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BEL MOONEY: My female friend’s ‘jokes’ are so hurtful. How can I confront her?

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BEL MOONEY: My female friend's 'jokes' are so hurtful. How can I confront her?

Dear Bel,

I am part of a strong female friendship group. For ten years we have had many holidays, weekend getaways and meals out, and we often meet weekly.

Unfortunately, in recent years one member of the group has changed and has become consistently rude and defiant.

She has insulted one or another of us on every occasion and has gone from being witty and funny, to being biting and caustic, to making nasty “jokes” at the expense of each member of the group in turn.

She was recently absent when we met and it was a relief (but not a surprise) to realize that we all find her incredibly difficult to tolerate.

BEL MOONEY My female friends jokes are so hurtful How

We agree that we are all sitting around waiting for the next insult to someone in the group. We have now reached a point where we no longer want to celebrate the usual birthdays or special events, or organize our annual ski holidays. We did not feel comfortable excluding her due to the previous rigidity of the group. But the prospect of another time with her is too much to contemplate.

We have considered what may be causing this and there does not appear to be a medical or emotional problem.

Rather, he enjoys laughing and says he no longer cares how a joke or comment is received.

We really don’t know what to do. The group is important to all of us but for the moment our activities have been paralyzed.

We don’t think talking to her will have any effect; we’ll probably get even more snarky comments from then on.

But we are reluctant to let our group of friends weaken because of a person we previously held in high regard. What do you suggest?


Female friendships are so important and I feel sorry for the women who don’t have them.

Women can be immensely supportive of each other and I bet there are times when one or the other of you comes to a meeting feeling a little down but is soon laughing with the rest of you. So your problem is far from trivial.

The worst case scenario seems awfully clear to me. You have to sacrifice something. A member of your group is likely to destroy everything you’ve shared unless you’re brave enough to do something about it. You say, ‘We’ve considered what may be causing this and there doesn’t appear to be a medical or emotional problem.’

How can you know? Presumably you talked about this when she wasn’t there, but my first thought upon reading her letter was that there might well be something wrong.

I would wonder if he is on the autism spectrum, but you say that hasn’t always been the case.

It is certainly not appropriate for me to make any kind of guess-diagnosis, but I want to suggest things for you to think about. Another point is that you may be showing signs of dementia.

You don’t mention his age, but in any case, early dementia can start as early as age 40 and can certainly cause mood swings. I think, to be fair to her, we should all think about these things. Would it be possible to speak in confidence with a member of her family?

There remains the question of justice for all of you. It would be very sad if they allowed the group, which means so much to everyone, to fall apart. Since this lady has said “she no longer cares how a joke or comment is received”, either someone must have protested to her or she is well aware that she is causing pain.

If it’s the latter, then she’s turning into the kind of unpleasant person you probably don’t want to have as a friend. People change and we must change with them. Groups cannot always remain the same.

What if one of you (by lottery?) called her the next time she is intolerably sarcastic? An honest fight could (a) clear things up and show her that she needs to mind her manners or (b) upset her so much that she says goodbye. Suffering in silence is not an option.

Why is my husband of 25 years behaving so strangely?

Dear Bel,

In early 2023, my 24-year-old, 52-year-old husband, the cornerstone of our family and sole breadwinner, wonderful father and stepfather, began acting strangely.

He is a musician and loved by everyone. In early 2023 he began to complain of a tremor in his right arm. He suddenly left home early in the evening and returned at 2 am. I got very worried. My children noticed that he was secretive with his phone. We all suspected an affair. In the summer he suffered balance problems and began to fall to one side.

We went on vacation and I got off the plane with a complete stranger. The two weeks were hell. She texted constantly and returned to the hotel room at 4 in the morning. At home I confronted him and he admitted that he was having an emotional affair online. Devastated, I told him to stop or our marriage would end. He chose marriage.

However, he insisted that he needed to be alone and had to move into his own apartment. We couldn’t afford it but he went ahead anyway. None of us were allowed to know the address. Family members told me to divorce him, but I believe I owe him my loyalty, love and support.

I took him to the GP because of his tremors and strange behavior and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I made plans to support him, make appointments, etc. He then announced that he was moving to a city for work. That’s why he now rents another apartment there, without giving up the premises. We are financially ruined because of it. I don’t have money for a broken boiler. But he won’t accept any Difference of opinion.

He says he loves me, thanks me for his support, texts me every day and I visit his apartment in the city, but I can’t find out the address of the local apartment! I see how the progression of Parkinson’s is robbing me of the wonderful husband I once had, now this stranger. It’s our silver wedding this year and he’s booked a vacation… one we can’t really afford.

