My first advice to you is to stop worrying about this. Nothing can be changed so please don’t waste emotional energy asking ‘why?’

BEL MOONEY: Why can’t my dad and in-laws be better?

Take your life in your own hands and what happens?

A terrible thing: no one to blame.

Erica Jong (American novelist, b 1942)

Dear Bel,

My mother died when I was 13 years old. The emptiness and heartache has never left me. This is the price of love.

I adored her, being with her made me truly happy. I was left with a father who drank, was abusive and did not care about me. I have only seen him four times in 29 years.

Twenty-six years ago, I married a wonderful man and we have three sons. I longed to have my mother’s love and guidance, to share my children’s lives. She’d have been a truly amazing granny.

Sadly, I knew I could never trust my father with my children, so my sons have only seen him three times in their lives — though he felt he had a right to see them.

I have never stopped the boys (all now over 18) from seeing him: they simply don’t want to. He is a stranger, he just happens to be the man who made me. I hoped that when I married I would have a strong relationship with my (divorced) mother and father-in-law.

This I yearned for, but that bond did not happen. My in-laws made it very clear I was not good enough for their son.

So when I was pregnant there was no sign of happiness from them. I was given no help and they never made any effort to see their grandchildren.

I have tried to make the relationships work, but no matter what I did, it simply was not good enough.

Please help me understand why unforgivably bad parents think they have a right to access young human lives not created by them? And why some parents, given the opportunity to have a loving relationship with their daughter-in-law and grandchildren, refuse it?


My first advice to you is to stop worrying about this. Nothing can be changed so please don’t waste emotional energy asking ‘why?’

My first advice to you is to stop worrying about this. Nothing can be changed so please don’t waste emotional energy asking ‘why?’

Recently, I read somewhere that most of us have a wound deep within — something never healed which continues to ache, even to bleed, all our lives.

I know what my own is and the awareness helps me understand certain aspects of my life.

For you, the agony of losing your beloved mother was doubled by being left alone with a terrible father. Such blows the human soul can never ‘get over’.

Your cries of ‘not fair’ must have risen each day to a cold, dark sky —and all the more so as you imagined your mother holding her first grandchild. Oh, so cruel.

No wonder you dreamed of a good relationship with in-laws who might, you hoped, have become parent substitutes. (I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful relationship with mine.) But more ill fortune was your lot. It is easy to understand (especially from your uncut letter) why your life has been marked by sadness, even though you have been blessed in your husband.

How unbearable to imagine you with a new, first baby, hoping your husband’s parents would warm to you and be thrilled about the baby — only to be bitterly disappointed once again.

Tess, you ask me two questions I cannot possible answer. In your longer letter you sweetly tell me that my words have given you comfort over many years, which is why I feel inadequate right now.

Since the behaviour you describe is alien to me I cannot explain it to you. The three older people you mention (your father and the two in-laws) have zero sensitivity.

At least you have been able to cast off your unworthy father and your sons have full choice in the matter.

My first advice to you is to stop worrying about this. Nothing can be changed so please don’t waste emotional energy asking ‘why?’

Your husband must have wondered what made his parents so remote and I imagine he may have asked them. Or perhaps not — but again, there’s nothing you can do about it, except share your feelings with him.

Perhaps, too, you can offer yourself some sort of explanation by wondering what happened to each of them, to make them like this. More wounds?

Again, your sons are now old enough to make their own judgments, so it is too late for those people to become real grandparents. You may feel your family lost out, but the real loss is theirs.

So I beg you to refresh your memory of the Serenity Prayer: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . . .’

Everything takes us back to that child of 13 deprived of the only source of love in her life.

Perhaps it might help you to write her a letter, reaching back down the years and assuring her that she will survive. That one day she will love and be loved and have three terrific sons — four men in her life who will more than make up for that bad father.

That the mother-love she knew for 13 years (and more) was the most precious of indestructible blessings which would turn her into a wonderful mother herself.

Tell little Tess, at this time of gifts, that the future will bring good things for her, against the odds.

As I am telling you now, grown-up Tess, that you must look out for them still.

Look for the light, because you deserve it.

Will my sweetheart ever leave his wife?

Dear Bel,

MORE than 40 years ago, I fell for a sweet boy. We got engaged, he enlisted, was sent abroad, I met someone else and broke it off.

We each dated another person for a couple of years, but our love brought us back together. We were going to try again when his brother convinced him to stay with the other girl.

Now in our 60s, they’re still married, with adult children. He contacted me a year ago to say he shouldn’t have listened to his brother and he wants to leave his wife for me. She’s done nothing wrong, he just doesn’t love her.


