THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK…
Our old women gods, we ask you! Then give us long life together,
May we live until our frosted hair Is white;
May we live till then this life that now we know!
Tewa (Native American) prayer
Must I stay in this loveless marriage for the sake of our troubled children
20:53 GMT, 22 June 2012
I’m married with two children, 11 and 13. A few years ago, we moved from England to live in Ireland, and I’ve struggled ever since.
Unable to settle, I find myself facing several challenges, such as loneliness and isolation from support networks.
That is despite making one good friend, working part-time and trying all the usual avenues, like voluntary work.
My husband likes it here and has family, but I’m floundering and becoming depressed.
It is possible for a husband and wife to separate, yet continue to live under the same roof
His family are good with the children, and help out when asked, but they have their own lives.
I tried to get emotional support from my mother-in-law when things reached crisis point earlier in the year, but she was unable to give it.
One of our children has found it hard to settle and been bullied.
The other has a behavioural issue.
I’ve had to accept that I’m increasingly relying on alcohol on a daily basis just to get through the evenings. As a family, we’ve reached breaking point.
I no longer love my husband and, finally, found the courage to tell him. All of the above factors, plus his unwillingness to communicate, have contributed.
He finds me difficult to deal with, as I’ve been so unhappy. Also, there was no physical contact for many years.
I see the ending of our marriage as a positive step and feel relief, though lonely and crushed inside.
After discussion, we know it will be very hard physically to separate — as house prices are low and we couldn’t afford to keep two homes going.
If we returned to England, we would lose out financially as any money from the sale of our home would be swallowed by high rents.
I’ve asked my husband to tell his family we’re now only together for the children, but he wants to keep his business ‘private’.
I find this hard, wondering if it’s possible to live as friends under the same roof for the sake of the children until we can separate one day. I’m feeling increasingly desperate and cannot see any way out.
How do we move forward, bearing in mind that the needs of our two children are paramount
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Let me jump straight in and answer your interesting question of whether a husband and wife can separate, yet continue to live under the same roof.
My first response is, ‘With difficulty …’ followed by a cautious ‘… but it is possible’.
I offer that, not as a theoretical proposition, but because I happen to know a couple who did just that.
Admittedly, they were lucky enough to live in a large old cottage which lent itself to being divided. The husband annexed himself a bedroom, tiny bathroom, sitting room and galley kitchen.
The wife had the larger part: three bedrooms (their two children were then still at home) one bathroom and a kitchen-dining-sitting area.
They had decided to live separately, yet remained amicable in their independence. I was once sitting in the garden with the wife when her ‘estranged’ husband waved cheerily from his bedroom window.
People can lead quietly amazing lives, you know.
The point is — they had the will to make the unusual situation work for the sake of the children. But they also valued their mutual affection and shared history.
Do I hear you ask what happened Well, many years later, the children grown up and gone, they are back living as man and wife. I repeat — quietly amazing lives.
Having shared that case history, I next want to pick up two ‘errors’ in your email.
First, you say you are ‘becoming’ depressed. Wrong. You are already depressed, and I think it would be wise for you to come to terms with that fact and vow to do something about it.
It can’t be good for your children to be living with a mother who is so introverted and bowed down.
You also need to focus on their own problems — and an inebriated, depressed mother won’t be able to do that, will she Staying together for the children is a waste of time unless you work to make life good for them.
Not being an expert on services in the Republic of Ireland, I make the obvious suggestion that your doctor should be the first port of call, and hope that he or she can guide you in the direction of counselling.
Which leads to the second mistake you make. Saying ‘I also have had to accept that I am increasingly relying on alcohol on a daily basis . . .’ is very worrying indeed.
I’m sorry, you do NOT have to ‘accept’ any such thing. It’s bad for you and for the children, and (since alcohol is a depressant) will certainly make it much harder for you to find a way through this seeming impasse.
I suggest you also mention this to your doctor — while doing what I did (when I thought I was indulging too much): put in an order for really delicious, non-alcoholic booze (lono.co.uk) to neutralize your evening habit. Trust me, it works.
You don’t like where you live, although you have made at least one friend and have been active, too.
It’s impossible for me to work out whether your loneliness stems primarily from place or from person — your new home, or your husband.
So I advise you to act on all fronts. First, as I suggest above. Then, many married couples have separate bedrooms — so why shouldn’t you each be positive and create a pleasant, independent ‘den’ for yourselves, under the same roof, space permitting of course
And why do you insist that he shares this private information with his family I rather agree with him that it’s not their business — not yet.
The most important thing is for you to talk to each other. Make plans to help my suggestions work. You see, like my friends, you could discover, in time, that a marriage which is damaged is not necessarily destroyed.
You never know, this ‘breaking point’ could prove to be the making point too.
Mum's death has torn my world apart
I’ve been reading you for ages but never thought I felt the need to pour out my heart.
My beloved Mum passed away ten weeks ago and I have nobody close to help me. I feel I am in a black hole and getting lower and lower.
I have asked my GP for help, but although she listened for an hour she could not help me. I’m in a daze and not sleeping.
The GP thinks I may try to take my own life and cannot give me anything to help me sleep.
