.
She was beautiful.
You were her boss.

You stole from me
and Emily.

You came to my wedding
with your wife and your
business associates;
you heard her say "I do."

Then you broke the laws
of your church
and our society
seduced her yet again
and again and again
to solace
your empty heart
and for your pleasure.

Before that time, before that place
where God and law sealed my marriage,
when you thought you loved her,
was the time for a Prince to
make his claim, to compete, to be true.

like a parasite,
you drained love from my marriage,
siphoning vital nutrients.
stunting and twisting.
Lurking day and night.

For seventeen years.

You violated my wife in a workplace relationship.
On the side, she was your playmate,
your partner in secret adventures.
Your insider, your informant.
Truth was "not in the cards,"
only the fantasy.

If you had spent that fantasy time
in the fulfillment of your own marriage?
If you had given to Julia
what you gave to Carol?

There is no excuse
for what you have done.
not Arthur to your Lancelot
not Scarpia to your Mario
not Wesex to your Shakespeare
not Stewart to your Baines.
There is no "Epic Poem" here.
IN YOUR FANTASY WORLD of expensive restaurants,
fine hotels, yacht clubs,
racing toys, green BMWs,
mansions and Martinis
Is only

Now The Fat Lady Sings...

I have begun the difficult task
of separating you from my life.

Surgically, I remove the entwined veins and the suckers.
I pick at the nits, the lice that are your leavings.

With all my heart and with love
I work with Carol to get past
your staggering secrets:
I may never trust her again.
I am scared for Emily and me.
I pray that
I make the right choices
about you.

The first choice: About Truth

It would be honorable to tell the truth to your wife. While this may be the hardest task you have ever faced in your life, she deserves to know the "real" Neal Gilligan, not the facade.

Julia raised your children and kept your house stable while you travelled the world. Rightly and fairly, it is finally time to include her in your life. On the upside, you may discover that she loves you, Neal Gilligan, #1.5, and is willing to continue her investment in you as you grow old together.

The enormity of your twenty-year deceit is staggering, and, being in that dark place myself, I have a profound sympathy for what Julia faces. Here in Maine, your ghost continues to visit me regularly - a Gilligan homunculus mewling above my marriage bed and dulling an otherwise lovely landscape of hayfields, widow's walks, and tall lighthouses. Your reach into the cookie jar has been long.

By denying Julia all of your heart and the truth, you have manipulated her, controlled her, disempowered her. You have bossed her. From your occasional written remarks to Carol, your wife seems intellectually competent and able. Likely she, as I, would prefer to live in truth, as devastating as it might be, than be duped and manipulated in your make-believe world.

You will probably diminish Carol's role as a significant other in your life as you scramble for explanations. I am sorry for Carol because she would deserve more; she worked hard on her relationship with you and added real value to your life and career. You didn't leave school polished with an appreciation of opera, Mexican silver, French cooking, Chopin, and Anna Quindlan.

If Carol and I cannot repair our marriage, if you are tossed out of your own, perhaps that future will bring to you another chance to become Carol's Prince, if you indeed really care. The thought of my Emily within your presence turns my stomach.

The second choice: About your Workplace Ethics

It would be honorable of you to separate your workplace from your private life and never again seduce your business associates into immoral and dishonorable activities.

I do not know you. A few brief meetings in 1983. A day visit to your facility in Kuala Lumpur in 1993, where I felt you acted curiously distant and unfriendly during the Cook's Tour, giving your attention to a few visiting financial analysts from Delaware. In retrospect, it must have been difficult for you to entertain me in light of your secret relationship with my wife via telex, company mail pouches on company ships, and occasional en-route stopovers in California for dinner with "the trio" and afterwards private time with Carol alone.

As a manager and executive in authority, you are proven to be dangerous to a corporation.

You seduced your secretary. Then as her boss and later as her boss's boss as you moved up the corporate ladder, you were directly responsible for the continuation of that relationship. Until just a few months ago. You and National financed many trysts with Carol, and you caused her to perpetuate a relationship with you in which you seem to have found some satisfaction and fulfillment. She is not a Harvard-trained Mary Cunningham, but a dedicated hard-worker who gave the core of her life to your company. Who you used.

The relationship you perpetuated for so many years was not only morally wrong (a mortal sin, in one view), it was quite possibly criminal:

"At National she meets a father-figure boss who takes advantage of her vulnerability, seduces her, and involves her in a secret relationship which continues even after a marriage (in which the boss counseled regarding which suitor to marry). The secret relationship continues throughout the marriage of 17 years, damaging the family... This was a planned deception involving other National management personnel, interfering with the marriage contract. Lack of active support by the wife over many years caused..."

As you assemble your team at GenCo (with many trusted National colleagues, as you wrote to Carol on your new letterhead, and as announced by Jim Franken) and move to new quarters in the Cincinnati area, I wonder if you will repeat your behavior as you bring employees and friends like Karen James and Meridith Meier into your workplace. I wonder, too, if Carol is the only subordinate company employee you seduced during your long watch at National.

