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BEL MOONEY: Will I ever be free of bullying, jealous husbands?

This is one of those times when an email was nearly four times as long as I have space for — therefore I have information about misdemeanours that were committed by both your husbands.

You assure me that you are ‘far from perfect’ yourself (which is good, as is your recognition of how well your husband looked after you), but I admit that your examples of behaviours you find intolerable do make me wince. Constant ill-humour is very unappealing, while having a man insist on telling you what clothes to buy must be as tedious as maddening.

But even if we can agree on all that, you have remained married to this difficult husband for 20 years — years in which you pretty well obeyed his whims. This needs some analysis.

You see, your letter reveals a pattern of being attracted to dominant men — and giving in to them. Right at the beginning, that first love who dumped you was, in retrospect, a ‘bit of a bully’ whom you ‘worshipped’. Why? Because something in your upbringing made you vulnerable to dominance?

Your first husband proved to be horribly jealous and controlling, to the extent of using sex as a weapon against you (it was unpleasant to read the detail). Another bully.

He drove you to such despair that you actually left your son and daughter behind when you walked away from the marriage — a decision which must surely reveal how far you were pushed.

At the time, you had nowhere suitable for a family to live, while your ex’s relationship became more complicated (hard on those children), so it must have been a relief to meet a solvent, older man and settle down. But did you love him, I wonder? At the beginning you were aware of his foul language and presumably his ill-humour, too. He lost touch with his children — why?

Yet again you are sharing your life with a man who is opinionated, angry, outspoken and rude — all behaviour which upsets and embarrasses you.

He must know that — or are you so cowed you keep your feelings hidden? Since you see choosing your own bag as a significant small rebellion (I had to cut this detail), I suspect you keep quiet.

At this stage, you know that starting on your own would be hard — and while your long email showed plenty of irritation, it didn’t reveal real dislike.

You could possibly have the chance of making a new life near children and grandchildren, but at the time of writing haven’t discussed that with them.

You need to ask yourself whether you are actually afraid of your husband’s anger — and how that fits into the pattern I point out. There’s much to think about and it may help to have online counselling with Relate.

But don’t forget: you were strong once in leaving that first husband, and you can be strong again.

 

Just when I was thinking no problem could surprise, you have amazed me, Annie. Is that because you’ve been seeking to connect with your late husband through people who claim to be psychically in touch with the dead?

No, of course not. Many find comfort that way — and on the one occasion when journalistic curiosity took me to a medium, the sceptic in me was nonplussed by names mentioned which she couldn’t possibly have known or guessed. So I believe in an open mind.

But not if the process is damaging. What shocks me here is that you have actually chosen to believe the one person who told you something stupid and negative — and permitted his presumptuous words to challenge your faith.

Why? You loved your husband ‘deeply’ — yet you’ve allowed some stranger to come between you. Honestly, you must stop this now.

I’d send that wretched ‘medium’ off to be retrained in the art of silence. As for you — and I advise this with all possible kindness — show more faith and trust in Colin and all you shared.

Since those whom we love deeply remain in our hearts for ever, there should be no need for you to hand over any more money to intermediaries who dare tell you they can interpret his soul.

What can they possibly know —compared with the sum total of lifelong love, and the real, true husband’s voice within your heart?

Your question bewilders me because I have never known anybody to exist in a state of ‘pure happiness’, nor have I any idea why we should hope or expect to.

The modern ‘happiness industry’ (an endless round of talks, books, seminars, articles and wishful thinking) has deceived people into dreaming of the impossible and becoming restless, discontented and even mean-spirited as a result.

In previous times, did people suffer from this delusion? It’s impossible to know — but surely literature and history reveal humans have always been subject to the same brief joys and unfulfilled longings, not to mention fear, hatred, jealousy, gloom, rage, grief, bitterness, nastiness, and self-dislike?

You ask if there is ‘any way I can wake up and feel happy’? My answer is ‘No’ . . . that is, not if you think of happiness as relentlessly shining like a Tuscan sun.

But do you ever wake up and feel quietly pleased? Ever make plans for the day ahead, knowing it will be pleasant — even fulfilling? So why not try to make that your new expectation of happiness?

How sad you are still allowing your angry, disappointed mother to dictate how you see the world. It’s time to reboot your thinking.

Instead of the pointless anguish of ‘How can I love myself?’ ask, ‘Do my children and grandchildren love me?’ If you can answer, ‘Yes’ to that, then you have all any of us can expect this side of Heaven.

Like me, you might have felt despair reading that doctors shouldn’t prescribe painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to millions of chronic pain sufferers because they can do more harm than good.

This is still only a draft document but it now makes me feel worried when I reach for my packet of over-the-counter pills. What hidden side-effects might be blighting my body, mind and spirit?

It’s all very well to talk about the benefits of exercise, but what can you do if you’re already hobbling with a stick?

Having had my left hip replaced in 2017, I’m now really suffering with the right, which will hopefully be replaced in the autumn. Then, ten days ago, I bent awkwardly after a shower and wrenched my lower back. I felt it go into spasm — for which the only thing you do is (yes) reach for the magic pills, which have little effect.

My daughter arranged for a good masseuse to come to our house, which was lovely but didn’t sort out my back. Might I try acupuncture? Sitting at a desk is impossible so I’m writing this on a tray on my lap, dogged with dull pain even when not moving. It’s depressing and debilitating — and I feel pretty miserable.

Each week, you tell me your troubles, so now I am telling you mine. The question for all of us is — how does one learn fortitude?

I’m very far from being a hypochondriac and readily adopt my mother’s tough mantra: ‘You just have to get on with it.’ I’ve also tried to imagine what daily life is like for those with a real disability who struggle and suffer because there’s no choice. At least I can take comfort from the knowledge that the way I feel at the moment isn’t permanent.

Nevertheless, my question remains. How to cope? So . . . deep breathing (tick), scented candle (tick), making myself walk with my pretty stick (tick) — and if I can’t munch a mouthful of painkillers, a stiff vodka and tonic!

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