As an avid reader of your column, I wondered what you would think of my situation. I have been married for 51 years to a solid, practical man who is an excellent father to our two children, but not very good with emotions.
He always put work first throughout our married life, so I was often alone with the kids on weekends and holidays. In more recent years, after they left home, he was alone.
I learned that he once deliberately didn’t invite me to his Christmas job at a casino because he “knew I wouldn’t go.”
You’re right, I wouldn’t have gone, but it would have been nice to have been invited!
I went to his firm’s summer party and no one spoke to me. For some reason they thought that I was their ‘little side’.
When we went to his boss’s wedding, he left me sitting alone, with no money, while he was in the garden smoking and chatting with his co-workers. I had to go ask him for some money to buy a glass of wine.
I’m not a shrunken violet and I always worked, but I resented his work and the attention it paid him. Fast forward. Now he has had to take early retirement due to two strokes and a heart condition.
He had a third stroke just before Christmas and my life has been turned upside down.
I am trying to get closer to my family in Kent because I feel very isolated where we live in the North East. My husband is difficult at times, sharp and impatient, but this is what bothers me: he can remember the day he met his previous girlfriend in a club over 50 years ago, but he can’t remember our first date. .
He can tell you all about the different actresses on TV, but he couldn’t tell the supermarket staff what color my jacket was when he asked them to call for me. I feel resentful.
My GP says I have high blood pressure. I said, ‘You would too, doctor, if you lived my life.’ I am receiving cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and panic attacks and I feel a shadow of my former safe self.
How do I move on knowing that my husband who once loved me is long gone? How did he stop making me so angry? Am I being silly?
This week, Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney advises a reader who is struggling to care for her husband.
northNot dumb, but almost certainly exhausted and afraid to face the future. And who can blame you for that? Her husband is very sick and it looks like he too may be showing symptoms of dementia.
It is very common for people whose memory cannot remember events from a long time ago, but not recent events or names. The fact that he is becoming more “sharp and impatient” could relate to that. Your health may be worse than you think.
Yes, it has changed and that is immensely painful. On the other hand, he always fell short of what you wanted and needed, didn’t he?
Sometimes we have no choice but to accept reality and decide how to move forward within its limits.
It makes sense that in this time of great stress, when you feel so alone and isolated, you can’t help but let your mind wander back to relive all the slights and indifference that hurt you in the past.
Most of us do, because some things never go away and can make you cringe or cry even 30 or 40 years later.
It’s obvious that for years you desperately wanted your husband to show more emotion and give you the attention you craved.
It’s not too much to ask for a life partner to be kind and caring, is it? There will be countless women reading this who will totally agree. In my experience (generalizing, I know) the vast majority of men have no idea that what matters much more than sex is affection. Showing tenderness.
That imbalance between the needs of men and women has caused misery for centuries and always will, no matter how well meaning people talk about teaching people to ‘be nice’.
Your husband was unkind and neglectful of you on many occasions, and it seems that you are still puzzled. (Does any man reading this not understand that? Can you please take a lesson from this story and reflect on who you are?)
The past cannot be changed, while you, Jackie, can now rise up, take control, and take charge of your future.
So I beg you to try, with all your might, to stop looking back and tell yourself that he can’t help his memory but you can try to control yours. Cognitive behavioral therapy should help; as I wrote two weeks ago, ‘. . . by feeling like you’re not good enough, you learn to say “I’m good enough, so let’s go!” Another ‘fast forward’ is vital right now.
I hope the move to Kent can be facilitated as soon as possible, even if the difference in property values could cause a financial adjustment problem.
I hope your children support you, but you need to be where you feel supported, because the burden of caring for your husband alone is too much for you.
So take that ‘safe old me’ by the hand, tell her you’re sorry you stopped believing in her, keep in regular contact with everyone you know in Kent, and make that an urgent project.
I hope you can feel compassion for the wayward memories of a poor old man and realize how strong you can be.
My wife and I have been happily married for 49 years and she has been loyal and devoted.
However, recently a problem has arisen. My wife’s cousin died two years ago and we remain friends with her husband to help him through his grief. But during the last two visits from him, he started flirting with my wife in front of me.
He knows he’s crossed the line, but I could tell from my wife’s reaction that she enjoyed the attention.
