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BEL MOONEY: Abroad, isolated and now walked out on…


Dear Bel,

After 22 years together and 20 years of marriage, my husband Philip (ten years my junior) left our family home three months ago.

Initially, I’d thought his low mood was his old depression resurfacing. So, it was a bolt out of the blue when he said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to remain married. I honestly didn’t see it coming.

From Britain, we now live in the U.S. and have four children, aged from 12 to 20. I trust him when he tells me there’s no third-party involvement; it’s just that he feels he wants to try freedom. Our children seem OK, but I know the youngest misses him terribly.

I accept our marriage hasn’t all been rosy — we’ve had our share of good times and bad.

But although we argued from time to time, we always found our way back to each other. I admit we’ve both neglected our relationship more than we should. It’s not always been easy, being located so far from our UK family and friends.

I’m distraught and willing to do anything to work on reconnecting and rebuilding our marriage. We have a good basis: our long relationship, our children, our friendship, the fact we both still care about each other. When I try to talk to him about this, he tells me I’m not saying anything new and I only want him to come back for me, not for him. I disagree — our family reconciling would be good for his mental health and our children.

But, although we are (mostly) friendly towards each other and he has said he’s not opposed to our trying again, he’s not ready yet and he has said this will be on his timeframe, not mine. He has all the control here and all I can do is wait. Without hope, what is there?

Our families in the UK have no idea. Philip comes home for the weekly Facetime chat to his parents, to keep up the pretence. Right now, I feel so alone — I love and hugely miss my generous, funny, attractive, loving, supportive husband.

My heart feels sick, broken. The life I thought we were living feels like it was a lie and the future I thought we had has been taken away. The emptiness of loss is stupidly painful, and the tears flow far too easily.

I have very few friends here, and am not very outgoing. Can you offer me any hope?

LAURA

This week Bel Mooney advises a woman who reveals that her husband of 20 years has left the family home

This week Bel Mooney advises a woman who reveals that her husband of 20 years has left the family home

A recent And Finally column saw me write: ‘It’s not always possible to feel hope, but don’t we owe it to ourselves to keep trying?’ It seems that inspired you to contact me.

Thought of the day 

I have often asked myself the reason for the sadness

In a world where tears are just a lullaby

If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness

Maybe not, oh, but we can only try….

From the song Beautiful, on the LP Tapestry, by Carole King (released 1971)

When I wrote that, I certainly meant it. But as I write now I find it almost impossible to feel hope in a world which constantly mocks the very idea.

But, of course, that is where we must make a distinction between the personal and the political — and when terrible events in the world leave us feeling depressed and powerless, it can offer us a tiny consolation to know that we can at least have some control over our own lives.

But you say you have none — that ‘he has all the control here and all I can do is wait’. I agree with one of those statements but not the other. Obviously you are being forced to ‘wait’ — while working hard, taking care of the family, and dealing with your own misery daily.

It is a huge burden and my heart goes out to you. You are seeing a psychologist, which is probably a very good thing, and yet a part of me is thinking ‘chronic adjustment disorder, depression and anxiety’ are just words to express the huge shock and sorrow of a woman who’s been selfishly abandoned by the man who thinks he can just walk away from his responsibility to his family. Grief is natural. It does not need to be medicalised.

However, I do not agree that you have no control at all in this situation. To say so turns you into an abject victim of a man who is thinking only of himself.

He’s having a predictable mid-life crisis and to be honest, I sometimes get very tired (even bored) of men of 40, 50, 60, who suddenly mark the new decade by throwing a wobbly and behaving like kids. It’s not my style to say, ‘Oh, pull yourself together’ — but do I ever want to!

A man has a hardworking wife and four children, but suddenly wants to find himself so walks out on them all. It’s time someone told him he’d better make up his mind or else she’ll file for divorce. Yes, that would be you.

Here I’m going to be a bit brutal. He tells you no one else is involved and he just wants to find freedom and be happy. This summer, after having stupidly believed someone I know well who’d spouted that bland lie for three years, I discovered they’d been having a torrid affair all the time. So be very careful how far you trust his protestations.

In my experience, people are more likely to leave their marriage because there is someone else they want. I’m not writing that to make you more unhappy than you are, but because I want you to be strong and face up to him.

So he comes round to talk with you to his UK family online, lying all the time? I’d tell him you will no longer play that game. Tell him that for the sake of the children who love him, you must make an appointment together for couple counselling.

