BEL MOONEY: Will my new man ever give up his ex?

 The beginning of Autumn

What is the fortune-teller

Looking so surprised at?

Yosa Buson (Japanese poet, 1716–1784)

Dear Bel,

I’m in my 60s, met a guy through a dating site and have been seeing him for more than three months.

I have also spent time nursing him when he has been unwell. He is 70, with no family or children and has never been married.

He has an ex-girlfriend of over 30 years who has remained a close friend even after their relationship ended. He said she was extremely neurotic with mood swings, was sometimes abusive and known to break things. Over the years she occasionally loaned him money but, he says, he paid her back. She is a good friend to him, although they can only tolerate one another for short periods.

He has made a point of telling me that although there is no relationship now other than friendship, he has said that if she becomes ill in future he will nurse her and marry her to give her security — even though I understand she is slightly more financially secure than he is. Before I get more involved with this man I need advice.

He has already insisted they will spend Christmas Day together and that they have made this a pact for the rest of their lives. He says she is very jealous of any other woman in his life.

She says she could easily pay off what little mortgage he has left, but he says he doesn’t want to ‘sell his soul’ for money.

I have told him I’d like to meet her and reassure her that I am not a threat to their relationship. At our age it is important to appreciate what friends we have left, but as yet I have not been introduced.

He appears to be quite fearful of her and she visits him whenever she chooses to.

They also accompany one another on trips to London when it suits them both, having established this arrangement for years.

I understand no relationship is perfect, but I find all this confusing. I am quite old-fashioned and don’t want to waste my life hoping for a future with this man who might be unwilling to commit to me.

However, he insists that he has always dated more than one lady (sometimes three at a time) all his life, until he met me.

Apologies if this sounds confusing but it just echoes how I feel: confused and frustrated.



There are many features written about the unwillingness to commit among today’s young (or at least, younger) men, but here is a man at the beginning of his eighth decade who shows no sign of changing his ways, but wants to continue to run a couple of ladies at once.

He told you his former relationship has ended — meaning, I assume, it is no longer romantic. Yet his commitment to this other woman is impressive, difficult though she sounds.

Frankly, when I read that your man has sometimes been dating three ladies simultaneously, I looked back over your description of his Old Faithful’s volatile character (‘extremely neurotic and having mood swings . . . and known to break things’) with new understanding, even empathy!

The lady has lent him money, even offering to pay off his mortgage, and probably may have hoped they might live together. But he wanted his freedom — and still does in some ways.

Yet, interestingly, he chooses not to have it. The Christmas ‘pact’ is the most telling — and actually rather touching — evidence. He says he will spend Christmas Day with her as long as they live, which is perhaps as close to a wedding vow as this man will get.

He’s also willing to go along with ‘in sickness and in health’ for her sake, except that when he was ill you did the nursing. He sounds as committed to her as he’s likely to get. How are you going to deal with this truth?

You met this man on a dating site and after three or four months know very little about him, other than some history about his interesting love life.

He wants a relationship with you, even though he is unwilling to change his habits. During the first three months of any relationship a man (or woman) is usually keen to please a new partner and although you told me his absolute honesty pleased you from the beginning, I fear it will soon lose its appeal.

He’s laid it on the line with you from the beginning, so I don’t know why you hope he will change. The fact that you used a dating site indicates an understandable wish for a relationship — that is, where you are concerned. But why was he on the site when he is still so involved with this lady?

I can only assume that his intention is to collect more strings for his bow. I don’t say that disapprovingly at all. He is single and has every right to wish to continue to enjoy that freedom as his 70s progress — always in the knowledge he intends to take care of the lady he shares his Christmases with.

Whatever words he uses to describe what exists between them, it seems to be a long-lasting emotional ‘bubble’ which is theirs alone.

The real problem is you and your needs and dreams. Your feelings are very likely to be hurt. I would love to be able to encourage you in this relationship, but all the warning signs are there and you would be foolish to ignore them.

You want an exclusive ‘future’ that this man is unwilling or unable to offer you. It’s not in his DNA, by the sound of it.

What are your choices? You could take a deep breath, accept him as he is, make your own plans for Christmas, and vow to have fun with a man you like for as long as it lasts. Or you could shrug this off as an interesting experience and return to dating to see who else you might meet.

