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BEL MOONEY: I’m happy with just my girls, so do I HAVE to find a new man?

 Dear Bel,

I’ve been in severe pain for several years and my ex-husband simply didn’t care what was wrong with me. All he cared about was how much money I was bringing into the household.

I’ve suffered panic attacks and severe anxiety attacks — but he always dismissed me and told me I was ‘stupid’ and ‘doing it all for attention’.

When our youngest child was born (she’s now 11), she had severe physical problems (thankfully, she’s OK now) and when I needed his support he would just disappear. While I was living at the hospital with her, he would regularly leave our eldest (then three) with anyone who’d have her.

Thought of the day

So many people had unknown stories lurking: a husband gone, a surprise baby passed off as a brother or sister, a misplaced passion, a lost wife…How to navigate through life carrying such things without them making you sad and bitter and judgmental — that was the challenge.

From A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier (2019)

I had only ever had one relationship — being with him since we were 15 — so had nothing to compare this relationship with. Once our youngest was OK, he withdrew from family life unless he absolutely had to be present — and I did 99.9 per cent of everything, domestically and emotionally.

My severe pain (I’m still on several medications) made me unable to have sex, so he deemed me not to be worthy of his time.

Unknown to me, he decided to have at least one affair. After 22 years together (and married for over 11 years), he texted me —would you believe? — 11 days before Christmas five years ago to say he was leaving, as I was ‘no longer a contributor to society’. I’m on benefits because of my medical problem.

He has come to my house and caused trouble and threatened other people involved with us — so to cut a long story short, the courts have now decided he is no longer allowed to see the girls.

His behaviour throughout the relationship was controlling, but I didn’t see it until he was no longer with us.

People are now telling me that five years since he left I should ‘move on’ and find another man. But, honestly, the children and I are doing so fantastically and they are flourishing at school. I am really proud of them for overcoming what they have been through.

My question to you is: do you think that I am weird or abnormal because I am so happy on my own with my kids and family around us, or do you think that I should try to seek out a special someone else?

I know this doesn’t seem like a big problem, but strangely it is becoming bigger in my head as the time passes.

MANDY

This week Bel advises a woman who says she is happy on her own, while a man wonders if he wife his repelled by him

Who are these ‘people’? It always amazes me that folk are so ready to offer opinions on the lives of others: what they should do, whom they should love, whether they should have another baby, and so on.

Yes, writing a column like this requires offering opinion — but then I only do so because I have been asked!

A woman of my acquaintance once divested herself of the opinion (framed as a question) that I had been ‘too forgiving’ towards my ex-husband. Really! Luckily, I was too polite to suggest she mind her own business.

You have been through various stages of hell, with your own health, a sick child, a selfish, neglectful, controlling and unfaithful husband, and then his behaviour resulting in the court decision.

But without this man your life has become calmer and you see how much happier your daughters are without their father. So I wish ‘people’ would leave you alone and let you develop the life you have — rather than the life they think you should be chasing after.

Your letter raises two issues that interest me greatly. The first is (as I’ve just outlined) why people believe they have a right to offer opinions without reflecting on the hurt they might cause.

I suspect social media has made this tendency worse. Yes, humans have always gossiped and offered their two-penn’orths and sniped — but this is now the norm on a scale nobody could have imagined, and it seems reticence and decorum have disappeared.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

For pity’s sake, people — don’t busily tell the parents of an only child that they should have another, because they might have tried and failed many times — or else think one is just perfect, thank you very much!

And don’t offer any opinions about a person’s need for another relationship — because you can have no idea how thrilled he or she might be to hunker down in a cosy solitary bed at night.

A s for you, Mandy, you remind me how much I love to hear from those happy to be independent — so thank you. Your new life of contentment, of peace after so many storms, will be an inspiration to others who write to me in terrible anxiety about their single state. It’s not always bad, is it?

You have your girls — who matter more than anything else — to focus on and deserve time to think about who you are and what you want. In the future, you may well meet another partner and that might be unexpected or as the result of a concerted effort.

Who knows? What matters is refusing to be embittered by the past and trusting in your ability to create a new future.

My disabled body repels my wife

Dear Bel

The simple question — is my marriage broken? If so, is it broken irrevocably?

