BEL MOONEY: Why can’t my in-laws forgive me for being the other woman?

BEL MOONEY: Why can’t my in-laws forgive me for being the other woman?

Dear Bel,

My now husband and I had a three-month affair in early 2020 when he was engaged with a two-year-old daughter. I’d been through a divorce, an abusive relationship, then a brief relationship with an alcoholic and, when we met, Bob and I felt instant attraction.

We talked for hours; he was so kind and caring. I’d never had an affair before, but had the selfish view that I’d met the man for me —which I’m ashamed to admit.

Bob told me his relationship was toxic, with separate beds and interests and arguments. I said I wouldn’t be ‘the other woman’, so he must choose. Bob worried about not seeing his daughter if they split.

But he insisted he just wanted to be together and when Covid hit we shared my home. It was hard for his parents, as he had been with his previous partner for eight years and they were used to having their grandchild to stay.

I became pregnant in April 2020 —unplanned but we were happy, albeit terrified of what people would think. I’d already lost a lot of friends who didn’t like what I’d done.

My family struggled, too, but said they loved me and would support our relationship. Bob’s family were not happy and his sister hasn’t spoken to him since. They didn’t want to meet me.

Before the birth we married with only my parents there. Bob’s parents refused to attend and begged him not to marry me. Our baby boy was born in December and his parents visited five days later and stayed for 40 minutes. That was progress.

Within days, our baby fell ill and was hospitalised for ten days. His parents sent texts to Bob, but didn’t visit for weeks after the baby came out of hospital, or then for months.

We said we’d love them to be involved, but they said no, their family would never accept me. This visit ended with me crying after his mother insinuated I was a tart.

The rejection has been painful. Bob has suffered with depression, with this a big contributor. We have a good relationship with Bob’s ex — now with another partner — and there’s a shared care arrangement for both children.

His parents will see our child, but not us. They want to take him to visit the sister, who still refuses to meet me. How can we develop a relationship with people like this?

I don’t think Bob’s parents are bad people. But they all rejected us and haven’t so much as sent a card for the baby. How can they do this to their son and grandson? Surely love for your children should be unconditional?

Do we walk away, close the door or leave it open?

LIANNE

This week, Bel advises a mother with a young baby who feels cut off from their-in-laws after her relationship with their son was born from an affair

This week, Bel advises a mother with a young baby who feels cut off from their-in-laws after her relationship with their son was born from an affair 

There’s a powerful sense in your very long email (much shortened for publication) that you still carry a sense of guilt for beginning an affair with a man who was all-but-married, with a small daughter.

You confess you were selfish but that, after your relationship disasters, you were keen to cling to the unexpected happiness you had suddenly found.

Who can blame you for that? Plenty of people fall in love with the ‘wrong’ person, who later actually turns out to be Mr or Ms Right.

Some relationships run their course in order to let new ones thrive. And pinning all the blame for a break-up on one half of a couple is too simplistic.

Thought of the day  

My one requirement: that you stay with me.

I want to hear you, grumble as you may.

If you were deaf I’d need what you might say.

If you were dumb I’d need what you might see.

From Sonnet 19 by Bertolt Brecht (German poet and playwright, 1898-1956)

 

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I often find that the people who are the most judgmental about affairs and splits are the very ones whose private lives have been pretty questionable.

Of course, it’s very sad when a marriage (or near marriage in Bob’s case) ends, especially when there is a child involved.

It’s horrible for the one left behind because of a new love. Such pain, such an ache of rejection, such anger at being scorned, is felt all over the world, every minute of every day. Passionate love is a terrible sickness and plenty of people catch it, with no vaccine.

Your husband’s family had eight years in which to know and love his ex. They became close to her extended family, too. When the baby girl came along, Bob’s parents must have felt ecstatic.

How were they to know a thunderbolt was about to hit him, resulting in the end of that long relationship and engagement? The situation is hard for a family.

People sometimes forget that when a couple splits up, the ripples spread outwards and family members can be deeply upset. Nobody can say, ‘It’s not their business’ because long-developed feelings of affection do make them involved, like it or not.

But choosing to continue with a grudge, when the couple has shown commitment by marrying and bearing a child? No, that’s wrong.

Nobody is saying Bob’s parents and sister should be ready to play Happy Families as if nothing had happened. Their feelings for Bob’s old fiancée won’t just evaporate.

But forgiveness is surely possible when that lady is happy with a new man, when she has moved on with life and left her hurt behind.

Time now for others to follow suit, for Bob’s family to behave like adults and go through the motions of moving on, even if they don’t feel it in their hearts. They need to accept you now, even if they secretly still prefer the other one. Even if they do come round, as they should, it will never be easy for you to accept them.

