BEL MOONEY: Why does it feel so wrong to divorce my brute of a husband?


All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall.
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

Amy Lowell (American poet, 1874-1925)

Why does it feel so wrong to divorce my brute of a husband



23:14 GMT, 26 October 2012

We were married for 33 years but I’ve lived apart from my husband for five.

I didn’t proceed with a divorce or sale of property before now because my youngest daughter was still living with her dad, plus family pets. I’m 58, and have been renting for five years.

The dogs died this year and my graduate daughter is considering her own place. So I contacted my husband, who’s 61, to say maybe it’s time we sold, divorced and moved on.

'I'm worried that somewhere deep inside I still have feelings for him and that in the future I'll regret doing this'

'I'm worried that somewhere deep inside I still have feelings for him and that in the future I'll regret doing this'

I’ve been in a new relationship for the past 18 months, but I think he’s clung to the hope that I may go back.

From the start he was controlling — sulking unless he got his own way, cruel emotionally and (at times) physically. Our eldest daughter saw and heard things I wish she hadn’t. They have always had a difficult relationship.

I left (not taking a thing) because it was impossible to stay together and someone had to go. But I never expected the girls to choose and was always happy for them to see their dad.

He and I were friendly — until recently, when I made my suggestion. Now he’s saying he doesn’t want to sell (the mortgage is paid off) yet can’t afford to buy my part.

Looking back, I spent more time in tears than laughter, treading on eggshells for fear of upsetting him.

So why do I feel so guilty, asking him to sell Why am I concerned what he’ll do He’s never so much as asked if I had a chair to sit on. I’m worried that somewhere deep inside I still have feelings for him and that in the future I’ll regret doing this.

Yet I’m certain I don’t want to live with him again. He assumes I want to sell the house to get married, which isn’t true. I want to be able to sort my life out. I just have my salary and nothing else, and I’d like to retire when I am 60.

He denies being in a relationship but stays out during the week, telling our youngest he’s with friends. I’m at the end of my tether, with constant headaches.

I’ve seen a solicitor, but I’m having to make myself start divorce proceedings. It doesn’t feel right, but I can’t understand why.

My present partner is lovely and just wants what’s best for me. We have a great time together so why am I dithering

Last week’s main letter from Sadie (still angry and sad nine years after her husband left her for a younger woman) has something significant in common with yours: both of you are still inextricably bound up with the man you married, even though the bad times now overshadow the good.

People are misguided to regard separation / divorce as a clean break. It rarely is. Marriage lays down a complicated web of subterranean involvement which usually remains, no matter how life on the surface changes.

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Obviously, children make this inevitable, but even without them, the invisible bonds (your ‘feelings’) between husband and wife can continue to weigh, even when it seems that the shackles have been thrown aside.

I thought your letter was going to be about legal matters (about which — please note, everyone — I’m not qualified to opine), but it turns out to be a question of lost love.

Why else would you be feeling as stressed as you are On the surface, surely you have the right to a proportion of the value of the marital home

That’s a matter for your solicitor, not me.

What concerns me is your guilt at even making the suggestion.

It sounds as if a part of you is still grieving for the loss of a marriage in which you invested so much, and that somehow you feel guilty for giving up as you did. Surely this is at the root of your current indecisiveness and distress

Your original letter was over twice as long as what is printed here, therefore I have more detail about your husband’s behaviour, both in the past and more recently — especially with the older daughter who’s estranged from him. He refused to attend his own sister’s funeral because they’d fallen out, and so on.

Truly, he sounds an impossible man. The very fact that you walked out of your home to escape his behaviour says it all.

You could decide to be kind to him and let things remain as they are. But what happens if he is seeing a new woman, who then moves into the home How would you feel

I doubt you would be jealous (at least, I hope not) but you might feel pretty annoyed that she is lolling about on sofas and chairs that you bought yourself, and putting a key into a front door to which you feel you have some right of ownership.

You’d certainly ‘regret’ that. It seems to me that you’re quite right to seek a resolution of the property issue, because, until you do, you won’t feel you can proceed to the next stage of your life. And nor will he.

On the other hand, you can’t expect your ex-in-all-but-name-husband to be happy at the thought of the upheaval.

First, you should have a long, frank conversation with your daughters, and ask their opinion.

Then you have two choices: do nothing — or get your solicitor moving.

If you were rich, I’d probably advise you to leave the man where he is — and enjoy the moral high ground. Since that’s not the case, I suggest you act as decisively as you did five years ago.

I'm scared of my nasty, elderly mother

The problem is my mother. Since my lovely father’s death four years ago, our relationship tears me apart.

She’s in her early 80s, very fit and still drives. My son and I live near, and when Dad was alive we were a very close family. I understand grief can change people, but her attitude to me and (especially) my son is terrible.

We’ve tried our best, inviting her to meals and holidays, spoiling her at birthdays, trying to include her as much as possible. In return, she’s rude, bitter, puts us down, shouts. She’s also become extremely mean, although she has no need to worry about money, while I do!

