BEL MOONEY: Should I end 40 years of miserable marriage to be with my soulmate?


The truth shall make you free

But first it will shatter you

What was broken can be mended,

What was lost, restored . . .

Alla Renee Bozarth (American woman priest and poet)

Should I end 40 years of miserable marriage to be with my soulmate


02:37 GMT, 21 April 2012



02:37 GMT, 21 April 2012

My friend promised to offer me all the security I could wish for and a new start in life

My friend promised to offer me all the security I could wish for and a new start in life

Dear Bel

I’ve been in an unhappy marriage for almost 40 years, spending no time with my husband, sleeping in separate rooms, only meeting for meals.

We never go out anywhere or go on holiday.

About ten years ago, I met a guy from the office and had a brief fling as he was going through a divorce.

He asked me to live with him and I know he could have given me the love and security I crave.

I agreed to leave my home and had my case packed, but chickened out at the last minute — causing pain and anguish to us both.

Recently, we’ve met up again and still feel the same for each other, but guilt is stopping me again. Being a lay Catholic might be the reason.

Or perhaps fear that the new relationship might fail, and I’d have lost the security of my council house tenancy — I have no independent funds.

My friend promised to offer me all the security I could wish for and a new start in life. I am in my late-50s and he’s in his mid-60s.

Looking ahead, the prospect of retirement under the same roof as my husband doesn’t bear thinking about.

I trust my friend as he has been very patient all these years and is promising to wait until I am ready. But as I have a son living at home, I feel I’d be letting him down even though he is in his mid-30s.

He only works part-time and without me money would be tight for them. My friend wouldn’t require any financial contribution from me, as he has his own home and a car for me to use.

When I am with him, I want to say ‘yes’ and we make plans, knowing we could be ideal soulmates.

But when I get home later, I feel afraid.

I’ve been under medication for my mental anguish and yet I know in my heart that my friend and I could have a good life together.

What is holding me back

How can I pluck up courage to make the break What can you suggest to make things easier


Please don’t ask me to lie, pretending that any advice I (or anyone else) offer will ‘make things easier.’

This I will say: if you accept the fact that these profoundly important life decisions are always painful and require great courage, then you might become the kind of person who deserves a second chance at happiness.

But there is no panacea.

Anyone who is at all familiar with my writing over many years will know that I am a believer in the institution of marriage.

I’ve always held that marriage is the greatest test of character any of us have to face, but that if a couple weather the storms of youth, passing through them and emerging into a more peaceful middle-to-old age, then comfortable companionship can be a great consolation for life’s ills.

Or not — as the case may be. There are no rules.

I also believe that if you commit to a marriage, you should do all you can to try to make it work, especially when children are involved.

But, again, one has to beware of those ‘shoulds’ — because there are instances when a marriage ending turns out to be the best option for the children as well as the couple involved.

When I read your letter, I found myself wishing you’d had the courage to leave ten years ago.

Look at your situation: stuck in this unhappy marriage, dreading the future, but allowing the presence of your grown-up son at home (why) to hammer some more studs in your prison door.


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.

Facing 60 now, you have known you are in love with another man for ten long years.

Therefore, still staying in the marriage is as underhand as was your first fling with this man.

In turn, your friend has been undemanding and forgiving, even though you broke promises and hurt him badly.

I know it’s hard to leave, but you are no longer truly married — not by my standards.

You are sharing a dishonest, bleak existence under one roof with a man who is surely, deep down, as unhappy as you are.

And if he’s not, then he is certainly not worth staying with.

It’s not that I don’t feel sorry for him, too, because I do — after all, there are two halves to a bad marriage.

Normally, I’d suggest couple counselling, but not in this case.

Your husband would never go, and if you spent any time alone with a Relate counsellor I believe that he or she would end by saying: ‘I think you know what you want to do’.

To me, it seems obvious that you should seize the chance to enjoy life for the first time in many years.

No doubt your son will be shocked when you pack your bags, but he will get over it in time — and I certainly don’t see why you should continue to be miserable just to help your husband and son with their finances.

Not unless there’s something you aren’t telling me, and one of them is (say) disabled. Then I might conceivably have a different ‘take’ on your situation, but I only have what’s printed in your letter.

Being brave will begin with you sitting down with your husband and asking if he thinks you have a marriage worth saving.

You obviously don’t talk, but it’s time to exchange some words now, as your long, unhappy marriage draws to an end. That’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it

But — to quote the title of the well-known self-help book (featured in this week’s Life & Style section in the Mail) — Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

Once you have spoken to your husband, you have to explain the situation to your son, and explain that you intend to start living before you die.

And that brings us to the crucial point, doesn’t it You are a Catholic, so perhaps you believe in life after death.

You speak of your guilt, but I could counter that by suggesting this glorious, God-given gift of life has to be treasured — and that real guilt should be felt when we act in bad faith and waste what we’ve been given.

Only you can take the decision to turn the key of your prison and walk out to make a new start.

Since you long to love and be loved, I hope you do.

My feckless son is destroying my life

Dear Bel

My son is on remand for alleged rape and assault. He admits to the assault but denies the rape, and there’s plenty of evidence to support this.