But it must happen, for the sake of Bob and your little son.

Don’t expect them suddenly to be loving, but please . . . do keep the door open.

I despair about our world of woe

Dear Bel,

I love your column and respect and admire the wisdom you share. I honestly think that a column like yours can change lives.

I’m wondering if you could share your opinion of the times in which we live. I think this would be helpful to many people.

You see, recently I wrote an email to my family in Canada and was shocked (when I read it back) at all the negativity in the content.

I went on and on about energy costs, strikes, lack of leadership, economic woes, poor crops due to droughts/climate change, the war in Ukraine . . . you get the idea. Life can feel so depressing.

That’s why I can’t help wondering how you are coping with all the challenges of today’s living. Does it get you down?

DIANA

Your kind comments are much appreciated at a time when I need them, not because of the world situation, but owing to a private worry which no wisdom can solve. Isn’t that how life is?

So that even in a time of national crisis a woman will feel anguish because someone she loves is unhappy?

Like everyone else, I have to accept that there are things — both national and personal — that I have no power to change.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

In this column I regularly try to share positivity, but there’s always somebody reading who’ll take umbrage at a throwaway remark and write telling me how ‘angry’ and ‘disgusted’ they are. Isn’t that how life is, too?

As I implied in a recent (and again, very positive) ‘And Finally’, contemplating history and death puts so many things in perspective.

I explained that is why I have a smiling-skeleton ornament sitting underneath my computer and one delighted reader loved this message so much she found her own merry little skellie for a positive mascot saying: ‘Live life now while you can.’

You sent your email before the death of our late Queen and the period of mourning and magnificent funeral which astonished the world with its solemn grandeur and heart-breaking beauty.

Now, with all of that so fresh in my mind, I feel a new surge of hope, not because the problems of the world are in any way diminished, but on account of the love and good humour, as well as the shared sorrow, which united our nation.

Not all parts, of course. There will always be divisions and those who dislike the monarchy, as well as other British institutions many of us hold dear. So what?

We might call even the nastiness they often spout a form of diversity. It takes all sorts . . .

When you reach my age you have seen so many leaders (some good, some appalling) and so many crises, you just take them on the chin. ‘This too will pass’ is as useful when thinking of politics as it is when reflecting on your private woes.

As a dyed-in-the-wool realist, I’ve moved politically from the idealistic Left to the pragmatic Right-of-centre and from general optimism (believing in the best of human nature) to the weary scepticism I often feel today.

I detest all extremes, but nothing in politics ‘gets me down’ because people are pretty predictable and I don’t expect anything better.

But when there is a shocking natural disaster, as well as sadness I feel renewed hope because people are so compassionate, so generous — for example, when this paper set up its fund to help Ukraine.

However, that awareness of goodness has to be balanced by a darker awareness of greed, exploitation or malice. This column has accustomed me to human weakness. Perfection is impossible; all we can do is our best.

I cope with challenges by saying that since my personal life has always been difficult, since childhood, the only solution is to be very, very resilient.

And after that? Just become even stronger. That’s how you survive.

And finally…Carers must take care of themselves

Two weeks ago, I published a letter from ‘Alexandra’ about her selfish, difficult parents. It struck a chord with many readers.

As I’ve said before, it’s all very well for politicians to say it’s the duty of families to look after elderly relatives, but do they consider how difficult that can be?

The truth is, elderly people can themselves be very difficult. All the goodwill, sense of duty and sentimentality in the world can’t fudge that painful truth.

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]

Names are changed to protect identities. 

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

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Elizabeth spoke for many when she wrote: ‘Please let Alexandra know she is not alone!’

Readers agreed with me that, no matter how hard, Alexandra must set boundaries, even when her parents sulk/scream, as they will. One reader, Sarah, came up with a whole list of good suggestions (based on experience), which I’ll share:

‘I got a carer in for my parents who didn’t want her but I stuck to my guns. Alex will have to persevere.

‘She doesn’t have to be a drudge and go shopping for them, when there is home delivery now — ask them to make a list each week; if they don’t, just order in what she knows they need.

‘Turn the phone off and switch it on twice a day (make sure they are aware of this happening and the times), post things up on a message board erected in the kitchen.

‘Look into equity release to raise finance on the house they live in, if they are short of money.

‘Be strong. When they start to have a go at you, don’t get angry, look at them compassionately, pat them on the shoulder and say you will see them later; walk out calmly and slowly, head held high. Leave it a good two days before you go back in. They will learn.’

When I was younger, I would have judged such advice unduly harsh. But now I know that carers have to look after and protect themselves as well.

How else can you be any use to anyone?

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