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BEL MOONEY: How can I let my cheating husband go when I still love him?

Dear Bel,  

I’m 60 and have been married for nearly 30 years.

At the moment I’m feeling like I just want to leave this world because I am so unhappy.

My husband, whom I love very much, has been having an affair for more than five years with a married woman. I think he would have left me a long time ago if she had been free.

Last year he left me for a short time but came back because she returned to her husband.

Thought of the day 

We are so often being asked to side with one of two fundamentalisms. But many of us are poised somewhere in the balance — uncomfortable, difficult to articulate but the place of integrity for us . . . thinking critically and trying to live faithfully.

From The Splash Of Words, by Mark Oakley (b. 1968, literary critic and Dean of St John’s College Cambridge) 

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They rented a property and furnished it, and all the while he made out to me that we were fine and everything was OK.

If I questioned him and asked if he was seeing her again he would tell me I was being paranoid and that he hadn’t seen her for months.

Then, one day, he told me he was leaving, that he had to get away as he wanted a different life. He said he didn’t love me in the way that he should any more. I was absolutely heartbroken.

I felt so ill with anxiety and shock. A week later he asked if he could come home.

I just felt tremendous relief and happiness. He told me we would make our marriage work and that he still loved me. The difficult part is that I get flashbacks and anxiety attacks when I think about how he left me.

Unfortunately I feel he is seeing her again.

We were happy for just a little while, but his old behaviour has started again.

He is being secretive and taking his phone everywhere with him, even into the bathroom. I feel he is distancing himself from me — while telling me nothing is wrong.

Just now I feel as though I can’t go on. I’m broken inside and so afraid that this time he will leave for good.

I know that I should let him go. I’m just afraid to be without him.

I realise he must have not had feelings for me for a long time — otherwise he couldn’t put me through this.

I still love him though. The situation is making me feel ridiculous.

I know that I am being quite pathetic and I should let him go. Can you please advise me, Bel?

How do I deal with this awful situation? How do I find the strength to go on and get better?

SOPHIA

This week Bel advises a reader who doesn't know how to let her cheating husband go because she still loves him

This week Bel advises a reader who doesn't know how to let her cheating husband go because she still loves him

This week Bel advises a reader who doesn’t know how to let her cheating husband go because she still loves him

There is no doubt that love and suffering are all too often two sides of the same coin. An old Irish ballad contains the lines, ‘He is my love, O he is my love / The man who is most for destroying me.’

A million songs, poems, novels and plays have told the same story — your story: a tale of long-standing love crying out to be heard even though the beloved doesn’t want to listen.

It’s one of the saddest sagas in human existence, one I have encountered so many times in life and through this column. And a pain I have experienced myself, too.

So what can I say to you, Sophia, except that, in sisterhood, I understand? Some of us believed we were proud, strong women yet, when it came to the point, realised that we would bow before harsh words and grovel on the ground, rather than be left alone by the husband.

Such love is at the same time awe-inspiring and awful. It can turn you into the weak, almost contemptible victim in those broken-hearted torch songs that plead, ‘Don’t leave me .. . let me be the shadow of your dog . . .’

Unless, that is, you stand up and refuse to accept victimhood any more. At the moment you feel life is not worth living without your husband, but suppose I tell you that countless women have felt the same way but stood up to that feeling — shouting No!

At the moment you suspect he is with her again, but you don’t know. You remember what it felt like to have your neck on the executioner’s block — and yet you are ready to bend it again. Passively you wait for the axe, in defeated terror. You used the word ‘pathetic’ yourself.

Are you ready to let it define who you are? The alternative is to level with your husband. I wish you the courage to do this. Be calm, but firm and reasonable. Tell him that the last time was once too often and you will not wait for it to happen again. Say you value your own life too much to waste time waiting to know if he is seeing this woman again.

Tell him there are many sorts of love, and while you understand the romantic passion he felt for her, there is also the love you’ve shared through 30 years — and it’s just as meaningful.

Point out that it’s clearly stronger than what they had/have — otherwise their ‘escape’ would have worked. Yet you two — husband and wife — are still together.

Tell him you love him, but refuse to live your life not knowing what’s going to happen. Therefore, what does he want to do?

The only way for you ‘to go on’ is to be tough. Very difficult, I know. But essential — because it’s time.     

I loathe summer because I have such ugly legs 

Dear Bel,   

I am writing to you even though I know there is no solution to my problem, which has been with me almost all my adult life — and I’m now 76.

But I’m not a ‘blue rinse, twinset and pearls’ old lady; just someone who detests summer and hot weather. Why? My legs. Please don’t dismiss this comment as just another woman unhappy with her body.

