I’m 33, utterly miserable and can’t see a way out. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly nine years, though we’ve known each other since we were both 15.
I became unhappy while pregnant with our daughter, now seven. He got lazier and lazier and didn’t pay for a single thing for her arrival, but I stuck it out for the baby’s sake. I loved him and thought things would improve.
Now I’m always stressed — trying to work, take care of the kids, pay the bills, do the housework. I’m so embarrassed about the state of our home I won’t allow my or the kids’ friends to come around.
We argue about his inability to help around the house. He flits between jobs, spending two months employed, then a year or more unemployed.
Bel Mooney answers concerns about a drug-using boyfriend who won’t leave the house despite his girlfriend’s best efforts
Most of the time he can’t be bothered to sign on, so the only money is my part-time wage and Child Tax Credits. He smokes tobacco all week and weed at the weekends — all funded by me. He’s downright awful without his smokes so it’s easier to just pay.
He’s a very loving father to our daughter, but hardly ever does anything with her outside the home because he can’t be bothered. All activities are with me and/or grandparents.
He either ignores my 11-year-old son (from a previous relationship) or speaks to him like dirt — which we row about. I’m certain he no longer cares about me.
I love him, but I’m no longer in love with him and have zero respect while he’s at his games console 24/7, doing nothing for our family. Our sex life is non-existent, there’s no affection, he comes to bed late, then gets up around noon. He denies his behaviour is a problem.
I just want to be free of him. When I say I think about ending the relationship he veers between saying he’ll change (then doesn’t) and telling me he won’t leave if I want him to. His own parents have told me to ditch him many times!
Unfortunately, we rent from a private landlord — named as equals on the tenancy — so I have no legal right to throw him out. He says he won’t even leave the bedroom, let alone the house, if we split up.
My parents live in sheltered accommodation, I don’t really have any friends and I’m broke — so I’ve nowhere to go and he wouldn’t leave out of spite. Our local council says it can’t help because it’s not an abusive relationship.
Living with him after a break-up would be unbearable so I’m stuck in this miserable situation because it’s the lesser of two evils. I cry a lot and don’t know what to do.
You paint a terrible picture of an unhappy life and I feel very sorry for you indeed.
But I’ll start by pointing out the giveaways within your email — because until you recognise them you’ll never find the strength to break the impasse.
Here’s what I highlighted. ‘Inability to help’ means refusal to help, simply because he’s yet another useless, idle exploitative deadbeat.
He ‘can’t be bothered’ to sign on to support the family or do anything with his daughter — yet you call him ‘a very loving father’.
Why kid yourself? He ‘ignores’ or abuses your son — so how is that tolerable for even one day more? You actually pay for his tobacco and his cannabis because he’s ‘downright awful’ without them! Never mind how weak that makes you look, do you think it’s good for your children?
Finally, I read with disbelief that his own parents tell you to get rid of him, he shows ‘no affection’, you argue constantly (those poor kids) and have ‘zero respect’ . . . but you can still write ‘I love him’.
Oh, please! Look, I’m aware of the old paradox in the Beatles lyric ‘I don’t like you but I love you’. But when there are children in the equation that weird, obsessive delusion is no longer acceptable — and, anyway, it’s usually a sign of sexual thrall, which isn’t the case with you.
You want to end this non-relationship and it’s time you did. Full marks for starting the process by seeing if you could qualify for council accommodation, but don’t stop now. First, you must cease to fund his disgusting habits, even though you’ll face his vile mood. Toughen up. Stop being his victim.
Something drastic has to happen — like pawning his damn games console, for example. You need the money. Get his parents on side to support everything you do, for the sake of their granddaughter. When you tell him it’s over (as you’re going to), if he refuses to leave the bedroom, move in with the kids and make sure you give him no meals. Not so much as a baked bean on a crumb. Why should you?
For that matter, I bet you do his washing — so stop.
It’s time for attrition — and though it will be hard, you have to say: ‘Enough.’
You’ve put up with this man for long enough — and at 33 have a whole life ahead of you.
Going on as you are isn’t ‘the lesser of two evils’. The real evil is accepting you are ‘stuck’ — and being afraid to liberate yourself and your children.
Am I worthless to my only pal?
I have only one friend who I think of as a best friend, which she knows. But I don’t think she acts like one.
My siblings and I have grown up with mentally-ill parents — not an easy childhood. Where other children could rely on parents to be loving and understanding, we lived in constant fear of ‘Don’t set them off’. Still to this very day.