I could get him out of prison right now if I put up 35,000 and agreed to let him come and live with us.

The dilemma Well, my son is 27 — always a risk-taker and promiscuous.

Last year, we had to pay off some dodgy characters 10,000, because they threatened to kill him over something he’d done.

They also knew where we lived, so we were afraid.

Over the past year, I’ve laid out about 13,000 for him and had to re-mortgage.

He takes no advice, expects me to help him out, then (because he won’t listen) it all goes wrong. He lets everyone down.

My husband (not his dad) pulled in favours to get him jobs, but he spent all his time on his mobile.

He had a job cleaning carpets, but drove the work van while drunk.

He’s had lovely girlfriends, but cheated on them.

He’s defaulted on credit cards and loans and we’ve had court officials and bailiffs round. Yet, he is still lovable!

In his letters from prison, he blames a lot on his steroid use.

He hasn’t asked me to bail him out, but his father has visited him (I can’t face it) and is trying to pressure me into it.

But I am having the most stress-free time in years and feel it will do my son good to use this time to think.

My husband has lost patience, as he sees the stress my son puts me under. I just want him to sort himself out.

Am I right to exercise tough love, or will this experience scar him for life Will he always resent me


Believe me, I know something of the heartbreak caused by such a family member.

Once the (well-off, middle-class)
mother of a heroin addict confessed to me that when she saw an ambulance
hurtling in the direction of their home (where he lived, breaking her
heart each day), she found herself wishing he had died.

Her mother’s love had reached the end
of the road. Mercifully, you are not yet at that stage, yet your errant
child has pushed you far, indeed.

The question raised by your letter is
very interesting — concerning the nature of unconditional love.

parents (troubled by bad behaviour in an offspring) ask themselves if
there can ever be an end to forgiveness.

I think the answer is surely yes — if your child has done something truly appalling.

More from Bel Mooney…

BEL MOONEY: My violent husband is long dead, but I can't bury my bitterness

BEL MOONEY: Caring for my partner's elderly father has thrown my life out of balance

BEL MOONEY: I'm 42 and still single – is there a blueprint for love

BEL MOONEY: I miss my dear sister so much I just can't bear to go on living

BEL MOONEY: This flirty Facebook friendship could ruin my perfect marriage

BEL MOONEY: Can I be happy again after dumping my married lover


BEL MOONEY: Am I being made to suffer for the abortion I had as a teenager

BEL MOONEY: Our son's harridan wife has turned him against us


But most parents will go a very, very long way in hope.

It sounds to me as if you have reached the stage where you are no longer prepared to throw money at the problem — and when you also have to consider your husband’s feelings, for the sake of your future life with him.

I’m sure you’ve endured many nights wondering what errors you may have made in raising your son and why he should turn out like this.

Perhaps you remembered the end of your first marriage and questioned yourself over his reactions and whether you over-indulged him. Mothers often ask: ‘Where did I go wrong’

I am not a stranger to such a situation (as I said). I feel great compassion for all the hurt your child has caused you, but feel it’s time to stop making excuses and tell him it’s time he took responsibility for his own life.

You asked me a direct question and I can only give you my honest, gut response.

My instinct tells me that you’re right to stick to your ‘tough love’ and that you should make it very clear to him in your letters that you love him, but are no longer prepared to allow him to ruin your life as well as his own.

Your son has inflicted untold scars on many people over the years, and now has to pay the price.

He may resent you, but one day he might be led towards understanding, too.

AND FINALLY…All pets are equal in life and death

As you can imagine, I receive many emails, some presenting problems, some commenting on issues, and some just wanting to share thoughts and feelings.

Many people write lovely words about what I have said — and sometimes those I have advised write back to say thank you, which always makes my day.

I notice that advice columns in other newspapers and magazines rarely deal with bereavement, which is a pity — because there’s more to human pain than love and sex and family squabbles.

Many people might believe that if a person expresses real grief at the loss of a dearly beloved pet, that somehow it's trivial. Not so

Many people might believe that if a person expresses real grief at the loss of a dearly beloved pet, that somehow it's trivial. Not so (file picture)

Yet if you think of loss as being central to human life (sad, but true) you see how quickly you can make the link between the agony of a painful divorce to the loss of a dying partner or an estranged child.

On the other hand, many people might believe that if a person expresses real grief at the loss of a dearly beloved pet, that somehow it’s trivial. Not so.

Read this — which came from a reader called June, and touched me greatly: ‘You sometimes comfort people on the loss of a beloved pet dog and I understand you are a “dog person”.

‘I feel that I must tell you of the loss of my beautiful cat.

'Caspar was 17 years old and I had him from a kitten.

'He was an indoor cat and we adored each other. He seemed to know when I was coming home and would wait by the front door or sit on the windowsill to watch.

‘He had kidney failure (but he lived for four years after diagnosis) and yesterday the vet put him to sleep.

'I am heartbroken — crying as I write this email, my heart like a big stone in my chest.

‘I know eventually the awful pain will ease because I have been though this before, but just wanted to tell you that losing a cat hurts just as much as losing a dog — because I have done both.

'Thank you for reading.’

I know many readers will understand June’s feelings. Grieving for a beloved pet is just another way of enhancing our humanity.