After a series of unfortunate or disastrous relationships, I have been alone for 30 years.
My son is happily settled with two young baby girls, but my daughter is desperately unhappy with her husband. They have a lovely three-year-old daughter born after just 14 months of marriage.
He is a nice guy, but she doesn’t love him — and is torn about damaging her daughter by leaving.
He’s on antidepressants, and is not always truthful or reliable. He lies about smoking, finds it hard to wake up, and lies about where he is when he should be at work. He’s very good at his job but this disconnection with the truth upsets my daughter greatly.
To complicate matters, starting in lockdown, he invited one of his friends to move in for company. This friend is great with the baby, which has shown up my son-in-law’s lack of empathy and help in the house. There is no romance at all . . . between any of them!
My granddaughter’s now at nursery and that friend has a new job and expects to find a new room to rent. So this could be crunch time, but it will also mean that my granddaughter will miss the guy very much, possibly more so than her father.
I have sympathy for my son-in-law because his parents split up and he was heavily involved with looking after a disabled younger brother. But the bottom line is that he and my daughter have nothing in common apart from their baby. It appears that they have spoken about splitting up. My daughter could come back here to live because I have plenty of space.
I’m trying to listen and be helpful without putting any pressure on, but I do hate to see her so sad, and I can’t see a happy future for either of them if she stays.
They’ve tried counselling, but it hasn’t helped, as my son-in-law hasn’t addressed the habits driving a wedge between them. I don’t know how to help any more other than just to be here. Do you have any other suggestions?
This week, Bel Mooney advises a grandmother who is concerned her daughter is stuck in an unhappy marriage where they have nothing in common anymore
You might like to have a quick look at the letter from Derek at the bottom of this page. Reading it, you’ll probably feel as wistful as Margaret (writer of the other letter) because, sadly, you never knew a happy relationship (many details given in your uncut letter) and now fear your daughter is going the same way.
I feel so sorry for you both — because she is torn in two and you are miserable at witnessing it.
But if it’s any consolation, you are doing the right thing in not getting involved.
Thought of the day
Ah hush! Tread softly through the time,
For there will be a blackbird singing, or a thrush…
All the trees dream of leaves and flowers and light,
And see! The northern bank is much more white
Than frosty grass, for now is snowdrop time
From Snowdrop Time by Mary Webb (English novelist and poet, 1881-1927)
There is no advice you can possibly give her; she must work it out with her husband and do what feels right for their daughter.
And that does not always involve staying in a marriage which feels as if it has run its course. It would be far better for them to part while their daughter is still so young, and to work out a civilised way of ensuring her father shares custody, rather than struggle on unhappily, only to split up later — perhaps when she is in her teens.
They have much to discuss, and I hope he doesn’t shy away from the issues. I also hope your daughter is not driven (perhaps by frustration) to be confrontational as that never helps.
They could look together at the website for National Family Mediation (nfm.org.uk) to help them make decisions about the future — decisions about the best way to part and sort out their affairs (for the greater good of all concerned), rather than more counselling to help them stay together. It all depends how far along the road of separation they feel they have gone.
If you do have room in your house for your daughter and granddaughter — and if she agrees that this would be a good way forward, then you can assure her cheerfully that you will always be on hand to babysit. She must be helped to feel that a happy future can be created for them all, and that your son-in-law will be welcomed by you to help make his relationship with his daughter as good as possible.
You say you are ‘just there’ for them both, which is wise — and I believe it’s important for you not to take sides.
Life mapped out
Just before Christmas 2019, my darling wife fell and broke her hip. Three weeks later she died.
We knew each other for 60 years and were married for 56. The day we married was when all my birthdays and Christmases came at once. After her kidney transplant in February 1998, she had 20 years of a good life.
Once the children were off our hands, Viv loved to travel. We would drive all over the UK; and she was good at map reading and we never got lost. We travelled by coach all over the Continent and had some wonderful times. In 2003 we celebrated our 40th anniversary with two weeks in Canada and always said we’d to go back. But after 2018 her dialysis got in the way.
We had a wonderful 56 years. I’m not pretending we never had a cross word because I’d be lying — but we weathered the storms.
I miss her so much and cannot believe it is now two years since I lost her. I find it so sad that other people can’t have what we had, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
Are you wondering why I wrote to you? Yes, this is about going on without the one you love — but do you mind me sharing the good news of a happy marriage?
