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BEL MOONEY: How can I break out of my dull, passionless marriage? 

Dear Bel,

I feel as if my life is coming apart, but I don’t quite know why. I’m 39 and have been happily married for 12 years. My husband, 41, is a kind, good, funny man.

We have a son and a daughter, age eight and six, and our life is usually harmonious, apart from when the kids are playing up.

I think we were quite content until the beginning of this year, when something seemed to shift in my brain.

My husband works quite hard in a job he likes, and I have started to train as a psychotherapist, one day a week.

We love cooking, but he doesn’t help much around the house or garden. We have good friends and are close to both families, so no problems there.

The trouble is — we’re really good friends, but just not in love with each other any more.

For the past few months I’ve been feeling it’s not enough. It’s like I want to burst out of my skin and become somebody else — somebody free.

Our life seems in a rut and I think I’m too young to be buried in domesticity and routine — taking the kids to school, shopping for food, putting the clothes in to wash, folding them up, cooking, shouting at the kids for getting out of bed, etc.

There’s no sex in our marriage any more. We just don’t fancy each other and my husband says he’s not worried.

He’s one of those men who like an easy life. But I’m bothered. I fantasise about wonderful sex but not with him.

Would I have an affair? I think so — because to feel excitement again would be fantastic.

But I can’t stand the idea of lying and sneaking and so would it be more honest to split and start again?

We’ve talked, which proves how we get on. I know you’ll suggest we go for counselling, because agony aunts always say that, but what’s the point, if all the passion has gone? How can you get it back, after all this time?

It would just be talking round in circles, and wouldn’t change the way I feel.

Which is that I want more out of life and feel depressed at the thought of just jogging along as we are.

What do you think?


This week Bel advises a reader who is stuck in a dull marriage and says she’s ‘not in love with’ her husband anymore

Shall I let you into a secret? When I was exactly your age I felt just the same. I’d already been married for 18 years and hated the idea of facing 40 (so middle-aged, it seemed) and felt so restless and tired of being that ‘Mrs’ with all those responsibilities.

The song by Queen, ‘I Want to Break Free’ had been a hit the year before, and the words were the soundtrack to my thoughts.

I promise you, in all these years of writing an advice column, I’ve had so many letters from both men and woman expressing almost identical frustrations that it almost seems like a rite of passage endured by more people than one might think — often causing pain and sometimes disaster.

Yes, each problem is unique to the one suffering; on the other hand, there is nothing new under the sun.


More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Do you think the pressures of home-schooling during the pandemic made your life seem more claustrophobic? Do you and your husband manage to carve out enough time together to (say) go out without the children, share non-domestic interests, and so on? Since you like each other so much, you should build on that.

Of course, the rogue elephant in the room is called Sex, and it trumpets loudly in this and many other marriages. Surely you must know as well as I that after 12 years and more most marriages settle into comfortable companionship: loving instead of ‘being in love’.

That’s healthy and normal — and please don’t be taken in by the obsessive propaganda of this sex-obsessed, porn-ridden culture.

It is my firm belief that when surveys are done on the amount of time a couple makes love in a week/month, people actually fib. For some people sexual desire remains important, for others it doesn’t. The problem comes if there’s an imbalance.

The only advice I can give is carefully weigh the consequences. And then weigh them some more. Splitting up is hellish, hurts children and is not to be undertaken on a fantasy of freedom — as I discovered. The grass on the other side of the fence can turn out to contain hidden cow-pats (see today’s second letter) and plenty of people regret their destructive dream of impossible ‘freedom’.

Loneliness can beckon. So yes, I do think it useful to talk these issues through with a counsellor; the action of arranging that indicates a wish to take marriage seriously and not act on what might be temporary discontentment. And please don’t be so naïve as to believe that ‘passion’ necessarily means getting ‘more’ out of life.

The other day I read a moving magazine article which interviewed brave young women in Ukraine who had signed up for territorial duty. One said, ‘I want a normal life, with children, a house, a family.’ Another, who married her boyfriend at the start of the terrible conflict, said, ‘I want to go on my honeymoon, which would be just going back to our flat and leading a normal life. No rockets.’

In other words, those young women are dreaming of just what you have. Doesn’t this sum up the human condition?

I’m trapped with a serial cheater 

Dear Bel,

I don’t know where to begin, but here goes. In 2016, I split with my partner of 18 years. We have a 14-year-old daughter together.

Two months later I met someone else, and I think now that it was too soon. I wasn’t in a good place.