Why should you pay for a shrink when it’s clear he needs help, too? You need to go together and find out whether there is any mileage left in this relationship. Please stop letting him call all the shots.

Friend’s new man has a dodgy past 

Dear Bel,

A very good friend has started seeing a guy she used to work with.

Apparently, he has never been in a relationship. She is 76 and he about 70. She was tagged by him on Facebook, and I felt I knew his name from somewhere, so I put his name in a search engine.

I was shocked by what I read. I first felt a bit uneasy as he is a naturist and had posted several near-nude photos of himself.

Then I saw he had been found guilty of having more than 100 category-A and several hundred category-B indecent photographs of children that he’d downloaded. I’m not sure if he was jailed, but he was certainly found guilty. I have dropped many hints to my friend that she should check him out but I don’t think she has, and I think it would jeopardise our friendship if I said more.

I fear she’d think I was jealous of her relationship with him. I honestly think it would end our friendship — which I really value.

She has several young grandchildren, including a baby, who visit and she looks after regularly, and I worry he may get up to his old tricks again.

I really don’t know what to do, but for her children’s sake I think I owe it to them to safeguard the grandchildren.

What would you do?

CAROL

You asked me not to identify you and so of course I have used a pseudonym, but I’m not sure what else I can change here.

After all, you raise a serious issue which must be looked at with due care. Supposing any of us found out a friend’s new bloke (or lady) was a cheating philanderer — would we warn them? It can be argued that we would have a duty to protect them from almost-certain hurt.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Therefore, we’d issue the alert, with the full knowledge that (sadly) the ‘messenger’ is often metaphorically shot. In that case self-interest (because the friendship is wanted and perhaps very much needed) would come second to thinking of the friend’s welfare.

How much more important does that moral dilemma become when the welfare of children is involved? The answer is surely that it is overwhelming — and surely points to a duty to reveal what you know.

If ever (God forbid) a situation arose when this man made any sort of inappropriate action towards one of her grandchildren, you would never forgive yourself. And would she forgive you, if she were to discover that you had known about his criminal, predatory past all along?

Your friend needs to be informed about the man she is seeing. Then she can make her own decisions about whether or not to continue dating him.

In your place, I’d print off any information I found online, put it in an envelope, and give it to her saying firmly that she might not like what she reads but she ought to know about this man, for the sake of her grandchildren.

She might be shocked, but grateful. She might be angry and cut you out of her life for a while. But that’s what I would do.

Obviously, you will hate that advice. So another option would be for you to print out the information, put it in an envelope, address it to her, and post it anonymously. This would be sneaky, yes, but still give priority to the greater good — which must always be the welfare and safeguarding of children.

And finally… Loving a pet is a life lesson to treasure 

‘Tell me about the rabbits, George’ is one of the most poignant lines in literature.

In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men, two lonesome, itinerant farm-hands form an unlikely friendship. Big Lenny is severely mentally impaired but strong as an ox; smart, wiry George tries to protect him.

George’s dream is to find a place of their own to share, where they will keep rabbits. And whenever poor, doomed Lenny is frightened or unhappy, he begs George to tell him about the happy life they’ll have with their pet rabbits. It’s desperately sad.

Contact Bel 

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

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5hy, or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk. 

Names are changed to protect identities. 

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

Three weeks ago, I told you about two real rabbits. The letter came from ‘Joyce’, regretting buying her twins, aged eight, two rabbits they love.

She wanted to get rid of them and asked how she could tell the girls so they wouldn’t resent her. I was pretty forthright and said she would be utterly wrong to get rid of beloved pets for the sake of a neat house and garden. I told her the lessons given by animals are precious — so cherish those bunnies!

That column was reposted with approval on the Facebook page of the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, and elicited many responses from readers, testifying to the importance of the issue.

You shared stories of beloved, messy pets and agreed about their importance in family life and in helping loneliness. You also shared sad tales of unthinking parents getting rid of their pets many decades ago, leaving unforgettable sadness.

One terrible story involved a child, long ago, being given a delicious chicken pie for lunch, only to discover later that her parents had killed and cooked her pet rabbit. That reader’s trauma has never gone away.

George’s rabbit promise represented hope against the odds. This issue really matters. Pets can make a huge difference to mental health, and children who learn to love and care for an animal become better people. No doubt of it.



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