[At GenCo]
"Our culture will be defined by:
The effectiveness of our communications.
The empowerment of our people for peak performance.
Employee pride in performance.
Our safe and rewarding work environment.
Our mutually rewarding partnerships with customers and suppliers.
Understanding and valuing diversity.
Our focus on our customers and a passion for service excellence.
Conducting business to the highest ethical and professional standards."

I trust you were chosen for your new job because of your commercial knowledge, not your moral fiber.

Speaking of fiber, it seems you are but a "suit" afterall. You wouldn't last a season in small-town Maine, a place thankfully devoid of your shallow culture, a place where truth is in the eyes and a handshake, and people are still measured and judged by unpretentious actions that add value to the community, not by their power, wealth, and toys. But, as I have said, I do not know you as anything more than a thief, a day-dreamer, an adulterer, and a yacht club dandy who shops at Hallmark.

The third choice: About Honor

It would be honorable to apologize to me and to Emily. In writing. Before Christmas, 2000. I am sure you can find some words to recover a tiny bit of your face. Indeed, you will need such negotiating currencies when you reach the pearly gates and discover that apology is not the same as atonement. Neither Emily nor I ever hurt you.

In the early 19th Century, my cousin, Henry Clay, introduced federal legislation to outlaw dueling as a method of satisfying debts of honor. In 1804 he was shot in the leg in just such a demonstration, and he wounded but did not kill his opponent. Seconds quickly intervened, and they carried both men away.

You have dishonored me.

Without my permission, you operated on my identity, turning me into a cuckold. Like the coffee-table scar on your leg, you have marked me, redefined me. Permanently. Against my will.

Your selfish fantasies have caused me and my family excruciating pain.

You disrespected me each time you slept with my wife.

Because of you, my wife was not 100% there to support me or our daughter during our marriage. She was thinking of you, her second secret husband and other man, and of her National family. Thinking of other-where. Buying you gifts. In my home you were her high-maintenance, invisible friend.

Because of you I slept on a couch for five years.
You may not know that during the heights of your amorous adventures in the mid-nineties I pleaded with Carol to talk with me of our future, of our marriage, to plan our life together, and she turned away. Time after time. I am the one she complains about, wanting her to talk, when she apologizes to you for her motor mouth at your apartment in Richmond. She shut me out and dreamed of you. For years. Yes, my move to Maine was unilateral; that she came at all surprised me because my life with her was empty.

By the time Carol truly came home to me, medicated for anxiety and high blood pressure, facing divorce and loss of her family, you and National had sucked her dry. I have read of your trysts in Richmond, Newport, Waltham during the last most recent months, when you were still her boss and she was working her way towards Maine, disengaging from that "other" family. As a goodbye, you flew the National spinnaker for her on Narragansett Bay, before retiring to the yacht club's guest quarters. Sigh.

Because of you, on the morning of July 4, 2000, my wife accidently called me by the name "Neal."

Because of you I have lost trust in the woman I love. In the woman who claims to love me, now, with all her heart. Now I question what she says and does, and in the end, these questions may ruin my marriage.

Because of you I am at work 60/60/24/7/365, harder than ever before in my life, and with all my soul, to build anew, to integrate your deceit and your theft into my life with Carol, to understand it, to cope with it, to rise above it in the light of day. Would that I could turn back time, because what you did was preventable; now it cannot be undone.

Because of you...
The list is long.

As a result of your actions I have experienced two profoundly horrible moments that will forever remain with me, at the top of a special memory cache labled "NealGilligan." The first involves death, the second birth.

Unfortunately, the first evidence of your relationship with Carol was revealed to me in stacatto shocks, each compounding the previous and concatenating into a portrait of a woman I did not know. An utter stranger was living in my world, posing as my wife. First your secret mail boxes here in Maine. Then reference to "the black Hole" mail drop in Kuala Lumpur gave me an incredible sense of how long and how serious your relationship was. Then Carol's easy and comfortable way of sharing with you the intimate details of her life with me. With you, clearly now her lover and not-quite-husband, her #1.5. Your own correspondence mentioned purchasing the property which was for sale next to our farm. You made jokes about not being ready to live in Maine, yet. She suggests that our resident beavers should build a dam on the river here so you can sail your toy boat in deep water. There were real estate brochures with fancy houses and widow's walks. You joked about making love in a widow's walk; she sent you a post card of the Belfast post office ("Here are our new digs..."), your last to the Richmond P.O. Box, and she wrote on it about the lovely widow's walk around the corner. Then there were cards about growing old together. A letter about your daughter's wedding preparations and your children leaving the nest. And there were cards sexual in nature. You missed her. You wanted to take her underpants off at Halloween. Go to drive-in movies. In my hand is a Christmas card but a few months old: you call her "Darling." In total, there were about twenty items, including e-mail to you that she failed to delete from trash. With this insufficient data but with the sudden knowledge that you had clearly been intimate with Carol for many years, I built a scenario that was plausible, if dramatic. For three days of my life I truly believed that you and she planned to make my wife a widow by sharpshooter or poison during the time when she would visit her mother, when she was 300 miles away. After a few moments of silence and fashionable black and a welcomed divorce for you, you would retire happily ever after to a dream Victorian along the Maine seacoast - pictures enclosed. As you might imagine, these were bad days for me, closing window blinds, pouring coffee beans and medicines into the trash, being paranoid. Being confused. These bad days were second only to that week some thirteen years ago, you may recall, when Emily was misdiagnosed with a fatal liver disorder. Until recently, that was the last time I had cried like a lost child. Those three days of fear belong to you, and I would return them if I could. Betrayal is not for laughs.

