As an avid reader of your column I wondered what you would do about my predicament. I have been married for 51 years to a solid, practical man, who is a wonderful father to our two sons but not very good emotionally.
In our married life he always prioritized work and so I was often alone with the boys on weekends and bank holidays. In recent years, after they left home, I was alone.
I found out that he once deliberately didn’t invite me to his work Christmas party at a casino because ‘he knew I wouldn’t go’.
He was right, I wouldn’t have gone, but it would have been nice to have been asked!
I went to his firm’s summer party and no one spoke to me. For some reason they thought I was his ‘side bit’.
When we went to his boss’s wedding he left me alone, without money, he was smoking in the garden and hanging out with work colleagues. I had to go and ask him for some money to buy a glass of wine.
I’m not a shrinking violet and always worked — but I was disgusted by his work and the attention he paid. Fast forward. Now he has had to retire early due to two strokes and a cardiac condition.
Just before Christmas he suffered his third stroke and my life turned completely upside down.
I am trying to move back closer to family in Kent as I feel very isolated where we live in the North East. My husband is difficult, sharp and impatient at times, but here I am exasperating — he can remember the day he met his ex-girlfriend in a club more than 50 years ago but can’t remember our first date.
He could tell you all about the different actresses on TV but couldn’t tell the supermarket staff what color my jacket was when he asked them to call for me. I feel bored.
My GP says I have high blood pressure. I said to him, ‘Doctor, if only you had lived my life.’ I am doing cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and panic attacks and feel like a shadow of my former confident self.
How do I move on knowing that my once loving husband is long gone? How do I stop being so upset? Am I being stupid?
This week, Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney offers advice to a reader who is struggling to care for their husband.
Not naive, but almost certainly tired and afraid to face the future. And who can blame you for that? Your husband is very ill and it sounds like he may also be showing signs of dementia.
This is really common for people whose memory is not able to remember long past events, but not recent events or names The fact that he is increasingly ‘sharp and impatient’ can be linked. His health may be worse than you think.
Yes, she has changed and it is very painful. On the other hand, he always fell short of what you wanted and needed, right?
Sometimes we have no choice but to accept reality and figure out how to proceed within its limits.
It’s understandable that, in times of great stress, when you feel so alone and isolated, you can’t help but cast your mind back and forth to relive all the slights and instances of indifference that have hurt you in the past.
Most of us do, because some things never go away and can still make you cringe or cry 30 or 40 years later.
It’s clear that over the years you’ve desperately wanted your husband to show more passion and give you the attention you crave.
It’s not too much to ask a spouse to be kind and attentive, right? There will be countless women reading this who wholeheartedly agree. In my experience (in general, I know) most men have no idea that affection is more important than sex. Showing tenderness.
This 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 kind’.
Your husband has been unkind and neglectful towards you at times and it seems you are still confused. (Doesn’t anyone reading this understand that? Please can you learn a lesson from this story, and wonder how you are?)
The past cannot be changed whereas you, Jackie, can now stand up, take control of yourself and take charge of your future.
So I request you, try with all your might, stop looking back and tell yourself that he cannot help his memory but you can try to control yours. Cognitive behavioral therapy should help; As I wrote two weeks ago, ‘ . . From feeling like you’re not good enough, you learn to say “I’m good enough – so let’s go!” ‘ Another ‘fast forward’ to this moment is essential.
I hope that moving to Kent can be facilitated as soon as possible, even if the difference in property prices may cause financial problems of adjustment.
I hope your boys will be supportive, but you need to stay where you think you will get support, because taking care of your husband alone is too much for you.
So grab that ‘former confident self’, tell him you’re sorry you’ve stopped trusting him, keep in regular contact with people you know in Kent and make it an urgent project.
I hope you can feel compassion for a poor old man’s wayward memory 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.
But recently a problem has arisen. My wife’s cousin died two years ago and we continued to be friends with her husband to help him through his grief. But the last two times he met us he started hitting on my wife right in front of me.
He knows he’s overstepping the mark but I can tell from my wife’s reaction that he enjoys the attention.
However, I do know that the man has a reputation and had an affair with a colleague a while back which resulted in a temporary separation from his wife.
