BEL MOONEY: My bullying husband says he"ll sell up and abandon me after 40 years together


‘I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything other than what it is . . .’

Kay Jamison (psychiatrist), from An Unquiet Mind

My bullying husband says he'll sell up and abandon me after 40 years together


02:18 GMT, 19 May 2012



02:18 GMT, 19 May 2012

We will be lucky to be able to buy two tiny properties out of the proceeds, if and when it sells

We will be lucky to be able to buy two tiny properties out of the proceeds, if and when it sells

Three months ago, my husband decided that our house (that we designed and built) should be sold, because he felt — after 40 years of marriage — that he should never have married me.

Like me, he was previously married for about four years.

I am devastated.

I agree that it hasn’t been the happiest of unions, but I have just learned to put up and shut up.

My husband is a fit 76; I am 67. He is quite controlling and angry but to the outside world seems a charming generous man.

We have a son who is 37 and I have a surviving daughter (45) from my first marriage.

He has two sons from his first marriage but is in touch with only one of them. Our son and my daughter both feel that we would be happier apart.

My daughter especially has witnessed how I have been mentally abused over the years. I have always tried to hide it more from our son.

I feel that ‘happiness’ means different things to different people and (as I said) I could have put up with things for ever.

Now the thought of selling our lovely home, which my husband project-managed some 24 years ago, fills me with absolutely awful dread.

We will be lucky to be able to buy two tiny properties out of the proceeds, if and when it sells.

If he had done this six years ago, I might have been able to buy him out as my father died and left me an inheritance.

But a lot of it I spent on a new kitchen and lounge; paid for a private hernia operation for my husband, bought him a Rolex, had several modest holidays and invested the rest to boost our modest income.

Is there any way I could claim the house in its entirety

I very much doubt it but I thought I’d ask the question. I don’t feel comfortable about how I’ll manage financially when we split, as I’m probably too old to be employed so I am trying to start up a bit of a business making bunting and also cat sitting.

It’s not easy at this time in my life and nothing that I ever thought I would need to do.


You ask me just one direct question in this letter, but it’s not one I’m qualified to answer.

Concerning the house, if your husband wishes to separate, you will both have to address the issues and anything I say might be misleading.

But if you consult the website for National Family Mediation (, you and your husband can find a service near you in order to talk though all issues concerning the financial implications of a separation.

This is the best step — and if you suggest it to him as a positive way forward, then you will be taking a modicum of control.

My interest is with the real, underlying problem which prompted you to write: your understandable feeling of panic at facing such a radical change in your life, imposed by your husband, after 40 years of rather unhappy marriage. I find your scepticism about the whole idea of ‘happiness’ quite refreshing.

Like you, I believe that there is usually a shortfall which must be accepted between the ideal we might dream of and the reality we have to cope with every day.

Since you have few illusions, you were willing to plod along in this marriage until a natural end. In many ways — given the financial implications of splitting up — that would have been a sensible compromise.

Nevertheless, the fact that your two adult children tell you you’d be happier if the marriage were to end is very interesting — and, I fear, tells us much about your husband’s general attitude and conduct.

Mental abuse That’s something most women would want to leave behind them. So surely you have to ask yourself if there is a grain of truth in what these two people who care about you are saying

Change is terrifying, yet even if ‘happiness’ is not a goal, you may find that when the dust has settled you manage to achieve a quiet contentment you have never known. Isn’t that a worthwhile aim

So what happens next I think you have to steel yourself, stop panicking and start taking control.

You see, I’ve had a sad, hand-written note with no address on it from a lady called Jessica, and in a sense you can take her situation as a warning.

Jessica’s ‘long marriage’ ended suddenly over three years ago, and at just 50 she is lost and ‘at rock bottom.’

She’s unemployed, alone, living off diminishing savings, and ‘can’t seem to get my life together’.


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.

Her note gives no detail, but it’s clear to me that she urgently needs to go to her GP to talk about her depression, to seek advice about benefits to which she’s probably entitled, and so on.

But to be pro-active like that becomes harder and harder once despair sets in. It’s clear Jessica was stunned by the end of her marriage and I suspect she’s never recovered, never been able to take any control over her life.

Because no matter how dire your employment prospects are, or how hard it is to force yourself to get out, join up, meet people, the fact remains that people do turn their lives around if they find the will.

Yes, it can be a struggle. But saying, ‘Dammit, I will not be beaten by this!’ is a powerful, life-enhancing, defiant start — which has seen me through more than one black time.

I understand how wistful you feel about your home. Losing it will be like a bereavement, because of what it symbolises, as well as because of the actual value and the dismal prospect of living somewhere smaller.

On the other hand, it’s wrong to regard the house as the sum total of who you are and what you are worth.

Instead, you could regard it realistically as something which had its life — when you and your husband were perhaps rather more of a creative partnership (even if not happy) than you are now.

