I am married to a man who loves me very much, and I him. I am 51 and he’s 57.
We have a good friendship, he is a good dad to our adult children, and I know that we seem to have an enviable marriage.
I met him at 23 and we married two years later.
But physical problems brought our sex life to an end. I didn’t envisage giving up sex in my 40s, and it has caused heartache, self-doubt and (at times) resentment.
Thought of the week
Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
From Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish novelist and poet, 1850-1894)
I’m menopausal, have put on weight and have always struggled with self-esteem.
Sometimes, I feel I could jump off a bridge, but I’m loved — so I never would.
Still, it’s hard to love myself. An interesting job is my sanctuary. But, last month, a colleague and I crossed a line.
He kissed me gloriously — and made me feel everything that I’ve been missing. He’s 12 years younger, senior in work, and I’ve had a secret, longstanding crush.
We are good friends and go out for drinks maybe once every six months.
He confides big things, such as when he was going to propose to his wife (when she became pregnant) and everything about work. He carries responsibility, and his wife gives him a lot of grief about his job, plus he has struggled to adjust to marriage and fatherhood.
We talked that evening about our lost identities and were both a bit drunk. He texted, making it clear he’d have liked more.
The next day, we agreed that it shouldn’t have happened.
So, here I am, long-held fantasy fulfilled, knowing that it was a one-off. But I can’t stop thinking how I’d like there to be more — an incredibly bad idea.
I should probably find another job. I did try previously when this crush became unbearable, but had no joy (I’m one of those invisible, middle-aged women recruiters don’t consider).
I tried channelling this reignited passion into my husband, but, sadly, it doesn’t work for him.
If I move to a job without the same professional satisfaction and stay in a marriage with no sexual satisfaction, where will I find my sense of worth?
How to harness this unexpected boost to my ego in a positive, not destructive, way?
This week Bel advises a married woman who is in a sexless marriage and someone who lost the love of their life after cancer
This is, in many ways, an old and not uncommon situation, isn’t it? Your longer email says the two of you know you’ve become a cliché: the office romance.
Many people develop feelings for a colleague. The danger comes when this tips over into secretive behaviour, such as meeting for drinks or lunch without telling your partners. That’s the point at which people can become ‘unfaithful’ without actually having sex.
If you are longing to get to work, fantasising, sharing confidences, and so on, the close attention given to that relationship is taking away from the partner who is in the dark. It’s dangerous territory — as you have found out.
Your situation would be upsetting even if your senior colleague were not married. And, of course, if your own contented marriage did not have the sexual problem.
You explained more about that (which I’ve kept private), and it sounds as if there’s no answer — except coming to terms with the situation for the sake of all the good aspects of your marriage.
By the way, the last time I said something similar on this page, a reader wrote angrily that I should be ashamed of myself. Ashamed for suggesting there is more to a long relationship than sex.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Since I believe in companionship, cuddles, talking, sharing, laughing, friendship and a deep, spiritual connection between two souls . . . well, yes, I repeat that sex cannot be the be-all and end-all in life.
But each of us has different needs and weaknesses.
All I can do is ask you to consider whether you are prepared to ditch your husband and make the rest of the family unhappy because of the lack of sex.
Your job is the next issue. Either you move (and risk getting a dull position elsewhere) or you realise you have to control your feelings.
What option is there? This man will not — and should not — leave his wife and baby. He proved that although you may feel like an overweight, middle-aged woman, you possess the kind of sympathy, intelligence, warmth and experience that transcends superficial appearances — and that confirmation (even if only a tipsy kiss) is something to be celebrated.
Focus on that boost to your ego — a little gift that’s your very own.
You have an interesting job you enjoy, and I think you would be misguided to give it all up because of your feelings for this man — feelings that can only end in tears, unless you stop dwelling on the negatives and think hard.
In my experience, men at work are often all too ready to complain ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’.
Ask yourself whether he should have betrayed her in that way and whether it was right for you to encourage his confidences because you wanted to seem essential.
Have you thought of counselling to deal with your issues of self-esteem? It would do you good to talk this through with a professional. How are you coping with the menopause? Look carefully at what you can take and what you are eating. The latter is vital, like exercise; to be disciplined about both is to start to love yourself.
Most of us need some help to approach the next stage in life. Deciding to stay where you are, but making changes, would be a major step towards taking back control.
Do I deserve this torment over lost love?
I am 61 and lost the love of my life to cancer five years, five months and five days ago. We met on a blind date 38 years ago, and I fell in love with Ann instantly.