Mind? I rejoice! You and your darling Viv never did get lost because you were both so good at mapping your lives together, driving the same course.
Sometimes it rained, of course, but you carried on regardless because even during those briefly uncomfortable times you never doubted that your ultimate destination would be within each other’s heart, for ever.
It’s wonderful to read your tribute to your wife, to marriage, and to the great happiness that’s possible if you are lucky enough to meet the right person.
Between the lines, of course, we read your ongoing disbelief at your loss — and there will be many bereaved people reading that who think, ‘That’s just how I feel.’
Yet you sound calm: grateful for all those years of shared happiness rather than eaten up with regret that they have gone.
Thank you for sending your story, and for reinforcing my profound sense that deep love — like that shared by you and Viv — can never die.
Dreams of regret
I am 54 and I have been with my partner for 30 years. We began going out when I was 24 and he was 38. When I was 34 I met a man through work and, even though he was married (with a daughter of seven) and I was in a long-term relationship, he made it clear he wanted us to be together.
I was very attracted to him, so it was difficult. But when he finally got round to asking me out I turned away — through loyalty to my partner and guilt.
So here I am, aged 54, and feeling I messed up. I was at the age when I could have had a baby. Obviously, I don’t know and, anyway, he could have just used me, so I may have had a lucky escape. But now I can’t stop thinking about him. I believe I made the wrong choice and keep blaming myself. My partner gave up on sex 20 years ago.
I also put on a load of weight.
Looking back now, maybe if I’d given in to the other man things might have been different. What is your advice?
From time to time I receive a letter like yours — a wistful yearning for a past long gone, but recreated in dreams.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Sometimes the regrets are about things that did happen — words uttered you shouldn’t have said; a job taken which was a mistake; a love destroyed through infidelity then sorely missed . . .
But wishing for something that never happened? Perhaps it’s common to feel so discontented with your present relationship that you disinter an old one. It can seem harmless, but not if the fantasies only make you more and more dissatisfied with the present.
Ten years after you started with your partner, you met that other man. You were 34. You turned your back on the temptation. But then you say, ‘Twenty years ago my partner gave up on sex. I put on a load of weight.’
But that was also when you were 34. Did the sex stop because you rejected your partner, because you loved the other guy? Did you put weight on through sadness, comfort eating etc?
Something went wrong then which was probably more significant than the flirtation that went nowhere. You say nothing about wanting to leave your partner. So if I were you, I’d look back with honesty, not dreams. It might involve analysing why you never had a family. Was it him — or you? On the other hand, you could try to make the present a life you want to live in reality, not in your imagination.
And finally…it’s wise to disagree
Last week I knew printing that lead letter from the mental health nurse who refuses the Covid vaccine would be controversial. One reader suggested mildly that if I disagreed with ‘Jen’ it would have been better not to print her letter. Why?
In my reply I said: ‘I have, in fairness, printed your letter because if there are readers who think the same, they can read your words and be glad of a kindred spirit.’
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Naturally, there were indeed readers who supported the nurse and I made a careful tally. Twice as many agreed with my views as disagreed. Phew! Many (including a retired consultant microbiologist, as well as other nurses) praised my reply as ‘careful and thoughtful’, ‘absolutely spot on’ and ‘considered and excellent’. Others said I wrote ‘utter tripe’ and should feel ‘ashamed’.
A woman who called herself Dr C raged: ‘You know nothing about science, vaccines or healthcare. I very much doubt the letter was genuine anyway but made up so that you could push the vaccine . . . what gives you, a totally medically uninformed person, the right to preach about this?’
Well, my ‘right’ came about simply because the lady wrote to my column. And calling me a liar is an unacceptable insult.
This person went on: ‘I have looked forward to reading your column for years but now I will never read another thing you write. I hope the 30 pieces of silver you received were worth it.’ Well, not reading is her choice — and her loss. But where is that bag of silver?
In contrast, here is wise HS, who also disagreed with me: ‘No matter, I shall continue to read your column and on this occasion agree to differ. It’s what makes the world go around and I have found your advice relevant and helpful.’
The most moving ‘pro’ letter came from retired D whose wife is gravely ill and feels angry and afraid at the thought of her being treated by unvaccinated staff. No room for more here — but thanks to all who wrote.
BEL MOONEY: How can I help my girl escape her miserable marriage? appeared first on maserietv.com.