BEL MOONEY: Should I run away with the love of my life?

Dear Bel,
I've been with my partner for 12 years and we have two young children. Though happy with my family, I'm no longer in love with my partner.
My wants and needs have changed. If we didn't have children together I wouldn't choose to spend my life with him.
We've had a very up and down relationship (he didn't treat me well) and broke up more than once, last time because he didn't want children.
I left and got back in touch with an old friend I'd been very close to for nearly ten years — soulmates. He's an amazing person: kind, caring, ambitious and trusting.
But he'd just started seeing someone new and it became serious. Eventually I went back to my partner who convinced me he'd changed and now wanted to get married. I was happy and we had a baby but knew deep down my partner was not my soulmate.
Two years later, I bumped into my friend and afterwards he sent several messages saying he loved me, missed me and thought about me constantly.
I couldn't understand why he was telling me that, since he was still with his partner. I kept thinking about him, but then he told me he must cut contact for the sake of his relationship. I understood, but it broke my heart.
I had another beautiful baby. I was contented but deep down still not entirely happy. Four years passed and I bumped into my friend in a car park.
He told me he was sorry for cutting our friendship, became really emotional and said he was about to become a father himself. Then he said he still loved me and I must always remember that was how he felt. He then walked away and I knew that was it.
I'm left feeling so hurt. I made a mistake by not having a relationship with him all those years ago and feel weak for going back to my partner, although since the children have come along things are better.
I feel I'm in love with someone I'll never be able to be with.
But if I hadn't got back with my ex I wouldn't have my two beautiful children. I know I should be grateful. But why do I feel this way? Will I always wonder . . . what if?
This week Bel advises a reader if she should leave her husband for the love of her life and soulmate
This week Bel advises a reader if she should leave her husband for the love of her life and soulmate
Think of all the doorways in a single life: splendid portals; doors into other destinies; gates into unknown gardens. Roads not taken, which might have made all the difference.
What if I (or you reading this) had married my first love? Would we have been happy? Or supposing I had moved to that city, done that course, taken that job? Would life be better? The imponderable question 'What if?' will always whisper in your ear.
The thing about fantasies is they're usually far-fetched because, of course, in reality you might have opened a door to discontentment or pushed open that enticing gate into a garden choked with weeds. In fiction, life and through this column I have known stories of marriages destroyed (and children damaged) because the grass seemed so much greener . . . then turned out to be full of stinging nettles.


