I’ve never written with a problem, but your columns have helped me in the past. Now I’m in a quandary. I feel certain my 62-year-old husband of 18 years is showing early signs of dementia (confusion, loss of humour and empathy, snappiness) which come and go without warning.
I have to watch what I say to him to avoid arguments and sarcasm, which I find dreadfully upsetting.
I’d feel a bit better if we could have a medical diagnosis, but after years of medications and operations, getting him to see a doctor would be harder than getting Dracula to give blood! In any case, a diagnosis would just make him horribly depressed.
He’s registered disabled and I have to do most of the house and garden jobs. I left my employment in March due to workplace bullying, which has happened in nearly every job I’ve had. Now I’m 65, I just want to relax without stress (I’d often be snapped at in work, and again when I came home).
But I’m feeling forced by my husband to find another job so we don’t ‘run out of money’. We have savings, no mortgage (all thanks to my late father’s generosity; my husband never saved a bean) and there’s potential equity release to consider (how much longer does he want to leave it?). He gets a modest occupational pension from early retirement, and I will get a state pension next year when I turn 66.
He belongs to an expensive golf club, using a buggy to play, and drinks about half a bottle of brandy a night. I love him but feel bad about subsidising his expenses when I’ve brought so much financially to the marriage already.
My only family now is my lovely daughter, who is very supportive, but has my baby grandson to look after and a few problems in her own relationship, so I refuse to lean on her. My son took his own life in 2012 and you (privately, when I asked) provided me with that lovely Rilke poem for his funeral. But I know from little signs that he is supporting me, too.
I’ve always found it hard to make friends so have no close ones to help; I found trying to access an NHS counsellor too draining, as they’re overwhelmed, and Relate has gone from my city.
So I don’t know whether just to be unhappy but keep the peace, or be true to myself and endure the resulting stress. Maybe there’s a middle way, but I can’t see it.
This week Bel advises a reader who feels certain her bullying husband is showing early signs of dementia
This is a stressful and depressing situation — although not uncommon. By that, I don’t mean in any way to minimise the particular circumstances you describe.
But in the same postbag came two other letters from women stuck in unhappy marriages, who cannot see an alternative to a miserable future.
Reading them makes me very sad, because there are no easy answers. To say ‘Why not leave — it’s never too late’ (which I do from time to time) is to make it sound easy to up sticks and start a new life alone. That’s far from the reality.
On the possibility that your husband may have dementia, I say yes, it would be best to get a diagnosis, but how? He would have to agree to all the tests and — here I speak from personal experience with my father — the process can be so distressing that it can be counter-productive.
You worry that your husband would be ‘depressed’, but I suspect he would also deny the diagnosis.
I’m afraid this can take you round in circles, even after talking to the excellent Alzheimer’s Society. It’s a terrible problem, one that affects more and more people, and one that has me personally stumped.
To turn to the rest of your letter: you’ve had an unhappy work life and your personality is unsuited to more of it, yet you feel bullied by your husband into finding another job. This is totally unacceptable, but since you hate confrontation, I suggest you stonewall.
There are no jobs, OK? You’ve looked. Shake your head, shrug, say that — and walk away.
You resent his selfish extravagance but feel unable to tackle it. In that case, since you emphasise that you have no money worries, try to let it go. In other words, regard the golf as a way of getting him out of the house.
Of course, the brandy is a terrible idea and could make his temper worse. But how can you stop him? Would he share a bottle of wine with you instead?
You can access Relate through the internet or on the phone (see relate.org.uk) — you don’t need a local office.
Underlying everything I write is the fact that you still love him. Can you possibly cling to that, since not all wives do love? It’s the only thing to steer you along that ‘middle way’, which I see as a sort of displacement. Shrug, keep the peace, go for a walk, breathe deeply, talk to both your children. Find new self-centred resources — such as being absorbed in jigsaws or colouring — to help you zone out.
A way to deal with this is to shift your attitude towards it all. It takes great strength to accept life is painful, but it is possible to transcend that awareness. Your 18-year love is the start; harness it to put you in control for once, and not make you the victim.
I feel so inferior to Captain Tom
A short while ago I was asked the question: ‘Have you ever felt overshadowed?’ It’s one to which I couldn’t give an honest answer; in fact, I lied, because the person I feel overshadowed by is none other than the very charming, wonderfully spirited centenarian Captain Sir Tom Moore.
Expressing how I feel would make me seem churlish or full of sour grapes because of the amazing sum of money raised and the recognition and fame that have followed since.