I’m a 57-year-old disabled man, confined to a wheelchair, and my disability will worsen with time. Each day, my dependency on others intensifies and I see myself as a burden on my wife, family and friends.

These feelings are magnified by my wife’s coldness. No longer are there any spontaneous acts of real romance, and intimacy has ceased.

I haven’t been passionately kissed in over ten years, and we sleep in separate bedrooms. When I ask if she loves me, I am met with silence. I do everything I can to show how deeply I love her. All my approaches for sexual intimacy are rejected — if I do touch her, she recoils, and her body language screams repulsion.

When she wants to make a call, she leaves the room and goes upstairs, knowing I cannot follow. We no longer socialise with family or friends, so my life has become a mere existence without any joy.

I desperately want my marriage to work, but every time I try to start the conversation of what we need to do, I am again met with silence.

I feel she stays only because she worries about what people would think if she deserted a disabled husband. Help.

WILL

There is no ‘simple’ answer to your question and the only clear thing is that you are very unhappy and need help. I feel sorry for you, although I realise what you need is some sort of strategy for coping and not just pity.

Let’s just leave the issue of your disability to one side. That may sound unfeeling, but let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve received many letters from men full of anguish because their wives no longer wish to have sex.

Snogging tends to end when passion goes to sleep; there’s nothing unusual in that, nor in the painful truth that sexual chemistry fades even in happy marriages. So I want to set your woes within that larger context.

You say your wife seemed repelled by your attempts to kick-start intimacy. That must do great harm to your self-esteem, so I suggest you avoid it. Oh, I understand why you try, yet since it’s fruitless and damaging I’d try to shift your mindset rather than change her.

I worry that you are becoming depressed, so I suggest you talk to your doctor. It would also be helpful for you to discuss your marriage with experts at Relate (relate.org.uk), but further talking to your wife is essential.

You say she answers with silence, but perhaps that’s because you are asking the wrong questions. Don’t demand to know if she loves you or anything that will drive her further within herself. Instead, confide that you worry about the future and the burden your increasing disability will lay on her.

You could address the lack of socialising and try to work out what has happened. Say you would love to see more of family and friends, and perhaps frame this in terms of happy memories of when you were first together. You could emphasise how good it would be for her if you were to invite people round. Neither the lack of sexual intimacy nor your disability are reasons not to see other people.

Surely, this is something you can do something about? Yet not expressed in terms of the marriage being ‘broken’ (a negative), but instead as a way to create more fun in the future (a positive).

Don’t ask her what’s wrong; frame the talk in terms of what she would enjoy. Try shifting the mood from your sadness and low self-esteem to ways of throwing open your shared life to others.

 And Finally…..Oh, to be young and revolting!  

I’ve heard from jolly people that my reminiscences in last week’s column (wild days on Nova magazine in 1971) reminded them of their own youth, and they loved it!

Naturally, age is very much on my mind this week, since another birthday has just gone — and watching the reports of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations reminded me most of us get grumpier. (By the way, I omitted the word ‘climate’ there, because from what I can see the aim has shifted to a blatant ‘smash capitalism’ . . . good luck with that, guys!)

When I was 17, I wore badges for CND and the Movement For Colonial Freedom. Then in 1994, I became involved with a road protest, and experienced the red mist of obsession that cuts you off from other points of view. So I do understand why young people protest, even if I don’t agree with their ‘why’ and ‘how.’

It was ever thus, as Shakespeare said: ‘Crabbed age and youth cannot live together.’ And I bet you don’t know who wrote this: ‘Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter their room; they contradict their parents . . . gobble up their food and tyrannise their teachers.’

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 bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

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

A newspaper columnist 20 years back? Or a Tory politician 200 years ago? No, it was the Greek philosopher Socrates — articulating the perennial moans of the older generation, all of 2,000 years ago.

I’m just reading the classic detective novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, published in 1935. Some female teachers at a women’s college in Oxford are moaning about students — who ‘don’t want responsibility’.

‘Before the war’ (meaning World War I) says one teacher, students threw themselves passionately into ‘debates and drama’, but now ‘they won’t be bothered’ — because all they think of is ‘young men’.

Older people always complain about the young, while the young dismiss us as old fogeys. So relax, because the world turns and everything passes.

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