BEL MOONEY: Has the time come to leave my lazy husband?

Dear Bel,

I am 50, married for 20 years, with three teenage children (19, 17 and 14). A couple of years ago I started a course and developed a mad crush on my teacher. Nothing happened, but it had a big effect on me and my marriage.

My husband has always been lazy at home, his work dominated — although finances were never that steady. I’ve lived virtually the life of a single mother in all but income terms. I never worked, my husband worked long hours.

I limped on until the youngest went to senior school, then suddenly — when I signed up for the college course and longed for that flirty teacher — I realised what I’d been missing out on. A loving, sexual relationship, someone who took a real interest in me, noticed things about me. I sought counselling and have been going for two years. It has helped. My husband was made redundant a year ago, which has made the situation worse. He’s traumatised — losing a job that had become his life.

We don’t seem to agree on much, especially what we spend our money on. Not only do we now have financial problems (because he can’t find a job), the stress of readjusting to this new person at home who doesn’t do any of the normal tasks (washing, cooking, ironing), plus knowing my marriage is very unsatisfactory, has brought me to the brink of divorce.

I’m in my final year of full-time study, my children are old enough not to need to have their father around. Is it unreasonable to do this to the family? Will life be tough on my own? Should I expect more, or accept things as they are?


This week, Bel advises a reader who does not feel satisfied in their marriage and is thinking of divorcing their lazy husband

The ‘one life’ argument says we are on this earth for a short span, and owe it to ourselves to make the most of it.

You are not the first woman in her prime to look at her sleeping husband and realise he just isn’t enough. You won’t be the last to gaze over the gate at the green grass just out of reach.

That the green space could prove to be full of weeds you know quite well — or else you wouldn’t have asked if it will be tough.

On the other hand, if you were brave or desperate enough to make the move (especially lacking the motivation of a lover), then you might find yourself in a state of greater happiness.

But you mustn’t assume the affair you never had would have provided all you say you’ve been missing.

Thought of the day

However carved up Or pared down we get, we keep on making The best of it… 

From The Best Of It by Kay Ryan, (U.S. poet, born 1945). 


Fairness compels me to point out that you’re comparing your familiar, fallible and (now) unhappy husband with a clever charmer (how many mature women students has he led on?) you never knew properly at all.

Your sense of identity had ebbed away amidst the needs of the family, and (like so many couples) you and your husband settled into a traditional relationship in which you ‘allowed’ his selfishness and workaholism.

Perhaps looking ahead to the empty nest pushed you to start that college course. I suspect you were unsettled by more than the ‘crush’.

You have changed, but so has your husband. At the moment you probably both feel intensely lonely, as well as bitterly disappointed, under this roof the world sees as your home. You want so much more than he can give, but maybe deep down you realise you should stop identifying your needs in terms of what a man can provide.

But the internal change required to move beyond a marriage is challenging and frightening.

Your husband feels a failure because he’s lost the thing which defined him: his work. It gave him satisfaction, but also his status as breadwinner, which is now a serious issue between you. Lost, hanging about the house in which he’s played no role, he must know that he’s also failed within marriage, too, in that his wife is so unhappy.

The role each of you willingly took on 20 years ago has been called into question. Meeting the tutor made you discontented with the wife-mother mantle, while the job loss has made your husband feel useless.

You cannot accept things as they are because nobody is happy — and that includes children who must be unsettled by the atmosphere, on top of teen issues. You say they ‘are old enough not to need to have their father around’, but I take issue with that.

You would be amazed at the effect a marriage break-up can have on offspring even in their mid-to-late 20s. So if you do decide to leave, expect them to be angry, probably with you. That’s not said to make you feel guilty, but because it’s true.

What’s the next step? You must decide what your college course is for (employment?) and focus on achieving it. Working towards a serious, new definition of yourself is important.

Then you have to start a serious dialogue with your husband, focusing on changes within you both.

Instead of feeling entirely critical of him, try to show that you understand his grief at the loss of his work identity. But can he accept newness and pull his weight at home? Paying attention to a partner is a two-way process.

In time, when your youngest finishes school, you may be ready to step out on your own.

But you won’t have fallen off the brink in desperation. You’ll have slowly unfolded your wings, because you’ve taught yourself how to fly.

How can people cause so much hurt?

Dear Bel,

Here’s an old problem. How do we get over being hurt by others? So many things are evidence of indifference and neglect — like the poor man wrongly convicted of rape and spending over 17 years in prison, then being asked to pay for his board and lodgings.