Our daughter and I were effectively advised to let Ann go, to end her awful suffering.
That’s what happened. I held her hand while she slipped away and so wanted to tell her I was sorry for everything. I wasn’t very nice to her at times — in fact, through drink, I was an awful husband.
Since then, I have become overwhelmed with grief and guilt.
I miss her so much. She was just lovely, without a bad bone in her. Is it normal to feel this? Perhaps I deserve the torment.
I speak to her every day. I’m just confused and tired — mentally exhausted. I still love her. I don’t suppose I will get an answer, but, at last, I have been able to express myself. Blimey, I didn’t expect that.
PEOPLE who have lost a loved one know that grief can be like a large, grey dog: always by your side like a shadow, never wanting to leave you, often weighing you down with its needs. Yet loved.
Grief itself can feel essential; a permanent memorial to love. That’s why so many of us feel guilty when, at last, the day comes when we do not think of our lost one even once.
I’m glad that writing to this column has given you the chance to be honest about these tumultuous thoughts.
You ask if it is normal to feel like this. The answer is yes: grief and guilt are normal, and so is confusion, and these emotions do not conform to any pattern.
You are still ‘overwhelmed’ five-and-a-half years after Ann’s death because of how you say you behaved when she was alive.
You know you were blessed with a good and lovely wife. That’s why you are racked with anguished longing to have your time all over again — time in which you would be a very different sort of husband.
To help you make sense of all this, I’m going to let another reader help you. Glenys wrote me this lovely letter three months ago, full of wisdom:
‘It’s just over two years since my husband died. We had 34 years, but, for the last 20 of them, Peter suffered ill health. I know people who’ve lost life partners in different circumstances and they all have different outlooks.
‘One train of thought that helps is to put myself in Peter’s place and think what he would want for me. It doesn’t make it easier — but I honour his life by living mine.
‘In the months after he died, I used to pray to die, but it isn’t my time yet, so life must go on.
‘It is all I can do for him now and, when we meet again, I want to be able to look at him in the knowledge that I tried my best — as he did in life.
‘I don’t always achieve it, but I take my time, pick myself up and start again, one thing at a time . . . the price of love is grief, and I believe the deeper the love, the deeper the grief.’
Listen to Glenys and consider what Ann would want.
Surely, she would ask you to start to live a good, happy life, for her sake? To talk to your daughter, watch the leaves, listen to the birds, try new things, eat good food . . . all the wonderful things Ann cannot do.
If you still drink heavily, you should look at that for Ann’s sake. You say that you talk to her each day, so promise her you will change, get your life in order, remember the good times you shared and try to forget the bad.
You are the keeper of her flame, so please, keep it bright — not at risk of being extinguished by sighs and tears. What’s done is done, but love is never done — and it’s clear no matter how you behaved, you loved your wife.
You are forgiven — and what you now ‘deserve’ is not ‘torment’, but peace.
And finally….The right to see our grandkids
In MY 14 years as an advice columnist, letters from grandparents have caused the most sadness, even before I became a grandmother in 2012.
I’ve had so many desperate letters from men and women deprived of seeing beloved grandchildren due to family rifts and toxic breakdowns.
All too often, a hurt/angry/malicious daughter-in-law cuts off contact with her husband’s parents, and they are helpless.
Or sons and daughters quarrel with their own parents.
It is so cruel, impacts on many lives and causes untold distress. As a result, grandchildren are deprived of a special bond.
It’s estimated that more than one million children in the UK are denied access to their grandparents.
If you read the letters I’ve been sent, you’d weep.
One grandmother used to send me a poem each year at Christmas to the grandchildren she is not allowed to see — and her words broke my heart.
So I was pleased to discover next Wednesday, September 4, is an action day, with a meeting at the Palace of Westminster called Broken Bonds: The Plight Of Children Estranged From Their Grandparents.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Its aim is to ensure legislation implements what the EU Court of Justice ruled in May — that ‘grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren’.
‘The right of access refers also to . . . other persons with whom it is important for the child to maintain a relationship.’
This must be implemented here, no matter what happens.
Lorraine Bushell, chair of the London Grandparents’ Group and organiser of the action day, tells me it is oversubscribed.
But her email is hendon email@example.com and she will provide information to anyone interested. You could also look at grandparentsplus.org.uk and verywellfamily. com/cope-with-losing-contact- with-grandchildren-1695992.
I hope it offers some consolation to know that you are not alone and that others are working on your behalf.