When a marriage is over a house can become a prison. So go the route of mediation to try to pick a way through this issue.

Tell yourself that your children are right and you really do have a chance to make a new life which may well give you peace of mind — and glorious autonomy.

Carry on being as admirably inventive as you are in terms of developing ideas to make some money — because, apart from that, you will probably find they lead you towards meeting new people, too.

Have the courage to open up the doors and windows of the house that is your mind, to let in light and air.

And, above all, understand that it is never, ever too late to re-build.

How can I help a teenage self-harmer


I read your column every week and what you say is compassionate but also makes a great deal of sense.

If you discover someone has been a secret self-harmer for a number of years, do you confront them in a kind way, saying that you have found out and would love to help them

Or do you leave things as they are and just say if there is anything they want to talk about, you are there for them

The person I know has been to the doctor but has never said a word to any family members. What should I do for the best


People who self-harm (in whatever way) need help to talk through the reasons for the low self-esteem (file picture)

People who self-harm (in whatever way) need help to talk through the reasons for the low self-esteem (file picture)

The subject of your succinct email was ‘teenage problems’, which takes us a little further towards the issue you describe — because the case could have been that of an adult and therefore more deeply ingrained.

I usually have to read very, very long letters, but this time I’d have liked some more information.

You see, my answer will depend on the nature of your relationship with the young person who is self-harming.

If you are the parent, for example, your emotional response will surely be significantly different from that of (for example) an aunt. Or perhaps this person is a younger cousin

Either way, of course you want to do something.

People who self-harm (in whatever way) need help to talk through the reasons for the low self-esteem that leads to their ill-treatment of their own body. If you could motivate that process you will have achieved a lot.

If I were you, I’d start by reading about the issue online — for example at

You should certainly look at the specialist website of the group Harmless (, which contains much information and experience.

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In your situation, if I discovered that a family member much younger than me was self-harming, I would bring about a situation where we were one-to-one — a visit for tea or a pub lunch, for example.

The word ‘confront’ is unfortunate but I would gently yet deliberately bring the conversation round to the issue and try to find out more.

That visit to the doctor, for example — what was the outcome

How did you find out about it, anyway Perhaps you could use troubles from your own past as a way into this conversation. That sort of ‘giving’ usually prompts confidences in return.

I would reassure the young person that anything raised between you will be confidential, that they shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed because you’re certainly not judging — but that you want them to know it is possible to kick this habit.

For example, there are ‘tricks’ people use, like crunching on an ice cube each time you have the urge to cut your skin, or drawing lines with a red biro.

All this information is on the web — but what the teenager most needs is to talk, urgently, to a therapist.

So I think you should also consult the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s dedicated site ( where you can enter the relevant postcode, the specific issue and find a list of professionals.

You could even have a conversation with one or two first — so that when you talk to your young relative you have information and advice at the ready.

Would you be willing and able to fund a couple of consultations That would show sincere intent.

I wouldn’t ‘leave things as they are,’ but hold out a hand and keep it held out, even if the response is negative at first.

A refuge in simple pleasures

You might have noticed the absence of this column last week — I do hope so!

It was time for our summer holiday. Though I was dreaming of sun and warm evenings, a trip somewhere exotic was, for various reasons, out of the question, and so our holiday was . . . three nights in softly-beautiful, unspoilt Shropshire.

The hotel on the edge of Ludlow was dog-friendly (Fishmore Hall, for all of you who travel with pooches), and when we got there I was as excited as if we were landing in Madeira.

Well, nearly. The point is, getting away with the man and the dog I love was a treat, even if the skies were grey and the forecast was dire.

A kind reader in Wales called Mrs Dodd writes me a sweet, appreciative letter in which she asks how I can cope with all the problem letters I receive: ‘Doesn’t it make you really, really depressed that there are so many unhappy, sad people in the world’

I’m touched by her concern and the answer has to be: ‘Yes, sometimes.’

That’s why, although I take only two weeks off the column each year, it’s necessary to recharge.

So, I carried my copy of A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad with me to visit the Mappa Mundi and chained library in Hereford Cathedral, the haunting Ludlow Castle and magnificent St Laurence Church, and the ruined glory of Wenlock Priory.

All those places lifted my spirits. As National Trust members, we were delighted by Berrington Hall and Croft Castle, even though the rain was bouncing off our big brolly in the puddled car parks.

Wandering around Ludlow’s handsome historic streets, spending 25 on a vintage tea-set from a market stall, rummaging through second-hand books, and driving to potter around some of the ancient country parish churches which are England’s glory . . . such simple activities made me happy.

Would we have loved a week in Turkey

Of course. But since that wasn’t possible, we took delight in some inexpensive pleasures that were. And at least we were spared the horror of air travel.