THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK…
May is the beginning of all the months glad,
When fresh flowers, blue and white and red
Come alive again – though winter made them sleep –
And every meadow does abound with peace.
Chaucer (Troilus and Criseyde, Book II)
Should I tell Dad to abandon Mum after 50 years
01:02 GMT, 5 May 2012
07:08 GMT, 6 May 2012
'Do I advise my dad to go for it and really enjoy his autumn years'
I would really appreciate your advice. My Dad is 68, fit, active, young at heart and retired. He and Mum were childhood sweethearts and have been married for 47 years.
They are totally different people. Mum prefers a quiet life with family while Dad has always been far more sociable and now likes to get out to do things he had no time for when he was working — like looking at architecture and visiting cities.
He tried to encourage Mum to join him on these trips and she wouldn’t, so he went alone. She couldn’t understand why he would want to do these things and they started arguing more.
Five years ago, on one of these jaunts, he met a like-minded woman his age.
She only lives about an hour away and he sees her fairly regularly, phones, emails and texts her on a daily basis.
When I confronted him, he admitted he’d been having an affair.
He said he loves everything about this other woman: she is vibrant, interesting, independent and fun.
In fact, if I am honest, everything my mother is not. She’s a good wife and mother (cooks and keeps the house tidy etc) but that’s where it ends.
With no interests or hobbies, she’s happy to watch TV every night and doesn’t have much to talk about.
I’ve met Dad’s lady and she IS everything he says and they obviously adore each other. They’ve tried to break up several times, but can’t live without each other.
I don’t approve of what he’s done, but can understand why. He could move in with this other woman, but guilt is stopping him.
He’s also afraid how my brother and sister will react. He thinks they’ll bar him from seeing his grandchildren, and, after 50 years together my mum will go downhill with the shock and suffer financially. So he remains at home.
I’ve been in an unsatisfactory relationship myself and, after a lot of thought, left my family.
It was very hard, but I never regretted it. Better to be happy apart than unhappy together is my philosophy, especially when time and energy become limited to follow your dreams.
So . . . do I advise my dad to go for it and really enjoy his autumn years
Or do I warn him it would break up the family and he’d be miserable and guilty the rest of his life
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Two weeks ago (April 21) I published a letter from ‘Anthea’ who wondered whether to leave a miserable marriage of 40 years to be with the colleague she’s loved for ten.
Reminding readers that I’m a passionate supporter of the institution of marriage, I nevertheless ended by saying that I thought she should go. Then two readers sent me their stories.
Margaret told me that she’d stayed in her unsatisfactory marriage, but regrets it, so, ‘Anthea should really get the hell out while she is young enough’.
On the other hand, Jane rejoiced to have left her husband for her first love and writes: ‘After many years agonising whether to leave or not, letting lack of money, my children and fear stop me, I suddenly felt empowered and brave and left.
‘All I want to say to Anthea is this — you have one life so, please, do not allow guilt, your adult son or your miserable husband stop you from grabbing a chance of happiness with someone you love and can laugh with. Please don’t wonder if it will work out as if it doesn’t, surely you will still be happier
‘These things crossed my mind, but I have never looked back, never felt happier and wish I’d done it years before I did. Be selfish and be happy with the remainder of your life.’
This week, leading judge Sir Paul Coleridge launched a campaign to promote marriage, supported by a distinguished group of senior family lawyers and churchman.
Since I believe in commitment and that it’s better for children to be born within marriage, I entirely support the Marriage Foundation’s aim to re-establish marriage as the ‘gold standard’.
Sir Paul echoes my thoughts when he says: ‘It is very sad that we now see such a huge number of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s getting divorced and carving up their estates and their lives.’
Nevertheless this raises an impossible question: what is to be done about real unhappiness How do you counter Jane’s argument (above) that we all have one life and should choose happiness any day
In all honesty, Peter, I find it hard to advise somebody like your father, ‘Stay because it’s your duty, even if you’re miserable until you die’.
At the same time I do believe he has a clear duty of care towards your mother. But should marriage be a prison cell Should he stay out of pity
Would he end up hating your mother I confess this dilemma leaves me as confused as it does you.
There are some lessons to be learnt. Many years ago a dear friend was offered a wonderful job a hundred miles away from where he lived with his wife and two teenagers.
The wife (who didn’t work) refused to move. That was very foolish — and in time her husband met the love of his life.
Surely both partners in a marriage have to do all they can to support each other If they neglect that duty (yes!) there may well be unhappy consequences.
In this case, is it your mother’s ‘fault’ that your father met somebody else
Of course not. But should she have tried to share his interests and switched off the TV Yes, yes, yes.
If your father does leave she will be the injured one, and yet . . . (I repeat, even though it annoys abandoned wives) shouldn’t she accept some responsibility for her marriage too
A relationship may be smashed by infidelity, yet the cracks of habitual laziness can be just as damaging.
It seems to me that your father urgently needs to seek counselling, preferably with your mother. I know that this can help a couple towards the right resolution — and also how hard people find it.
But that’s the point: a brave step taken. They need to know that unless they start talking, this marriage will end anyway. It ends if he leaves — but it’s over in all but name if he remains through guilt.