Seriously, my legs are so ugly I am even reluctant to let a doctor glimpse them.

Not only are my calves huge (inherited from my mother — the rest of me has always been fairly slim), my legs are bowed and worst of all, show masses of blue/purple veins.

When I was young in the Sixties, I was never able to wear swimwear, shorts or mini dresses. I endured bitchy remarks like, ‘You’ve got legs like a rugby player’ etc.

They’ve caused me so much trauma and unhappiness. I’ve been on holidays when everyone was wearing shorts during the day, except me. I’ve always longed to have slim legs, which is silly because it never can be.

I always cover them and can’t bear my husband to see them. He was once fastening some boots up for me, with difficulty, and started saying, ‘You haven’t got slim ankles like most…’ and stopped himself.

Magazine articles about how to ‘get the perfect legs for summer’ make me weep.

Truthfully, I have never seen another woman with legs like mine.

I just needed a shoulder to cry on. Have you got any suggestions?

ANN 

PERHAPS some people are expostulating, ‘Why is Bel printing a letter about somebody’s fat legs?’ And, ‘Surely there are more important issues in the world?’

But I mentioned your email to my mother, who’s had varicose veins almost all her adult life. She fully understood why you’re upset. And so did I. Physical flaws can cut to our hearts — and it’s no help if people say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter.’

We see the extremes of this in body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) — a mental health condition (to quote the NHS) ‘where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others… Having BDD does not mean you are vain or self-obsessed. It can be very upsetting and have a big impact on your life’.

Many of us dislike an aspect of our looks. For me growing up, it was wearing glasses. For another it might be red hair or a big nose. You either do something about it (from contact lenses to plastic surgery) or come to terms with the ‘flaw’.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

These days I believe it’s harder than ever to shrug and accept because we’re so bombarded with glamour. Love Island has much to answer for — as it makes young people addicted to the show insecure and unhappy about their faces and bodies.

You could do nothing about the legs you so dislike, and that’s why my shoulder is ready for tears — because I can imagine how hard it was when you and I were young. Age brings problems, but at least releases us from miniskirts and shorts!

These days it’s possible to dress in a wide variety of styles which disguise flaws. Personally, I don’t think women of 70-plus sashaying around in shorts is a good look, whereas wide trousers or palazzo pants are just perfect. Swishy ones in light fabrics, heavier for cooler weather, sporty ones with stripes is the way forward!

Look at the websites of M&S, Zara, Boden, eBay . . . search for ‘wide-legged trousers’ and you’ll find some great buys on sale. Pair with the latest trainers (Russell & Bromley has a sale on, and its platform trainers are good with ‘big’ trousers — just try) and you’ll look very on trend. Make this your own style.

Those, poor unloved legs have carried you faithfully for 76 years, so ensure you reward them with lovely body lotion every time you shower. Then veil them stylishly.

I never thought I’d make any fashion references here, but I know clothes matter as statements of who we are and how we value ourselves. So no more tears, Ann.   

And finally… Let’s salute the courage to fight on . . .

Do YOU feel buffeted and baffled by events? As we reach July I find myself struggling — and I bet many of you feel the same.

The summer is off, then ‘on’. Lockdown is ended — but then brought back in some places, because of spikes in Covid-19. Oh, joy.

The Prime Minister promises massive spending — but economic prospects are dire and human misery will be unavoidable. The weather was blazing hot — but now (as I write this) grey, cold and rainy.

Meanwhile, the racism debate has ignited, statues are torn down, and the stupidity transforms me (sometimes) from a tolerant, loving person into a homicidal maniac.

When I watch the news I want to put my head in a hole, because I’m so tired of incomprehensible graphs and models comparing death rates like some sort of Olympics. It’s all thoroughly depressing.

Contact Bel 

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.

But I’m not supposed to be gloomy, am I? Even though I have a family problem for which I (someone who is a problem-solver) can’t see a solution, I have to play keepy-uppy with my own feelings. So here goes.

Last week’s main letter from ‘Mavis’ (tormented by her bullying husband) brought a deluge of emails, all encouraging her to leave him.

And while each one told its own sad story, the courage of each person and the fellow-feeling for poor Mavis was stupendous. Thank you all for those thoughts, which I’ve passed on.

Then there were warm, touching responses to my article about pet bereavement, and other emails telling happy stories of reunions.

We, too, experienced that with a wonderful (socially-distanced) family barbecue for my husband’s birthday.

The word ‘heart-warming’ really means something — when I reflect on goodness, family love and the sheer courage which enables people to get over their ‘down’ moments and get on with life. Thank you for all the evidence.  

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