After a family bereavement, you'll toss and turn until 2.30am, then wake an hour later with your heart heavier than ever (posed by model)
I have seen a psychologist (although I was tricked into this after being told it was a bereavement counsellor). It was like Mastermind — bombarded with questions. I walked out in tears.
The next day she phoned to see if I was all right and gave me a telephone number if I needed help.
After looking on the website, I find that this is a place where you go for help when your GP is seriously thinking of having you hospitalised.
Now I feel unable to use the number in fear that this is what will happen.
I do not know where to turn. If you ask me do I feel like ending my life, the answer is ‘yes’, but I am a coward and frightened I would not do it properly and end up surviving.
I’m sorry to burden you — I had to get it off my chest.
You don’t tell me your age, but from your name I’m guessing you are nearer my generation than that of my daughter.
That makes me wonder if you’ve been caring for your mother — which would certainly have a bearing on your pain and loneliness.
Sadly, I only have the information in this very short email.
But last month, I had a magnificent long letter from Mrs A. from South Shields, which I want to bring in to help you.
Mrs A is 63 and her beloved son died of cancer six months ago at the age of 45.
Although her husband died at 53, about 11 years ago, Mrs A writes, ‘To paraphrase the words of Queen Victoria, “I long for them and wait for the kindly hand of death to heal my heart.” ’
That — even though she is surrounded by family (including another much-loved son) and friends and has a strong religious faith.
With powerful eloquence (too long for this space), Mrs A describes how others cannot cope with her powerful grief.
All too soon they expect the person in mourning to get back to ‘normal’ — and then they won’t have to face tears, rage, sullen despair.
Listing all the truly crass things said angrily to her by somebody with whom she was very slightly testy (e.g. ‘You can’t go round talking like that just because your son has died’), Mrs A concludes, ‘The Victorians had it right. Bereaved people mourned in black for a year and everybody . . . expected them to behave oddly and treated them kindly.
‘Nothing was expected of them — they could slowly energise themselves to prepare for the future.’
Mrs A is writing about six-month- old grief. You are but ten weeks into your loss. Do you see what point I am making
You have no need to see any sort of psychologist because you are not afflicted by any mental problem. It’s almost too early for a bereavement counsellor — but there are no rules.
You are torn apart by grief — and that, Brenda, is perfectly normal. You’ll toss and turn until 2.30 am, then wake an hour later with your heart heavier than ever.
All of us who have suffered great pain know that syndrome. Apart from drugs, there is no escaping the valley of the shadow of darkness that we must walk through, until we glimpse the light.
I don’t make these points to be pessimistic, but to reassure you. Because step by slow step, minute by dark minute, you do reach the light. It can take a long time, as Mrs A will tell you.
And the light may not be a blaze, just a small candle. But you see, I passionately believe we owe it to our beloved dead to walk that journey for their sakes, experiencing all the minutes they have handed on to us, to live fully, on their behalf.
The only way to start making ‘sense’ of death is to accept it as part of a great process we will never fully understand, since every living thing must die.
What does not perish is love —which is why it is terrible (like a double death) to threaten love by despair. Talk of dying does that. What would your mother say I think I know.
Where can you turn Well, you could research the charity Cruse online, because I think it important that you understand something about the nature of loss. There may be a local group in your area.
Now Google ‘poems on grief’ and let the words of others ease your heart.
Let them — and, above all, your happy memories of your mother, form the ladder to help you climb out of that ‘black hole.’ Believe that you will.
And finally… Parents, you made my week
This week began with me stressed over a work issue, and ends in relaxed jollity. Along the way, somebody asked when I might retire and my answer was to laugh.
On Monday I rose at 5am to work, then left home at 7am to travel to Kingston-upon-Thames by public transport, and spend the day talking to the lovely children at Robin Hood Primary School about my books.
That night I stayed with an old friend in Highgate and had supper with a scintillating group of women writers — any one of whom could out-write the author of the rubbishy Fifty Shades Of Grey, which I read as I travelled.
Must keep up with trends.
HOW TO 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 e-mail [email protected]
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters, but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Back home, glad to work through readers’ letters, write emails, go to the gym for some energetic stepping and boxing, race around Waitrose with a stacked trolley, write some of this column . . . and get a little relaxation with a reflexology session — a gift from my daughter. As my toes were prodded, I fell asleep.
Then it was back to London for a charity dinner on the Isle of Dogs, in the East End.
This was in aid of Mudchute, the wonderful city park and farm which was fought for by local people against developers (hooray!) and has evolved into 32 acres of priceless environmental magic, which delights thousands of children every year.
But the highlight of the week was my mother’s 88th. Four generations in one room — the oldest my 90-year-old dad, the youngest my daughter’s unborn baby.
New grandson quiet in his pram. Good food, candlelight, toasts to the birthday girl and loving words from her two grandchildren, while their delightful spouses looked on. It doesn’t get any better than this, I thought.
Suddenly, I realised that the proud beam on my face had been mirrored at Robin Hood Primary school, when the mums arrived, to buy books.
As the children told me their names to sign, their mothers looked fit to burst with pride. ‘Thank you!’ they said happily.
And as I face the cooking for my husband’s birthday dinner tonight, I say a bigger thank you, right back.