BEL MOONEY: How can he leave me now over my weight?

BEL MOONEY: How can he leave me now over my weight?

Dear Bel,

Today my husband returned from work and told me he is leaving. We’ve been together 34 years, married for 26, have no children (through choice), and are both 18 months off retirement.

To say I’m devastated is an understatement. We’ve survived problems on and off over the years but I always thought we could get through anything.

There’s no changing his mind. No one else is involved — he just wants to be happy. We are not close mainly because I am fat and he can’t accept it any more.

Thought of the day 

…every human being is worthy of attention… the origins of every good and evil capability of the universe may be found in observing a single, even very humble, person and the turnings of his or her mind.

From A Swim In A Pond In The Rain by George Saunders (American writer and teacher, b 1958)

 

I have always had a weight problem but was a lot thinner in the early days. I’ve been told by doctors to lose weight, but I lose a bit then go back to how I was. He has given me support over the years.

He says he still loves me, as I do him, so why can’t we work at it some more?

He says we’ve been here too many times and he’s had enough because I promise things will change but they never do. Now he’s determined.

He says I’m a plodder who goes through life content with everything, while he’s become more and more miserable. He thinks I’ve become scared of his moods, so try to please him all the time.

He wants us to be how we used to be, laughing and spontaneous. I say I want that too and think we are happy. We do laugh but he can’t see it and says I’m kidding myself. He won’t budge.

He sent me a lovely Valentine’s card. I asked how he could — then want to leave now? He said he was just going through the motions. I can’t understand how he can just give up on us.

He lost his mum 16 months ago and I think he hasn’t grieved properly but he says he has — in his own way.

He says he’s not bothered by lockdown (though fed up like all of us) because he’s antisocial anyway.

For 26 years we’ve lived with his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I supported him through hell and hospital and therapy and back . . . all to get to where we are now.

I feel so sad and don’t know how I will cope. I have some friends but no family.

He is going to look at flats tomorrow. Please can you help me?

CHRISTINE   

This week Bel advises a reader who questions how her partner can leave her now over her weight

This is utterly heart-breaking for you and I cannot pretend that I am able to write anything to help.

Who could — without being rather glib and promising you ‘a new start’ and ‘inner strength’ and so on?

There are times when no piece of sticking plaster in my medicine cabinet will even start to cover such a wound, let alone heal it.

I just feel great compassion for your pain and urge you, at this time of acute need, to contact a close friend and pour your heart out. There are times when the urgent need is to howl — and maybe rage, too.

If it would help you to contact a professional, then Relate offers a range of digital and telephone counselling services. Because Covid stopped face-to-face counselling they have increased the availability of experienced webcam, telephone and Live Chat counsellors.

For general enquiries ring 0300 0030396 (you can book telephone counselling by using this number) and/or visit relate.org.

Since you wrote to me, of course, your husband may have relented. Looking at flats may have jolted him into realising that it can be a cold and lonely world out there.

But even if that were to happen, you must realise you cannot continue in this marriage as it is.

Whether your husband stays or goes you really must look closely at what you can do to change your life.

It is only at the end that you mention your husband’s OCD — a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

In your longer letter you tell me you were together for eight years prior to this condition becoming serious; I’m wondering if it manifested itself before or after your actual marriage.

Whatever the timing, your support through the years must have been crucial.

You sound bitter to reflect that it now seems thrown back in your face. Yet you also remark that he supported you by making serious attempts to help you lose weight.

I think your marriage should be seen in the light of your twin problems, which must have sorely tried each of you at times.

Did he in turn feel permanently disappointed/irritated to think that his active encouragement of your efforts to lose weight came to nothing — because you remained ‘fat’?

You mention no physiological causes for your obesity, so is it caused by compulsive eating or genetics? Did you feel caught in a spiral of low self-esteem — and have you ever sought professional advice?

Did he become increasingly frustrated and angry that you seemed just to accept it and thought he should too?

Since you set your weight at the heart of this breakdown in your marriage, you owe it to yourself to be honest about deep causes and admit this breakdown has been approaching for a long time.

I’m hazarding guesses because I only have the information in your sad, bewildered email.

The only way I can help you is by advising you to cease blinking in shock and try to understand him . . . yourself . . . and the past.

I do urge you to seek out professional help. And meanwhile, I hope he changes his mind.   

My sister kept adopted son a secret 

Dear Bel,

Three weeks ago my lovely sister died from Covid 19 followed by her husband a few days ago. I shall miss them both very much.