I feel as stupid as my wife has been, I am stupid for not seeing what is going on. I think now when they are alone, imagining all kinds of happenings.
I confronted my wife about this and she expressed disbelief at my words, especially when I asked if we should separate and she should go to him.
He suggested that we should just stop seeing him, but pointed out that this would cause other family problems.
The result is that I am now not sleeping and my general health is suffering. I think I am surplus to requirements.
I can’t believe that this man would betray me when I invited him to my house to help him as a family friend.
I’m not sure how to proceed and would welcome any advice you can give me.
Jealousy can be slow and tense, or it can (like you) be a runaway train. Sometimes this is certainly justified, but there are dangerous times when an imaginary monster eats you.
Bell answers readers’ questions about emotional and relationship issues every week.
Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email email@example.com.
Names have been changed to protect identity.
Bell reads all the letters but regrets that he cannot access private correspondence.
I once knew a married woman who put up with her husband’s affairs, but turned into a crazy woman when her lover fell for someone else. I also knew a (much older) married man whose passionate, knee-jerk jealousy seemed absurd and even pathetic, until I discovered that his wife was actually having an affair, which left him miserable, restless, and bitter for the rest of his life. .
How many similar human stories are there? Yes, it’s normal to feel pangs of jealousy, yet my instincts tell me that you’re overreacting in this case.
I would like to know how you define ‘beating’ someone. Did he tell her that she looked beautiful in that dress? Was her voice suggestively flirtatious? Was there more of a compliment, or did he hold her in the ‘hello’ kiss too long?
A lot depends on accuracy, and so I want you to start by being honest with yourself about what you actually saw. It’s a huge leap from knowing a man was unfaithful to his late wife to assuming she’s after you.
Maybe you think the guy is better looking than you – and that’s the beginning and end of your jealousy. That advice is not meant to bring you down in any way. Insecurity underlies much of that jealousy and is quite understandable, often evoking deep feelings from childhood. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be controlled.
You grew out of jealousy in two visits to suggest your wife leave you and live with her late cousin’s widow. Read this sentence a few times and ask who was wrong there.
Isn’t creating a little flirtation between imaginary, sexy ‘going-on’ when you’re going low and then feeling ‘surplus to necessity’ and making yourself sickly self-destructive?
Your wife suggests not seeing him (wise) but points out that it would be questionable in the extended family (practical). The answer must be that he is no longer invited, because his grief is easing. See him with other family members. Give your wife all the attention you think you see her enjoying.
With respect, I ask you to consider that the greatest ‘betrayal’ is to fail so spectacularly to trust a woman you have trusted for 49 years.
And finally… four words to help you through bad times
A few years ago I described a little ritual I created to help me through bad times.
Some people dislike the word ‘ritual’ — even though people have always used ritual to connect with something greater than themselves. Even sitting by the window, sipping a mug of hot tea while contemplating the clouds, can become a comforting ritual if you let it.
More from Bell Mooney for the Daily Mail…
My ritual consists of four words and four simultaneous actions. I’m writing this on a gray, dark day, and someone/something upset me last night, so this morning I repeated my mantra six times, standing to be calm and centered. But it also works on a chair. What you do is by breathing deeply:
1. Cross your hands over your heart and say ‘Breathe’.
2. Move your hands so they form a ‘cup’ in front of your chest and say ‘allow’.
3. Open your hands and hold them loosely about five inches apart, saying ‘Excuse me’.
4. Open your arms out and wide, extending each side of your body, as you say ‘hun’.
Repeat as you need. When tight with anxiety and/or stress about something in particular, your breathing tends to become shallow. So the first action is touching your own chest in a comfortable position as you take your first deep breath.
The ‘allow’ posture is realizing there are times when you can’t change what happened, so you need to allow it to happen before you ask for help to move on.
Many Christians cup their hands to receive the communion wafer; In Buddhism the pose signifies acceptance. Your hands are then separated in a relaxed, palm-up position as a gesture of forgiveness to you and/or whoever wronged you. It removes a weight.
Finally, you stretch out your arms, whatever happens, and embrace the transformation and accept a new acceptance of pain, joy, life. It works for me.