After a few months I found out he was still in contact with his ex, as well as another woman that he’d been seeing behind his ex’s back.

When we started getting serious he always included his ex in our plans. If I ever said I thought it was wrong, he always found a way to make sure we didn’t upset her. He even made me hide our engagement from her.

Eventually she met someone, and moved to Australia, so that was that. Then one day I checked his phone. I just had a feeling that something was going on. I was correct. The text was from a woman at his work. I was devastated.

The whole situation got worse as she then accused him of sexual harassment and he lost his job.

You’ll think I’m stupid, but I decided to give him another chance.

Everything since then (2019) has been hard, but we finally got to a really good place in our relationship.

Yet the other day I found another woman’s message on his phone. It wasn’t sexual, and when I asked him he just said he thought it was a scam.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t earn enough money to support myself. Please give me some advice.


Thought of the day 

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light;

In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!

But westward, look, the land is bright.

Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth Arthur Hugh Clough (English poet, 1819 – 61)

There is so much I’d like to know, especially why you split from your partner after 18 years. Did you just get bored (see today’s main letter)? Or had you in fact already met your current partner (I have to ask, as we all tend to gloss reality)? Or had your ex behaved badly?

Whatever the facts, your daughter must have been badly affected at that age, and I hope that at 22 she is now happy in her life and no longer living at home to witness your anxiety.

The trouble is, you fell in love with a man who turned out to be fundamentally dishonest, and the bare facts of this story suggest he is unlikely to change.

First he goes behind his ex’s back to see you, as well as yet another woman. Then he deceives you by not revealing that he is still seeing his ex.

Then he compels you to put up with his ongoing, very attentive relationship with the woman he has already hurt, even though you (rightly) think it strange.

Then you discover a text from a work colleague who accuses him of sexual harassment and gets him fired. Here you fail to tell me whether this was true, if you thought him innocent, and what else you felt.

In fact, there is an odd lack of emotion in this email — no expressed hurt or love for him, merely anxiety about how you’d manage financially if you split.

Giving somebody another chance is not something I would ever call stupid, although I might judge it unwise.

You and your partner have worked hard to re-establish your relationship since 2019 and that’s something I applaud, since I do believe in the power of change in our lives. It takes real work, but relationships can even be improved after upsets.

The trouble comes with regaining trust, and I suspect this is a step too far for most of us. It’s one thing to accept a partner with all flaws; quite another to wipe from memory the dishonesty that caused the trouble in the first place.

The latest ‘scam’ message might well be innocent, but on the other hand . . .

You and he probably need help to find your way through the lack of trust which now afflicts your relationship.

I suggest you look at the Relate website and tell him you need him to make a positive commitment which involves talking the whole thing through with a professional. If he wants to stay with you then it’s time he does what he’s asked.

If he refuses, you can draw your own conclusions.

And finally… We can’t all live however we please

Two weeks ago I published a letter from ‘Richard’ who thought he might like to try cross-dressing. 

He emphasised deep love for his wife, children, a marriage of 33 years, and expressed no great angst, just curiosity about what cross-dressing would be like and worry that his wife might dislike it. I warned him to be careful.

Some readers thought this wise, since their lives have been made very unhappy by their husband’s fetishes. 

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email

Names are changed to protect identities.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

But J.A. demurred, instead suggesting, ‘the reader could have been supported by the Beaumont Society’.

I looked at the website, saw that its overwhelming emphasis is on transgenderism, and told her, ‘I don’t see why sending him a link to that society would have helped him. 

On the contrary, I think it would have seemed to ‘enable’ him in actions which might ruin his life by breaking up his family.’

L.S. also disagreed with me: ‘. . . your reply sounded judgmental and somewhat dismissive of his dilemma. It must have taken much thought and courage to write the letter and I wonder if, having read the reply, he feels worse than before?’

She was concerned, but the trouble is — Richard expressed no great distress at all in his letter. So how could my ‘softly-softly’ approach make him feel ‘worse’?

My aim is to make people ask questions and think. If I patronised Richard by saying, ‘Ooh, poor you, be yourself, live your own truth, and if your wife doesn’t get it, she’s not understanding enough’, I would betray both myself and him.

I repeat my conclusion to Richard: ‘We simply cannot all do the things we fantasise about doing. The cliché, ‘Live the life you’ve imagined’ can lead to appallingly selfish behaviour . . .’

Interestingly, today’s letters touch two sides of that coin, one from a woman who might well inflict hurt and the other from a woman on the receiving end. Worth de