Belfast Telegraph

Geoffrey shows that confession is good for the soul ... and for the family

By Gail Walker

There's rarely anything commendable about a middle-aged man owning up to a string of affairs that have ripped apart his family life. Such a confession is usually a last-ditch bid to save some old goat's neck - ie, marriage and career - after being caught with his trews down.

Not so Belfast psychologist Geoffrey Beattie. Publicly, he'd got away with his rampant philandering. Only his family and lovers knew. Remarkably, while becoming a celeb, he'd been running a second family unit.

Now, Beattie's outed himself in a book he's written with son Ben about mending their relationship through a shared love of running.

Naturally Ben loathed his father's treatment of his mother, admitting that he'd "fantasise about a time when I would be stronger and I could hurt him". Somehow, though, they've repaired much of the damage.

There's been an outworking, too, of Beattie's relationship with wife Carol, his teenage sweetheart from Belfast. She lost an arm after they married and he didn't want to further burden her by talking about his anxieties, including his brother's death. He says the extra-marital sex was a mechanism to get close enough to someone to open up about things he didn't talk about at home.

As a modern man not afraid to stir the emotional silt, examine the damage and confront his own failings, Beattie is perhaps an odd representative of the Ulster Protestant male, whose typical default position when quizzed about feelings is "what are you on about?"

Generally, though, as a people, we still don't tend to talk about affairs or anything messy like that. We're afraid of how it might be perceived. Geoffrey and Ben Beattie's book, Chasing Lost Times, is a forensic look at heartache, impulse, regret - and recovery. But it also may just show that another of the old Ulsterisms - say nothing - may not be the best way forward after all.

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