I’m a stickler for piling all the old glittery objects on our multi-coloured tree, because I love the memories they carry

I’m a stickler for piling all the old glittery objects on our multi-coloured tree, because I love the memories they carry

How many times do I suggest trying new things?

It’s a familiar ‘go-to’ for advice columnists and so in the summer I spontaneously decided to put my money where my mouth is.

I was in a newish shop in Bath called VV Rouleaux buying trimmings to refurbish clothes (make do and mend!) when I saw a leaflet for a class on making a Christmas tree fairy.

I’m a stickler for piling all the old glittery objects on our multi-coloured tree, because I love the memories they carry.

But our fairy was a disgrace: a second-hand plastic doll dressed up by my daughter when she was about nine. What was white is now grey and the blonde doll has the look of a lady of easy virtue. A change seemed a brilliant idea.

I went to the class recently, it lasted two-and-a-half hours and we were provided with all the materials by a friendly teacher. Now, lonely people are often advised (by me and others) to take classes, but I have to admit that the other fairymakers were disappointingly silent.

Female chat over the beads and trims didn’t happen as I’d hoped. But I suppose you need to take a whole course to get to know people. No matter — I’m so proud of my fairy (above). You see, like many others, I make no time for real creativity. Life is work, parents, grandchildren, more work.

All lovely . . . but that week was fraught, with some difficult news about my 96-year-old dad’s health to deal with, so I nearly dropped the class as I did our social events.

But messing about with tulle, wire, lace and beads did wonders for my soul, reminding me that we need to nurture ourselves. And that saying ‘I’ve no time’ can mean ‘I choose not to allow myself’.

My new creation looks beautiful on top of our tree — and she’ll always remind me to be open to fresh fairydust.

He said it would take him two years to leave her and asked me to wait. I agreed. A year on, he’s made no effort to get out of the marriage, but is clever in sneaking to me without the wife realising.

I now wonder if he intends to leave. And, if he does, will I ever not feel guilty about our deception? If we marry, can I trust him to be faithful?

Perhaps I should get out, but I love him so much! He begs for the extra year, but if he hasn’t filed for divorce yet, I don’t see how this is possible. Because of his wife’s age, he feels obliged to ensure she’s taken care of for the rest of her life. I can understand this, but don’t know if I can live with it.

This is a man leaving his innocent wife because he and I made a mistake more than 40 years ago. Relatives say this is our chance to be together, but it’s not easy starting again at 60.

I’ve often asked if he’s certain. I’m the only one faltering. I want to be with him, but am not sure I can be happy in the aftermath.


This makes me think of novels. Long-lost lovers meet again and realise they were never out of love . . . yes, this is Hollywood, but also George Eliot. Not to mention the story of Prince Charles and Camilla.

The greatest novelists, the finest poets and the cheesiest of screenwriters know there are no rules when it comes to the human heart. A storyline like this is pure gold.

Unless, that is, you happen to be the one who will be hurt. Then the gold dust inflicts terrible damage.

With my former novelist and one-time screenwriter hat on, I could write this myself — but would I give you a happy ending? There’s your problem. The way you tell it, somebody is bound to be wounded, whatever happens.

I’ll jump to your two direct questions. You ask if you could trust him to be faithful — were you to marry — and my instinct says yes. This man loved you when you were young, but you ditched him. He thinks of you as the love of his life and I don’t see why you should disbelieve him.

Witnessing the ease with which he’s ‘sneaking’ to meet up with you, his mistress, you harbour dark suspicions that this could become a habit. I doubt it, you know. You are the one he wants. You always were. That’s why he’s determined to make it happen.

But do you still want him at any price? Your other direct question is whether you would ever lose the guilt . . .and my answer is — no, probably not.

You’re already critical of him for (a) not sounding too bothered about hurting his wife (b) not doing anything to speed up the process, yet (c) being honest enough to tell you that he will go on providing for the woman he intends to wrong.

If he does leave her and you do stay with him, you must realise that you’ll also take on his whole family. You have no partner (it seems), but he is part of an extended unit. This is not youthful romance any more — but messy mature love, involving guilt, regret, recrimination, responsibility.

The subject line of your email asks if this is a mistress’s dream or nightmare. Using the old term ‘mistress’ shows how much you hate it.

I sympathise with your love and your ambivalence, but naturally pity the deceived wife.

The time for ‘sneaking’ is over. He must tell her what’s going on and then the story will unfold. You have to insist — and pray the consequences are not too painful. But I cannot predict the ending.

Posted on; DailyMail>>

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