I had some friends in school but — shy and awkward and with a slight learning difficulty — I was left out when the popular kids involved them.
I got closer to my ‘best friend’, but sometimes we barely saw each other. With her degree, she joined a volunteering organisation and met people, which I don’t. I am an ‘ear’ when she struggled, but that’s all I feel I am. When I want to meet up and go out, she’s never willing. She does things I’d like to do (going to Alton Towers or a restaurant) with others, never with me. All she wants to do is meet at her house.
Her hen do was humiliating. I don’t have a very good job, her friends are much wealthier than me, so I missed meals because they wouldn’t economise.
No one stood up for me. I felt like the dark cloud — and that I let her down. She’s known one woman for just two years who gets more effort from her. I feel second best and worthless.
If I cut her off, I’ll have no one but my siblings — and I need an outside friend.
I see internet pictures of her with others and wonder why it’s not us. What shall I do?
Anita, you don’t tell me your age or whether you still live at home, but I suspect you do. I feel very sorry that your childhood was so unhappy — with the kind of loveless, volatile parenting that verges on mental abuse — and hope one day you may be able to escape this, perhaps with the help of counselling.
In the meantime, we need to look at this relationship to help you relax — before your needy anxiety and envy drive your friend away. It’s useless for me to make bland, sympathetic noises when I believe you must examine your own attitudes. Yes, you’re unhappy, but maybe it’s partly your own fault.
You see, you tell me you suggest things to do together and she never wants to do them, but you must ask yourself why. Resenting the fact that she goes out for jolly times with her other friends and then posts pictures on the internet, you’ve turned yourself into a grouch.
You need to understand that each of us is like a disco mirror ball, spinning in the air, reflecting the light in different ways and showing different facets.
That’s why people (I’m certainly one of them) have a variety of friends. Some people are great to sit with, chatting quietly; others are at their best on a raucous outing. Some are extroverts, some introverts — and the world benefits from both types. Instead of feeling jealous, tell yourself your friend likes to stay at home with you because she likes your conversation best of all. You’re a good listener — and she appreciates that.
Maybe she enjoys talking ‘shop’ with that other woman or maybe she is more interested in fashion (or books or TV or whatever it is) than you. Your friend needs you all, for her different facets. That doesn’t make you unwanted.
It’s bad the women on the hen do were insensitive to your financial situation and that your friend didn’t help. I’ve nothing but sympathy there, but you know something? All of us must learn to hide our most vulnerable feelings in company. Putting a brave face on for the world is an essential life skill — and I’d like you to think about that truth.
You’re aware you sulked (‘a dark cloud’) and that you might have embarrassed your friend (‘let her down’) — and I’m pleased to read such honesty.
But you need to let it help you change your mindset — and tackle this festering resentment against the only friend you have before you lose her altogether. Tell yourself you have the most special role in her life: quiet confidante. Suggest you cook supper together one night soon and try to make the evening fun.
AND FINALLY: Counselling cuts make me furious
This isn’t a political column, but something is making me furious. It seems this misguided Government is about to make another big mistake — in that civil servants have been tasked with drawing up plans to cut the existing funding that goes to marriage guidance and other relationship counselling.
How stupid and short-sighted can politicians get? Yet the UK has one of the highest rates of family break-up in the world.
Former Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith disapproves. He says the Government is reviewing policy announced in 2016, which allows for £70 million to be spent on counselling over five years, but ‘without this funding, innumerable families and couples will no longer be able to access marriage and relationship support, particularly those on low incomes and vulnerable groups who often need it the most’.
Now there’s a wise man — and let’s hope our happily married PM listens to him.
The trouble is, those with loving families often have no idea of the misery caused by bad relationships, the damage to children, to mental health, to the stability of society — and to the economy. This is huge.
To declare an interest, I am patron of the relationships charity, Relate — which (once the National Marriage Guidance Council) will be 80 years old next year. Did you know that for every £1 spent, Relate’s couple counselling saves the public purse an estimated £11.40?
Some 95 per cent of clients say their communication was better after attending counselling, and 85 per cent say they feel able to cope with any difficulties they might face in the future.
But if Relate and similar charities are to continue with this vital work, the Government has to understand their value. Research shows 18 per cent of UK adults are in distressed relationships, with 1.4 million families at breaking point.
Make no mistake, breakdown can lead to loneliness, depression, homelessness, debt and many other life-shattering problems which load severe pressures on our public services.
For God’s sake, this matters.
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