BEL MOONEY: Is it time to stop Mum from living with her 'gold-digger'?

 Dear Bel,

I wrote in 2018 to seek your advice about my mum (then 74), who had started a relationship with a 58-year-old married man, whom she met through her church.

I was concerned at the pressure he was placing on Mum to live together so soon after starting the affair, given her age and the fact that she’s a wealthy widow.

Even though he has a salary of £60,000, a good pension and owns his own mortgage-free home (worth about £300,000) with his wife, he said he could not afford to buy or rent his own flat with a divorce settlement to pay for.

Thought for the day 

[He thought]… Half of human unhappiness, if not more, was due to the fact that people did not accept a certain measure of predestined, unavoidable unhappiness.

From A Time Of Love And Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith (British writer, born 1948)Three years later, in December last year, his wife found out about the relationship. Mum was already planning to buy a house for them both. She has since found one and is due to complete the purchase in June.

Meanwhile, he remains in the marital home and FaceTimes Mum nightly from a spare bedroom. Surely his wife can hear? Why hasn’t he had the decency to move into a flat and spare her further heartache? Why hasn’t she kicked him out?

They still share a bank account and he hasn’t yet spoken to a divorce lawyer. It seems he is waiting until Mum has exchanged contracts on the new house before deciding when he will leave. I know from talking to Mum and some of her friends that, because he pleads poverty, she plans to give him all the money he loses in his divorce. This could be as much as £300,000.

Why is he prepared to allow Mum to reimburse him? I have asked but she gets defensive and aggressive.

I have also asked her to tell her children what arrangements she has made if she dies in the new house while still with him.

Is he to remain there for a while? Will she gift him the house? We deserve to know, but she gets defensive again, obviously worried about how we may react.

There is already imbalance in their relationship; apart from the money and the age difference, he still works, has no children, family or friends or outside interests.

Mum is retired, has three children and is close to her brothers and dear friends.

I cannot go on asking Mum to exercise caution, and desperately don’t want my relationship with her to be affected.

But I dread to think what the future holds, and part of me wants to shield myself from any more anxiety by not being a party to it.

How do I manage all of these conflicting issues?


This week Bel advises a concerned daughter who is in a relationship with a married man, whom she is concerned is taking her for a ride

This week Bel advises a concerned daughter who is in a relationship with a married man, whom she is concerned is taking her for a ride

Naturally, I dug out your letter, published on June 23, 2018, and headlined: ‘We fear a gold-digger's after Mum.’

At the time, I expressed concern that, after knowing her for one week, this man had told your mother he wanted to leave his wife of 28 years. I said it worried me that he might ditch your mother just as speedily. I still can’t help but share your suspicions.

Yes, you are worried about her money — and sometimes inheritance issues bother me, but not in this case because it feels understandable. I know from both longer letters how anxious you are about your mother being exploited and hurt.

Three years on, the situation is even stranger. This man has lied and cheated, increased his emotional hold on your mother, yet done nothing at all to pull away from his wife to show both women some respect.

The fact that he doesn’t even have his own bank account is a warning sign to me; he sounds like a weak-willed bloke all too keen to cling to the apron strings of one woman or another.

Having said that, the relationship has lasted for three years, including lockdowns, so we have to believe he genuinely loves your mother — because if he doesn’t, he is perpetrating a truly wicked fraud.

In your place, I too would be very worried and frustrated — and tired, too. I can see why you’re feeling that you just don’t want to know, because there isn’t any course of action to recommend.

The most important thing is to make sure you don’t fall out with your mother, who (I’m sure) will need you more and more as she grows older. But she’s independent and in command of all her faculties, so I’m afraid there’s little you can do to dissuade her from a course of action she seems to have set her heart on.

It’s vital that you let her know that her welfare is your prime concern and she can count on you to be there to help when she needs it. Then try to step back a pace or two, for now.

There are still many imponderables here.

Will her house purchase go through? Will he have the courage to leave his wife? Will your mother find living with him less romantic than she expects?

Issues to do with divorce, re-marriage and the will have all to unfold and be dealt with, and while I totally sympathise with your anxiety, I don’t think you should let it ruin your daily life.


Will I have any friends at my funeral?

Dear Bel,

I have been dwelling on the subject of my funeral.

I don’t have a terminal illness and am not contemplating taking my own life — so I don’t have any idea when this could be.

But with all the lockdowns I have become more aware of how few people I actually know in a casual way, apart from family members.

I seem to have gone through life with few (if any) friends. I have moved many times and lost contact with people along the way. I am divorced and spent a great part of my middle years bringing up my four children alone.