My dilemma is this. Several years ago she was contacted by an agency who asked if she would like to meet a son she had when she was only a teenager and whom she’d had adopted.

She was thrilled to be contacted, but I’m afraid her husband was less than thrilled and refused to have anything to do with him.

He also refused to let her tell their only son about his existence. It caused quite a rift at the time, but my sister decided she wanted to contact him. Her husband said she could do what she liked but to keep him and their son out of it.

She had been phoning and meeting her son and told me what a wonderful person he is. He has two children of his own.

Should I tell her son of his half-brother’s existence? My gut feeling is to speak to his wife and see if she thinks I should tell him.

Personally I think he ought to know. At the very least I would like to let his half-brother know that his birth mother has passed away, but I have no contact details for him. If someone (his wife?) could look on my sister’s phone I’m sure his details must be there so I could contact him.

Secrets and lies. This is what you come to. My sister died so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to ask her for his details in case the worst should happen.

Please advise.

FIONA  

Firstly, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved sister and offer my condolences.

Your nephew’s shock and grief must be very hard indeed to bear — and so he will need maximum support from the rest of the family as he comes to terms with his double bereavement.

This is hugely important, and everything else I write must be put in that context.

You are surely right to say that your sister’s first child has the right to be informed of his birth mother’s death. Without that information he could be desperately anxious that something bad has happened (as it has) or that she has suddenly decided to end the relationship they had forged and wants nothing more to do with him.

To leave him in the dark would, I believe, be wrong — and almost a betrayal of feelings you know she cherished.

Looking back, it was sad and rather terrible that your late brother-in-law refused to acknowledge his wife’s past and instead chose to be unsympathetic and controlling.

I know of three women who discovered old romances of their husbands — liaisons which produced children — and were generous enough to embrace those newly discovered family members.

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

What harm could it have done him to be generous? And if she wished their son to know he had a half-brother, what right had he to police that information?

It’s sad that the opportunity was lost and that your sister had to keep her delight in her first child, and probably also in being a grandmother, tucked away like a dark secret.

Now he is dead I cannot see what would stand in the way of you telling your nephew, and suspect it is exactly what your sister would want. But not yet.

Your plan to talk to his wife is thoughtful, but you would be loading a secret on to her shoulders, and she may not want that. She will have to support her husband in his grief — and that’s probably enough for now.

But as Aunt you could ask them both if it would help for you to do some administration of your sister’s personal effects. I imagine they will be grateful as there is so much to do. That access would give you the chance to search for any information about the first son’s identity.

If you find something you could contact him. And if you fail, then — allowing for a proper time of mourning to pass — you would be able to sit down with your nephew and his wife and tell them the full story.

Then it would be up to him to look for his half-brother if he so wishes. Personally, I believe it would be a blessing on his mother’s memory if he did.   

And finally…This family love that never dies

She was a bit anxious, not knowing what she would feel. The cremation service two days ago was a strange place for an eight-year-old, yet it was her choice to come — and I was glad.

Since my father loved his four great-grandchildren so much, it was fitting that one should be present to say the final goodbye.

Yet how disconcerting for a little girl who has only experienced the death of a pet to see adults struggling to control their tears.

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]

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

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

 

How strange for Chloe to gaze on the coffin (patterned with the mysterious cosmos because Dad knew a lot about the planets) and know that the old man who has been a fixture in her life was lying within — never again to puzzle her with those daft Liverpool jokes she smiled at, ‘because it made him happy’.

How can a child begin to comprehend the awful permanence of death?

I would never try to ‘protect’ children from that knowledge. I’ve told Chloe how the new leaves throw a green veil over the trees, flourish, then yellow and fall to earth — as we all must: trees, flowers, animals and people alike. Yes, me too, darling — in time.

She folded her hands and shut tight eyes for the prayers. Does she believe Great-Granddad is in heaven, next to ‘Our Father’ — and those angels this grandmother is so fond of?

If she asks, I shall certainly tell her his spirit is flying free towards the stars — all young again, with infirmity gone. For what is immortality but the joy and devotion passed on between beloved people? That spirit can never die, but carries on through our genes — a soul infusing the lives of Dad’s daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, like the sap in a tree.

What else was life after death for him but the powerful, passionate love of Family?

And that was what Chloe enacted, when she gently stroked my upset daughter — the child wise and gentle in the face of loss, knowing she should look after her mum.

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