However, I know that the boy has a reputation and that he had an affair with a colleague some time ago that resulted in a temporary separation from his wife.
I feel like my wife has been just as gullible as I was naive in not seeing what was going on. Now I worry when they are left alone, imagining all kinds of goings-on.
I confronted my wife about this and she expressed disbelief at what I said, particularly when I asked if we should split up and she should go with him.
She suggested that we just have to stop seeing him, but pointed out that this would cause other family difficulties.
The result is that now I am not sleeping and my general health is suffering. I feel that I am exceeding the requirements.
I just can’t believe this guy betrayed me when I invited him to my house as a family friend to help him.
I’m not sure how to proceed and would appreciate any advice you could give me.
Jealousy can be slow and festering, or it can be (like yours) a runaway train. Sometimes it’s certainly justified, but there are dangerous moments when an imaginary monster devours you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all the letters but regrets not being able to enter the personal correspondence.
I once knew a married woman who tolerated her husband’s affairs, but when her lover fell in love with someone else, she became a crazy woman. I also met a married man (much older) whose obsessive and instinctive jealousy seemed irrational and even pathetic, until I found out that years before his wife had had an affair, leaving him sad, restless and bitter for the rest of his life. .
How many similar human stories are there? Yes, it’s natural to feel pangs of jealousy, but my gut tells me you’re overreacting in this case.
I would love to know how you define ‘flirting’ with someone. Did she tell you that she looked pretty in that dress? Was her voice suggestively flirty of hers? Were there more compliments, or did he hold her too long in a ‘hello’ kiss?
A lot of it depends on accuracy, so I’d like you to start by being honest with yourself about what you actually saw. It’s a big leap from knowing a man was unfaithful to his late wife to assuming she’s after yours.
Maybe you think that the guy is more handsome than you, and that is the beginning and the end of your jealousy. That suggestion is not to belittle him in any way. Insecurity underlies so much jealousy and is quite understandable, often stirring up deep feelings from childhood. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be controlled.
He went from jealousy in two visits to suggesting to his wife that she leave him and go live with her late cousin’s widower. Read that sentence several times and ask who was wrong there.
Isn’t it piling up a little flirtatiousness into sexy imaginary ‘goings’ while going to the bathroom, and then feeling ‘above requirements’ and becoming self-destructive?
His wife suggests not seeing him (sensible) but points out that it would be questionable in the family as a whole (pragmatic). The answer is surely not to invite him anymore, since his pain is easing. See him with other family members. He gives her wife all the attention from her that he thinks he saw her enjoying her.
I respectfully ask you to consider that failing so spectacularly in the trust of the woman who has been faithful to you for 49 years is the biggest ‘betrayal’ of all.
And finally… Four words to help you in bad times
Some years ago I described a little ritual that I devised to help me through bad times.
Some people don’t like the word ‘ritual’, although humans have always used rituals to get in touch with things bigger than themselves. Even sitting by a window, cradling a cup of hot tea while gazing up at the clouds, can become a comforting ritual if you let it.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
My ritual consists of four words and four simultaneous actions. I am writing this on a gloomy gray day, and someone/something really upset me last night, so this morning I repeated my mantra six times, standing up to be calm and centered. But it also works on a chair. This is what you do, breathing deeply until the end:
1. Cross your hands over your heart and say “Breathe.”
2. Move your hands so that they form a ‘cup’ in front of your chest and say ‘Allow’.
3. Uncover your hands and, holding them slightly open about five inches away, say ‘Excuse me.’
4. Move your open hands in and out, stretching each side of your body, while saying ‘Become’.
Repeat as needed. When you are tense with anxiety and/or stress about something in particular, your breathing tends to be shallow. So the first action has you touching your own chest in a comforting posture as you take the first deep breath.
The ‘Allow’ stance is about realizing that there are times when you can’t really change what happened, so you need to allow it to happen before you can ask for help moving forward.
Many Christians cup their hands to receive the host of Holy Communion; in Buddhism the pose means acceptance. Then, spreading your hands out in a relaxed position with palms facing up is a gesture of forgiveness to yourself and/or someone who has done you wrong. Take a weight off
Finally, you open your arms, no matter what has happened, and embrace transformation and a new acceptance of pain, of joy, of life. This works for me.