Encouraged to talk, your mother might realise that she is unhappy too. Or he might weigh the edifice of The Family against his (newish) love and decide that he cannot break it.
But he has to talk to somebody. Calling 0300 100 1234 lets you book a telephone session with a Relate counsellor. That’s where he should start.
I can't take away my daughter's grief
I am a broken-hearted mother and grandmother. My daughter Sue and her husband David lost their baby Tom at seven weeks, suddenly, the day before Christmas Eve.
The whole family’s grief has been vast. She was so brave and insisted on a ‘normal’ Christmas Day for her other son Dan aged two.
Helplines, such as Child Death Helpline, offer a valuable freephone service for anyone affected by the death of a child
How she gets out of bed each day is a mystery to me. Now although I miss my little grandson like anything, my heart aches most for my ‘little’ girl.
Remembering the night he died, when she was screaming for him not to go, fills most of my waking day and all hours of my nights.
I still see her pleading with my dear departed mum not to let the baby go to her . . .
I just want to ease her pain somehow. As mothers we are programmed to care and protect our young, no matter what their age, but I CAN’T DO IT.
Sue seems to have occasional ‘normal’ days then feels guilty because of it.
All the ‘help’ charities don’t reach our remote area. She has struggled on as best she can, pouring herself into raising money for other bereaved parents.
Can you advise me how to help her Maybe just writing this will help me a bit as I don’t suppose you own a magic wand to take the pain away. Thank you for your time — whoever reads this.
First let me assure you that I really do read every single letter; you are not writing to a team in an office, but to a real person.
What’s more, to someone who cried at your short email, as this is an issue very close to my heart — although losing a stillborn son, even at full term (as I did so long ago), cannot be compared with holding and loving a baby for seven whole weeks.
As a devoted mother and soon-to-be grandmother, I empathise with the anguish and love within your letter.
If I say that the awareness of that love and anguish is all your daughter needs from you, I’m not ducking your question.
It’s so hard for parents to accept that no specific action can be taken, or words suffice to protect our children from pain.
Being there, helping with Dan, letting her know that you understand and letting her talk about Tom as much as she wishes . . . that is what’s needed.
You are doing your job as a mum and doing it so well. Your letter is proof.
As you say, there is no magic wand — although I am great believer in the power of prayer (or Will or Visualisation, if you like) and in the fact that time does change the way we experience pain.
It isn’t that it goes away, it just becomes a part of who we are, like a vein running beneath the surface of the skin.
The fact that your daughter has thrown herself into trying to raise money for bereaved parents is (perhaps) the start of that process, but these are very early days.
She will experience periods of relative equilibrium, then plunge into despair, but go on doing the best she can for Dan’s sake. What else can she do
You say you live in a remote area, but the Child Death Helpline (childdeathhelpline.org.uk) offers a valuable freephone service for anyone affected by the death of a child — 0800 282 986.
The Compassionate Friends (tcf.org.uk) is another brilliant organisation with a similar service — 0845 123 2304.
I do urge you to look at the websites and pick up the phone when you need to talk.
The trained bereaved parents who operate both phone lines know what your daughter has only recently discovered — that a child (of any age) who has died goes on being loved for ever, and that such love can continue miraculously enlarging the lives of those who feel it.
In a sense, that is the deepest ‘magic’ — that the little spirit cannot die.
And finally… We can all go back to the future
I heard an item on Radio 4 about a young Londoner who’s set up a studio to record 78 rpm vinyl.
Only us oldies will remember those large, fragile discs which warped if left in the sunlight, but I still remember the childish thrill of spending pocket money on Paul Anka’s Diana and Connie Francis’s Stupid Cupid on 78s.
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.
Now it seems the authentic crackle of needle in groove is much prized by young rhythm ’n’ blues singers who want to cut ‘real’ records. Who’d have thought it
My husband and I are so in love with retro sounds, we have a case of 78s and a wind-up gramophone, a 1964 Wurlitzer stacked with 45s, and a wall of vinyl LPs with a turntable — all in our kitchen/breakfast room.
Last night, I was playing Elvis (Sun Studio period, of course) and the Platters while I chopped onions.
Young visitors (who take digital for granted) are always fascinated by this set-up. It makes music ‘real’. You can keep your Spotify — I like to handle my very own music, which is why I love our vast CD collection too.
But I’m writing listening to iTunes on my Apple computer, and upstairs I have an iPod for when I get dressed.
My library is my pride and joy, but I bought a Kindle for travel. I adore newsprint and it’s impossible for me to start the day without a real newspaper (two, actually) — but I do use online newspapers as well when I need to.
The message is a good one — that we don’t have to get rid of old favourites to embrace new fashions. Everything has its time, and often that time comes round again.
Journalists tend to assume that everybody has access to a computer.
When I told you about the therapeutic DVD Calmer By Nature (March 24), it seemed enough to give the website link.
But elderly readers have written asking how they can get it to help soothe relatives with Alzheimer’s etc. Sorry!
Send a cheque for 17.85 (includes postage and packing) to PO Box 3, Merchant House, Commercial Road, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 8AE — making sure you give your own address.