In my case it’s the hurt I still feel after many years of how I was treated by someone I treasured as a true friend. She was having an affair with my husband and told me she wouldn’t stop.

They subsequently married. It was not so much the affair as the audacity she showed in saying they were going to carry on whether I liked it or not.


More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

So they did.

Sadly, because of the marriage she is still in my life. Now I have a young relative, Ann, who is devastated by being blocked on all social media by one of her dearest friends — for no reason that she can possibly guess.

I have no idea how to help her with words of comfort because I still carry my hurt in my heart. How can you find supportive and positive phrases when you know just how cruel people can be? How do we come to terms with the awful things people do, quite deliberately, to each other?

What would you advise for Ann? How can I lessen her pain? I have always tried to live by the rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Why do people fail so miserably?


When filing letters, I have seven categories and the first one is ‘Angst’. In many ways it’s the most fascinating, because these are the questions with no ready answers.

The definition is more precise: angst is fear or anxiety (compare the words anguish, anxious and anxiety — all of similar origin). But such feelings can arise when you feel you no longer have the means to understand the world around you and feel defeated by that confusion.

Honestly, that’s the state I live with, woven through with deep sadness like a black thread, every single day.

But isn’t that normal, especially as you become older, with so much ‘baggage’? Some memories are delightful, of course, and you treasure them. Others will stab you with pain, even decades afterwards. I find it limited and rather insensitive (though well-meaning) when people suggest, with good cheer, that you can ‘get over’ pain, and that ‘time heals’.

More resilient than many people, I’m still convinced we merely carry our pain with us (as you have found out) but, with luck, develop the muscles to carry its weight. As for time healing . . . well, it certainly does change and blunt the sharpness of pain, but when a wound becomes a scab, it can still open and bleed. And when that scab becomes scar tissue, it’s still there, visible, growing fainter with the years, but still a mark.

I don’t think you have to find a word formula to comfort Ann. Sometimes comforting phrases serve only to diminish someone’s distress.

She is hurt and bewildered — and the only thing to do is tell her you understand how awful this is. It may have happened because her friend has changed. In other words, it’s nothing Ann has said or done, but some other happening.

Sometimes people are destined to drift out of our lives and, although it might hurt at the time, it must be accepted.

You mention the Golden Rule, which is the basis of all systems of faith and of ethics. Of course it should be the only way to live — and yet it cannot be. Why? Because of the worm in the bud, the snake in the garden, the rogue cell that can kill.

Human beings are capable of great achievements and immense courage and compassion. Yet the human race is also vain, greedy, murderous, viciously lustful, destructive, thoughtless, trivial, envious, indifferent, lying and self-indulgent. Some readers might wonder why I’m so negative when I should be offering positivity. But I understand pain very well — so I’ll leave simplified, uplifting mottos for others.

And finally… why I find comfort in Christianity

A Star Wars exhibition in Peterborough Cathedral? Cool! The Church of England agrees with secularists and socialists that GB is no longer a Christian nation.

Contact Bel

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week. 

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email [email protected]

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.


So let’s go buy a decorative resin Buddha, genuflect in yoga, and promote multi-culturalism — as long as it doesn’t focus on the Holy Bible and call that business with the tree ‘Christmas’.

Let’s celebrate the ethics of a tolerant, liberal society, as long as we don’t quote the high ideals of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Let’s ignore the brutal truths about the worldwide persecution of Christians, but feel oh-so virtuous with a sign saying ‘Refugees Welcome’.

Let’s huddle in mute agony when a loved one is ill, because we can no longer whisper: ‘Dear Lord, please help.’

When I was 17, I bought the Penguin Guide To Comparative Religion and have always been interested in all faiths.

But I depend for spiritual and mental sustenance on the sacred music, art and literature that defines our great Western culture. Yes, Christianity.

About ten years ago in our parish church, I felt very sad that there were so few people and I thought of so many mosques always packed with worshippers.

Since then I’ve worn a tiny white-gold cross 24/7 to proclaim what I consider to be the wisest, most humane and most beautiful teachings of all the world faiths I have studied.

In 2010 the Psychiatric Times reported: ‘Recently, there has been a burgeoning of systematic research into religion, spirituality and mental health . . . The evidence suggests that, on balance, religious involvement is generally conducive to better mental health. In addition, patients with psychiatric disorders frequently use religion to cope with their distress.’

That doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts. It just means you’re able to find precious comfort in looking outside yourself, acknowledging spiritual need and feeling awe and gratitude at the miracle of the smallest spider web.


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