Working full time, I brought up my son (just graduated) alone. She’s always called me a dreadful mother.

Things have got so bad we hardly speak. My son avoids visiting. I dread phoning, as she tells me I’m disgusting. I used to include her in social events, but she tells my friends I’m in debt and complains about me.

There’s no point in talking to her, as she’s never in her life admitted she’s wrong. Other family members see how she treats us. My brother lives some distance away and also finds her very difficult.

I keep wondering if she is ill or has the early signs of dementia, but her behaviour in front of her friends is completely normal.

In my late-40s, I’m actually scared of her. I’m dreading Christmas, as she’ll expect me to drive her to distant relatives. My son will refuse to come, so he and I will be kept apart.

This has driven me to anti-depressants. Do I just accept she’ll never change and try to get on with life without her I feel guilty and sorry for her. I promised Dad I would look after her, but it’s becoming too much.

When I began to read your letter, I speculated something might be wrong with your mother, so I was glad to note that you, too, sought such an explanation for entirely unacceptable behaviour.

The fact that your mother is all sweetness and light with her own friends doesn’t rule out the possibility of something being wrong. Don’t forget that mental illness can take many forms.

The trouble is, because of the deterioration in your relationship, I can’t quite see how you could possibly broach any of this. I can understand why you are so depressed by such an unhappy situation.

In the past, when I’ve featured letters about difficult elderly parents, I’ve always stressed the idea of duty — and that same sense of what is right underpins your letter to me. On the other hand, readers have often come back asking: ‘Why’

Awkward family Christmas meal

You must tell your mother firmly that you wish to celebrate Christmas Day with your son at home, that you're going to make a special effort decorating the house, and that of course she is welcome to join you. Posed by models

If an elderly mother or father is nasty and bitter, doesn’t there come a point when you refuse to let them continue making everybody unhappy But you feel ‘guilty and sorry for her’. That short phrase encapsulates a whole three-volume epic of complexity.

What’s to be done First, I think you should try to have a private conversation with one of her very closest friends. Then you can express your concerns and share some of your unhappiness. You don’t know what she says behind your back, so obviously this could be difficult, but it’s worth a try.

Next, I see no reason whatsoever for you to drive her anywhere at all on Christmas Day. Why can’t she drive herself or take a train on Christmas Eve

You must tell her firmly that you wish to celebrate Christmas Day with your son at home, that you’re going to make a special effort decorating the house, and that of course she is welcome to join you.

If her response is to call you names, then block your ears and focus on whether you and your son will cook turkey or just a big chicken — and should you perhaps ask one or two of his friends

I’m sorry, but you have to stop allowing yourself to be her victim. I mean this. It’s honest of you to confess you’re ‘afraid’ of your own mother, but rather shocking nevertheless.

You made a promise to your father that you have tried your best to fulfil.

But the cost may prove too high. As someone who generally tends to worship at the altar of family, I must point out that you have your beloved son to consider, and that he is arguably far more important.

If you continue as you are, agreeing to drive her and putting up with all she throws at you, you are allowing his young life to be blighted by a . . . (yes, I’ll say it) . . .  nasty old woman.

Isn’t it time to write her a courteous letter saying that if she thinks you’re a disgusting person, she needn’t subject herself to your presence any more

But if she wants you to continue to be her daughter, she must be polite — as your father would surely have wished.

And finally… Halloween is just so ghoulish

It’s that time of the year again when merchandising rules and we seem to be heading in the same direction as the U.S., where Halloween is big business.

There, every restaurant is festooned with fake cobwebs for weeks. Here, too, pester-power turns children into ghouls, but anxious parents have to explain that knocking on doors screaming, ‘Trick or treat’ may not be such a good idea. There’s plenty of real ghouls out there.

It always makes me smile when people say, ‘Happy Halloween’ because it’s such a contradiction in terms.

Halloween (or properly — All Hallows Eve) is about death, mourning, darkness and remembrance — and that’s why the ‘festival’ speaks to our innermost selves, even if we don’t realise it.

You may close the curtains on the darkness, but . . . hush . . .  it’s already inside and cannot be escaped.


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.

The name of the great unknown is Mortality and it taps eerily on the window of the soul.

Even in a secular age, the subconscious mind tunes into the spiritual at this time of year.

Children dressed as witches and skeletons and parents laboriously carving out pumpkin lanterns are connecting to our ancestors and enacting the deeper meaning of October 31.

It’s not hard to see how the idea of the dying of the light prompts thoughts of death.

The Celts believed that on October 31 the border between our world and the ‘other’ world is especially thin. As plants died away, they believed that revered ancestors reached back through the veil separating them from the living.

Across cultures, we are similar under the skin — finding ways of making sense of the world and our place in it. As autumn ends, drifts of leaves remind us of the great cycles of death and renewal. Leaves fall — and so do we.

There is nothing to be done about either phenomenon. We may try to keep the darkness at bay with all the gewgaws of modern living, but no plasma TV screen will protect you from painful truths which Mexicans celebrate on the Day of the Dead.

My advice Plant bulbs!