The second special experience caused by you, which continues even now to provide me great pain, involves my daughter, Emily. Because how she defines true, faithful, and trustworthy behavior has become a long-term issue in her development, I promised she could ask me any question about her mother and you, and, if I knew the answer, I would always tell her the truth. She and I would have no secrets. Sitting together on the freshly cut lawn, she fidgeted around with a question perhaps too difficult to ask, then she braced herself: "Dad, are you my real father?" THAT question had not yet occurred to me. In her eyes I saw fear, and I reached for reassurances to settle her down, remembering that thirteen years ago you inserted yourself by telephone into Carol's post-partum recovery room at the hospital. That question, garnished with the butterfly wings from my daughter's stomach, remains on top of the pile of your unwanted gifts. I would never return this moment to you, however, to torment your own Susan or Ginger.

You have caused enormous pain and suffering to me and my family, but there seem to exist in our society no pallatives for this particular pain nor for the satisfaction of honor. As common as adultery is, there is no Emily Post reference for proper etiquette in such cases, especially for serious cases like yours. Everyone must, it seems, come to their own solutions and choices.

In coming to grips with the deceitful and dishonorable acts which you have committed, it has become clear to me that moral guilt and legal guilt are conceptually different. I am studying the first. Regarding the latter, I have consulted with my attorney and find the issues to be much clearer. I would advise you that I have instructed him to investigate the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against you in several jurisdictions based upon alienation of affection, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Since each of those legal (not moral) causes of action may have arisen in different jurisdictions, he is researching the possibility of applying the laws of the States of California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, and other states in which you have recently resided and/or where the affair took place. Your attorney should contact him to discuss this matter.

Seth M. Goldman
Law Offices of Seth M. Goldman
24 Walters Street
Rockland, ME 04841
Wk. Phone: 207-555-1234
Fax: 207-555-4321

You knew what you were doing. You knew it was wrong. You crossed the line anyway. You made self-serving go-ahead decisions and balanced the risks against your adolescent needs. Once started, you slipped into an easy pattern and continued your secret games with Carol without the discipline, grace, or right stuff to say no. A "real" relationship, perhaps involving hardship for you both, was, as Carol says, "never in the cards." What a fantasy! You as the poor, star-crossed lover. I can't imagine how you justify your crimes in the confessional.

As you surely know, Carol has occasional difficulty seeing a forest when she is among its trees. However, having recently become a student of your actions, I can see the greater corporate forest in which you lived. I see how the National "family," where you were an empowered executive, tapped her emotional and physical juices for 25 years of hard work. I see her eagerness to please, to be rewarded, to do well and succeed among her peers. I see you, her boss, carefully husbanding these desires, providing encouragement, support, and insider status while you distilled her output into refined sugars of benefit to the corporation and, sadly, to you, personally.

Your life and your career sound like a yacht race - a fleet of pond boats, negotiating for room at the mark, grown men screaming "starboard" and "leeward," making tiny adjustments to sheets, stays, and tiller. Reading the wind. Judging the competition. Moving ballast for a 10th knot increment. Paying attention. Like day-trading. Like accumulation of wealth and employment contract negotiations. Like fretting over a house not quite as nice as the last. Like fashion statements and pressed trousers. What a waste. Get a life.

Finally, I should add that in no way is this electronic letter and disc a private or secret communication to you. Indeed, under standard non-disclosure agreements, parts of this missive have been viewed by my professional associates in Maine and elsewhere, and I have discussed this letter with close friends and family who know of your betrayal and who have been helpful to me and Emily and Carol. Members of my family who are familiar with your incredible story of deceit have welcomed Carol back.

I cannot guarantee secrecy of any sort nor that this version of your misguided "Epic Poem" has not leaked further into the public eye. I can offer to you only an intended discretion that will serve to shield Carol until we have repaired our marriage and she is recovered from her National experience.

Trust me.

When you meet
your Maker,
He will remember
this story.


6 November, 2000

Please accept this letter of sincere apology. I have recently read/viewed your letter. It has shown the great suffering that I have caused you, for which I am profoundly sorry. As Thanksgiving approaches, a time for family and reconciliation, your letter has driven me into deep reflection on my protracted behavior, which lacked honor and dignity. I can only hope that reconciliation has brought your family back together.

You have my word that I shall ever [sic] contact your family again nor in anyway bring cause for the pain that my actions have inflicted upon you.

Again, I am profoundly sorry and give you my sincerest apology.

Neal Gilligan

[Author's Note: This is from chapter 9 of a romance novel (pre-pub "The Betrayal," ISBN: 978-1-890709-24-2) still in progress. All names and most places are fictitious.]