My heart was more disgraceful, more alone,
And more courageous than the world has known.
O passer-by, my heart was like your own.
Epitaph For Everyman by Frances Cornford (English poet 1886-1960)
What is to be done? It's true that some people re-charge themselves by deciding to change, even if that change will take a while and cause great stress.
If it involves passion, the process can easily be glamorised by romantics but, believe me, the pain can be almost intolerable. It sounds as if it would have been quite easy for you and your friend to run away together, Jade, so we have to ask why you didn't.
He was in a new relationship; you were momentarily away from your chap, yet not far enough not to go back and start a family. So the hankering wasn't strong enough. That must be significant.
You don't disclose whether or not your friend and you ever made love, but it's hard to believe you didn't. No matter; surely if you were 'meant' to be together that would have been the time? Were these meetings really accidental, or did you keep in touch by text? I feel there's something missing here.
But we should move to the present — and your real life. You have two beautiful children you adore and a partner who's much better than he was. He loves the children, too, and presumably loves you.
Never mind this 'soulmate' stuff; the pair of you are now entrusted with two little people whose happiness and welfare has to be regarded as far more important than any hankering after a fantasy other life. This is the truth and you know it. You need to stop dreaming and work on making this relationship — and your parenting — as good as it can possibly be.
To be honest, I think it was self-indulgent and not very friendly of your 'friend' to leave you with the useless thought that (cue Dolly Parton), 'I will always love you.' He was playing with you. Think about that.Dear Bel,
My husband and I split up nearly 30 years ago and neither of us remarried or even found another partner. We lived close by each other and (unknown to everyone) saw each other every week or so.
We were intimate but that wasn't the whole point of the visits. We cooked each other meals and enjoyed each others' company.
For complicated reasons, he hardly saw our children, although he paid for them and they grew up loving their dad.
About three years, ago he began to grow distant and put off our meetings. We hadn't quarrelled, so I was bewildered.
Eventually, he said he didn't want to see me again. Two months later, I found out he was in a hospice, dying of cancer.
He wouldn't let me visit, but I discovered my daughter had been caring for him at his home when he became ill, even though she hadn't really known him. She had found out about his illness from one of his friends. He made her promise not to tell me.
He died shortly afterwards, with our daughter holding his hand. She said I'd never have recognised him at the end. He wanted to protect me, but I can't forgive him for allowing our daughter to be with him. She suffers from slight mental health problems and gets depressed. She's said repeatedly that the memory of his terror at the moment he died gives her nightmares. Of course I can't blame him though.
I grieved when he died, although people said: 'Oh, you'd been apart a long time anyway.' Things were starting to get slightly easier, but a few months ago I began thinking about him a lot. It's got worse and I cry constantly. I'm bedbound and live alone, so I've plenty time on my hands.
He's become an obsession and I have to get some sort of life back again.
Thirty years ago something rather mysterious happened: you ceased to be married, yet remained closer than many married couples. Even more mysterious, your husband hardly knew his children yet 'they grew up loving their dad'.
Was their estrangement something to do with your divorce? Who instigated the split? Why did you need to keep your ongoing relationship with him a secret and why are you still afraid they will find out, as you mention in your uncut letter?It's very strange. Yet your daughter was ready to embrace secrecy, too, and not whisper to you that her father was ill. Oh, how much time is lost forever in families where people don't talk to each other! It's tragic.
Your current home situation is clearly very hard; no wonder you are in a state of permanent upset. But I wonder whether it's entirely due to grief for your ex?
May I gently suggest that confusion shows in two contradictory statements: 'I can't forgive him,' and 'I can't blame him.' You do blame him and feel jealous and shut out because your daughter was with him at the end. Did he do this to protect you? Did he think you couldn't cope? What's more, you lived 'close by' yet never went round to see him. Are you now consumed with guilt (as well as grief) because of that unbridgeable gulf?
I suspect it's getting 'worse' because you haven't begun to make sense of what happened. Many people grieve at the death of an ex-partner, because you are mourning the life you didn't have together, the potential wasted, the love you couldn't sustain.
Such feelings must be made worse for you by the strange, secret life you led with him afterwards and the knowledge that, in the end, he didn't want you to be with him, for whatever reason.
I do not say these things to make you sadder (and I'm sorry if they do) but to encourage you to look back with honesty and acceptance and to look forward with your confusion laid to rest.
Now I think you should be honest with your children, perhaps for the first time, and not continue with this strange, inexplicable charade that you didn't see their father. How can you unburden yourself to them if you don't tell them your real feelings? You will surely need your family in the coming months and years.
I think your heart will be easier if you give those you love the gift of truth, at last. If you let them know that their father and you had a complicated relationship, yet loved each other.
Why not try writing it all down because, after all, you close your original email to me saying it helped to write this down?
I think it's time to celebrate with your children everything that was good about the man you all loved.
And finally... A postbag of joy, pain and perspective
Recently I told you about the sack of letters — the lockdown backlog. Now I've worked through every single item, here's a quick pick.
First, a huge thank you for beautiful blessings and pretty cards of appreciation. Steve wrote: 'Is it nice or spooky that so many people you've never met would like to be your friend?' And charming Richard sent a compliment. Thanks, chaps, for making me smile.
Kathleen and Colin sent poems (I'm sorry I can't print them) and Ian, Margaret, Sophia, Ken, David and Roland are just some of the many who shared poignant stories of loss, while Lin cheered me with a happy tale of new love after widowhood.

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
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
More good news came from Jo, who is now reunited with her estranged second son. Hooray for life's surprises, which is why you should never give up.
Just sharing stories means so much to people. An 85-year-old with arthritis apologised for her poor handwriting but explained: 'I know you read all letters so feel I want to write too.' She told me about her family, but gave no name or address.
Another octogenarian, Maureen, wrote: 'I wanted you of all people to know my story.' It was a sad one, of new love in old age curtailed by adult children.
Listen to the heart-breaking poetry at the end of Dawn's terrible story of abuse and a life in therapy: 'I am profoundly lonely. When you walk along a beach and look back and see your footprints in the sand, it must be reassuring to know you were there. When I look back, there are no footprints.' If you are reading, Dawn, you made a footprint on my heart.
Former soldier Bill wrote: 'I have seen and done terrible things in my life and recent events in the world have made me howl with despair. But I have also seen many acts of inspiring love and kindness.'
After a pretty tiring trawl though my mailbag, I'm glad Bill reminded me that there is always that balance.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.