Bel, all I see is a hopeless future. He will be forced to return home when his condition deteriorates to the point where he cannot work. I am 55 years old and I see nothing but desolation ahead. I love him very much and will support him no matter what, but I feel intimidated by the day-to-day existence in this long-distance marriage that I never wanted. I want him home, but I know that when he returns he will be like a sick and broken man who may no longer recognize me. Our golden years have been stolen from us.

I cannot understand the 15 months of chaos I have endured and I see no way out. My children think that divorce is the only option to give me a life, but for me it is not an option, since I love him very much. Please help.


This is a tragic letter, because by so decisively expressing your love for your husband and your absolute loyalty despite his behavior, you are turning the key to your own prison cell.

You ask me for help, but I find it almost impossible to know what to say. Maybe that’s why I chose your letter.

I often find myself looking at the everyday world beyond this column and wondering how so many people navigate without any idea of ​​the pain others endure. They really think it’s a matter of willpower to “pull yourself together,” “move on,” and “start over,” when you and I know that’s not the same.

Love locked you into this marriage 25 years ago, and now love has locked you even further into your helpless devotion to this sick and difficult man, at incalculable cost to you.

In your longest letter, you tell me that one of your children has Down syndrome and that you worry about him, while you “break down every day” from being so exhausted by the present and so terrified of the future. This is a truly terrible situation.

Because your husband has always been the charismatic breadwinner, a musician (and certainly a flirt) accustomed to the adoration of women, I suspect you have always been accustomed to taking a backseat in your marriage.

In other words, let him take the lead.

You see, perhaps we could attribute his surprisingly selfish behavior to the onset of Parkinson’s (there are many symptoms, including impulsivity and other personality changes). You describe him as an “outsider”, so it might be helpful to read about Parkinson’s on the internet, just to understand a little more.

On the other hand, his terrible behavior may be due to his fear of aging and his desire to flex his muscles while he can.

I can’t help but wonder if you’ve always allowed yourself to be a doormat. Two floors? And not ‘allowing’ you to know the address of the premises? While you’re at home crying because the boiler broke, you’re freezing and there’s no money because he’s wasting it?

Oh, no, no, no, this is intolerable.

It’s interesting that when you actually confronted him and gave him an ultimatum (stop the online ’emotional affair’ or lose the marriage) he capitulated immediately.

You say he can’t stand any disagreement, but he was afraid enough of your righteous wrath to stop playing with a stupid online romance.

The only thing I can suggest is that you try again. Be brutal. Tell him to get rid of the apartments or the marriage will be over. Tell him that unless he does this he will never set foot in your family home again.

You have to give an ultimatum. I could save you.

Contact bel

Bel answers readers’ questions about emotional and relationship issues each week. Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk. Names are changed to protect identities. Bel reads all the letters but regrets that she cannot correspond personally.

Even rats have advantages if you have an open mind

When I was a teenager, my son had a white rat. He named the excellent creature Ozric, after a band he liked, Ozric Tentacles.

Dan could summon Ozric from many meters away, and the pet would bound through the grass and use its pink claws to quickly climb up his body and curl happily around his neck.

I liked Ozric too and it was cool to walk with Ozric on my shoulders, especially if there were other women around, because they would recoil in horror: ‘Eeeeuww.’

Therefore, since we live in the countryside, I have no problem seeing a rat near my house from time to time. But inside the house the matter is different.

And we had a rat in the attic, wandering around the low-ceilinged top floor where our grandchildren’s bedroom is, as well as a guest room and my husband’s office.

How did it get to the top? No idea. To do? My husband doesn’t like killing things, so he set a humane trap as bait. He also placed a piece of wood at the bottom of the old spiral staircase in the attic, so that Ratty couldn’t access the rest of the house. The cheese would surely tempt him to enter the chamber, but Rattus Norvegicus is very clever and invented the ruse. The cheese was still unbitten and the trap was empty.

So days passed before my husband came downstairs, triumphantly holding the humane trap before my face. There was Ratty captured, looking calm inside the Perspex chamber. “Hello,” I said, as his bright little eyes met mine, “Aren’t you beautiful?”

It was an instinctive response, because it was. Fine brown fur, excellent whiskers, nice claws. . . and I was almost sorry to say goodbye when my husband put him in the car, to be released somewhere a few miles away.

Call us stupid if you want, or irresponsible, and we will say that even a rat has the right to life. Like Ozric, the handsome Ratty taught me this: Creatures you instinctively find terrifying or disgusting can be attractive, if you let them.

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