A woman I have known for only three years died some months ago, having lived with her husband in the same house for 50 years, so knew all their neighbours.

Her funeral was limited in number only because of Covid restrictions. But at least 150 of their friends applied for a ‘place’.

How wonderful to have so many friends who thought so highly of you!

Apart from my children and grandchildren, I cannot think of one other person who could/would be there. I feel this is a sad indictment of my life. I’m in my late 70s, so please don’t tell me to go out and ‘make’ friends. I don’t know how to.

I saw a sad TV programme many years ago (I think the topic was loneliness) that told the story of a woman leaving her body to medical science because she had no friends at all and only one son.

She did not want her funeral to be attended by no one. I know how she felt.

Please advise how I can stop thinking about this.


The funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh is still in my mind, especially the fact that he planned it all.

To me, it’s moving and uplifting that a person can face up to the thought of death in that way. But such foresight is not just the prerogative of the old.

Many years ago, my ex-husband and I attended the funeral of a family friend in the Highlands. Knowing her cancer was terminal, the brilliant artist in her 40s wrote out every detail of her beautiful funeral, down to the ceremonial placing of tea-lights on her coffin.

You might gather that I am not going to attempt bracing ‘pull yourself together’ advice. I believe each one of us should contemplate death and use such reflections to shine a light on life itself. I like thinking of readings I want at my funeral and I’ve vowed to write them down.

But, in fact, your email is about life, not death; about the past rather than the future. The stress of the past year, with death statistics in the news all the time and lockdown driving us all into ourselves, has fed these unhappy thoughts about how small your funeral would be.

But that is because you regret not making more friends (and keeping them) in your life. It’s why you’re wistful to recall the popularity of that woman you knew.

You beg me not to tell you to go out and make friends — and it is right that you reject that staple of advice columnists. Of course, friends aren’t out there to be picked up like a bunch of daffodils. But I suggest you value the life you have.

Instead of living the life you imagined (as in a famous quote by the American writer Henry Thoreau), why not accept yourself and reflect on what there is to celebrate in the days you have already lived and those still left to you?

Why do you think being wildly sociable and popular is the only way to live? Some thoughtful souls thrive on a quiet life — and why shouldn’t they? There is nothing wrong with solitude, you know.

But since you have children and grandchildren, you are far from alone — and if any of them have partners, that widens your circle even more. All those relationships can be worked on. Pay attention to them because that’s the best way of receiving attention back.

You could start a project of trying to trace people in your past whom you liked but lost touch with because you were raising four kids alone. Email and the internet make these things possible.

How are they doing? They might like to hear from you. Do you have neighbours? Passing the time of day may be rather hard if you are shy, but ‘hard’ doesn’t mean ‘impossible’.

I’m asking you to question that ‘sad indictment’ self-flagellation, which is doing you no good at all — and tell yourself that there is nothing wrong with the life you have led, which is about to enter a new phase. Start by looking outwards.


And finally... It really is good for us to talk 

Now so many people are scenting freedom (I’m having my second jab today!), many of us are remembering the times in lockdown and how we coped.

I’ll always be haunted by the terrible statistics, not just of daily deaths but of domestic violence, abuse of children and despair. So it was interesting to read the results of a survey carried out by Welldoing, the excellent website ( that provides an invaluable guide to therapy and therapists.

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.

Previously, this was a niche service — but now it’s well-established and seen by 82 per cent of therapists as at least acceptable, and 41 per cent as better than they had expected.

(Isn’t it interesting how people get used to change, even if most clients want face-to-face sessions to return?)

When asked what clients wanted to talk about, the therapists put anxiety at the top — which is hardly a surprise. Here’s how the list broke down:

  •  Anxiety — 83 per cent
  •  Relationships — 50 per cent
  •  Depression — 47 per cent
  •  Social anxiety — 26 per cent
  •  Health anxiety — 21 per cent
  •  Bereavement — 18 per cent
  •  Addiction — 18 per cent

‘Health anxiety’ comes quite low down, but the mood I’ve always called ‘nameless dread’ (generalised anxiety) is at the top. Lockdown put huge pressure on our resilience, didn’t it? And it’s a short step from feeling down/frazzled/worried to taking it out on your partner. I’ve heard even happily married couples experienced conflict.

The biggest growth of new clients came from young people: under 30, slightly more female than male, often students, and young professionals.

It’s good more people are realising they can reach out.

Now let’s move onwards and upwards, knowing those listening ears are always available. It’s good to talk... 

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