Or do both, being frank with him about what you want and vowing not to be strung along by anybody.

 Dear Bel,

HOW on Earth do we deal with an elderly lady with dementia who insists on consistently turning up and playing crown green bowls at our local club?

At over 80, she seems to have forgotten the rules of the game and doesn’t have the strength to bowl long enough, thus blocking the way for people who can reach the jack. We all groan when she turns up because it ruins the game for everyone else.

We have a player with Parkinson’s disease and another who has suffered a couple of strokes, so we are not uncaring or unsupportive of those with disabilities.

At the moment we are struggling to keep membership up, but people are dropping out because of this one lady. Please advise us what we should do.


You signed off your short email with that pleasant, old-fashioned phrase, ‘Kindest regards’ and inevitably I shall use that as my springboard.

When I first read of your dilemma, I thought for a moment or two it might not be ‘real’ — in that it’s quite unusual and so might have been a tease. But then I realised that it is very real and admirably honest, raising an important issue for the column.


Why we should all learn to be alone 

 When my husband is away, I catch up on TV he’d never watch. Together we choose programmes we both love — anything from Victoria and Vera to arts documentaries on BBC4.

But in his absence I decided to try Channel 4’s popular The Undateables, which made its debut back in April 2012, returning every year since. The programme meets single people with learning difficulties or disabilities as they go on dates.

Monday’s programme introduced us to Jason, Souleyman and Charley on their quest for love. Jason is a plane-spotting geek with Asperger’s syndrome. Charley is in a wheelchair, with tattoos and piercings, a divine smile and a wish to go on her first date with a woman. Souleyman is a handsome athlete rapidly losing his sight owing to a rare condition.

You quickly become involved with these very real people and feel anguish at the thought of them being disappointed or hurt.

Obviously, you have to tolerate the artificiality (were they really not briefed in advance of the filmed date?), but I found the programme touching. It reminds us all of the rich variety of humanity and all it has to offer.

Each candidate was in touch with a date ‘fixer’ — the old-fashioned marriage/relationship bureaux still have a role in our internet-dominated society!

But something two of those match-making ladies said made me think. The statement ‘everybody wants somebody to love’ came close to the sense that everybody has the right to a relationship.

Over the years, I’ve replied to many letters from lonely people longing for a partner. Internet dating? Join a club or class or group and meet people? It can all work. Or (sadly) not. For no matter how often the sweet people on The Undateables talk of wanting The One, I simply don’t believe in that concept.

Sometimes the first step on the path to relating to others is (strangely) to decide you like being alone and want truly to know yourself.


Although my dear grandfather was once a bowls club groundsman and loved the odd game, too, I have no idea of the rules, or how long a game takes. But the frustration evident in your letter needs no explanation.

The members of your club are entitled to enjoy the game to the fullest extent of their ability and so it must be very frustrating when this lady turns up and ‘ruins’ things. Nobody would like that — even though virtuous readers might pretend they would not mind. Older people can be frustrating, with or without dementia. It is only human to become impatient when people are slow, repeat themselves, express ancient prejudices, and so on.

Nevertheless, those of us who are younger can address impatience by reflecting that we will probably be like that only too soon. And what will we want at that point? People to be kind to us, of course.

I’m wondering if two or three of you could get together and decide on a strategy that will enable this lady to have some fun while, at the same time, not spoiling yours.

Obviously, it’s not good for her just to turn up and (frankly) get in the way, so I suggest her time at the club needs to be carefully organised.

Does she have a particular friend? If not, one decisive person (perhaps it will be you, Deirdre, storing up good karma) could suggest to her that she will be collected from home once a week and brought to the club for a ‘special game’.

Since she has dementia, she won’t necessarily remember this is going to happen, so a certain amount of repetition will be inevitable. Arranging shortish times when some of you can make the effort to play with her will surely not be too burdensome.

You could look on it as a opportunity to practise your swings. But if she arrives unannounced, then I think you should draw up a rota for taking her inside for a cup of tea and to look at old club photographs (surely there must be some?). Then, when the match is over, tell her it’s time for her match, and play for a while, according to her ability.

It will take charm and determination from two, three or perhaps four of you, but I hope you could make it work for the benefit of the other club members and for the sake of kindness.

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

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

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

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.