I feel no animosity toward Sir Tom but, in truth, he did not raise the £33 million reported. The media — mainly national television, and celebrity support — did.
It’s not to minimise his effort that I admit why I feel overshadowed. My wife and I have been volunteers for Marie Curie Care for more than 30 years. We have stood inside and outside supermarkets, on street corners and at fairs for hours — and even days — with our cans collecting whatever few pennies people are prepared to give.
I have abseiled, skydived, done a 48-hour Scrabble marathon. We’ve organised shows, boat races, fetes and festivals and have also assisted with other charities including Parkinson’s UK, Breast Cancer Relief and the Royal British Legion.
Despite all that time and effort, we have managed to raise about £75,000 to £80,000 — still a lot of money, but not £33 million.
I confess that reading about Captain Tom made me feel inferior, second rate. I thought: ‘Why can’t I get publicity and raise the sums I’d like?’ No matter what I do, it’s not possible for me (or anyone else) to do so without the power of the media. What do you think?
YOUR letter is both unexpected and unusual — and I applaud your honesty. Others won’t, but I do. It isn’t easy to admit to such feelings, but you are not alone in having them.
I’m not talking about just fundraising here; what’s also at the heart of this email is a general feeling of being unappreciated and unsung.
People have it when they have worked hard all their lives trying to do good, and then read that some young celebrity has been given a gong for ‘services to fashion’ or some such tosh.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Make no mistake, the child-like cry, ‘What about me?’ echoes in more hearts than you might imagine.
Watching last Saturday’s moving VJ Day celebrations made me wonder if any of the veterans felt a pang of envy, too, at Sir Tom’s celebrity. I doubt it and hope not, but who could blame them if they did? Such feelings (often just fleeting) are normal in fallible human beings. None of us is a saint, even though we may do ‘saintly’ things.
Of course, you are quite right to say that without media interest Sir Tom’s fundraising could not have gone stratospheric. He had a wonderful idea, promoted by his devoted and savvy daughter and taken up by the media at a time when all the news was bad and this story was just lovely. Hooray!
I salute him, and so do you, I know. But I understand exactly what it’s like to try doggedly to raise money, often doing behind-the-scenes chores (in my case, heading up three local appeals) such as signing hundreds of begging letters and following up with more, as well as speeches. It can be boring, but you do it for the greater good, don’t you?
Make no mistake, Raymond, you and your wife have done enormous good. The sum you mention is staggering, so you should steer your eyes from unfeasible amounts raised by others and focus on what you have achieved.
At the moment, most charities have their backs to the wall because lockdown curtailed the usual fundraising activities. Of course, people have less money to donate in any case.
It’s why so many of us resent the absurd foreign aid budget; the need within our own country is going to increase. It’s why quiet people like you will go on fundraising with admirable energy. You and your wife, and all like you, are the backbone of this country, and your goodness is stacking up in the scales. So, thank you.
And finally… Milestones hold the key to healing
A week has passed since VJ Day and I’m still feeling rather overwhelmed by last Saturday’s two-part coverage — memorial, then celebration — which had me in tears of awe, pity and anger (and showed the BBC at its very best). To hear the veterans and memories of families was such a privilege — the only possible response being a mixture of gratitude and humility.
I’m one of those who believe it is essential to commemorate the dead, to understand history and to show respect, which is why a red mist descends when idiots criticise Remembrance Sunday, or when the Cenotaph is treated with disrespect.
Years ago I wrote an article stating how important it was for the loved ones of men killed in the Falklands War to make a pilgrimage to that faraway place in order to remember. Yes, nothing affects memories inside hearts and minds, yet outward gestures still matter.
After many years of writing about bereavement (and making various radio and TV series about the subject) I am more convinced than ever of the importance of remembrance. That is one reason why last Saturday’s events were so powerful; the carefully thought-out rituals mattered. That’s why I encourage those who grieve to mark events such as a birthday, for example, because it can help enormously.
Every year on the birth/deathday of my stillborn son, I put a flower on the memorial in our garden and say a little prayer. It doesn’t make me sad, not any more. But a simple gesture like that acknowledges that something important happened, never to be forgotten.
The human urge to memorialise goes back millennia. Why else do we visit graves?
This is why I admire the Jewish tradition of the yahrzeit candle on the anniversary of a death. Just lighting a single tea light in front of a photograph of your beloved can become a ritual full of meaning, and I sincerely recommend it. There is no need to be embarrassed by grief — or enduring love.