BEL MOONEY: I wanted to find love but all I got was an old, sleazy man

BEL MOONEY: I wanted to find love but all I got was an old, sleazy man

Thought of the week 

Now what was she to do? To give way to her feelings, or to vanquish them?… She will determine to look on life steadily as it is; to begin to learn its severe truths seriously, and to study its knotty problems closely, conscientiously.

from Shirley by Charlotte Bronte (English novelist, 1816-1855)

Dear Bel, 

I had two very unhappy, abusive relationships, moving from one to the next fairly quickly, without proper counselling to help me heal.

But while in the second relationship I got help from a wonderfully supportive group of women, all fellow survivors of domestic violence, and that gave me the strength to leave.

After ending that relationship I was single for more than a year, and saw myself as a strong confident woman for the first time in my life. I wasn’t a victim any more, I was a survivor! Then, a year ago, I started a new relationship with a man I met online — 27 years older (62 to my 35), although he looked younger and knocked ten years off his age at first.

By the time he told the truth the age gap didn’t matter, as we got on so well. But I started letting him treat me so badly — degrading me sexually.

I became completely submissive in ways I never had before, and it excited me. I also started doing everything for him: housework, cooking, shopping — even though I saw him only once a week. It was in no way reciprocal, and deep down I knew he was using me, but I didn’t even care. The only thing I asked from him was fidelity.

We recently had our one-year anniversary and I showered him with gifts and affection, getting nothing in return.

When he went out, leaving me to clean his flat, a gut feeling told me to check his iPad for the first time.

Immediately I found photos and messages from local prostitutes, girls young enough to be his granddaughters. I left straight away, shaking with rage and humiliation.

I haven’t spoken to him since, other than by text to explain why I never want to see him again. But I can’t get him out of my head.

I don’t so much miss him as miss the man I’d believed him to be. I find myself checking constantly to see when he is online, re-reading his last messages to me, and I don’t know how to make myself stop.

I can’t understand how it can hurt so much, or why I ever let him treat me like that to begin with. I also feel so hopeless, like there must be something so wrong with me to keep being treated so badly by men, or just that there are no genuinely decent men left in the world any more.

All I ever wanted was for somebody to love me, and I was willing to give so much back in return for that. What am I doing wrong?

CHRISSIE

This week Bel advises a domestic abuse survivor who now feels degraded and badly treated by her new older lover

We should begin with the fact you have done something very right — and walked away from this exploitative ‘relationship’. (I can’t call an association between two people which is so horribly one-sided and degrading a real relationship.)

Although you haven’t yet lost your dark obsession with him, congratulations on acting so decisively when you discovered the full, vile extent of his sleaziness. That shows you are capable of being strong, which is an important place to start, in terms of your damaged self-esteem.

You have known the triumphant feeling of being a survivor, not a victim, and so now your task is to rediscover it.

When you joined that supportive group of women, I’m sure they encouraged you to research the weakness that took you into two abusive relationships and which subsequently led you into a third with a horrible man (old enough to be your father, which somehow makes it worse) who treated you, sexually and domestically, like his slave.

What on earth did you ‘believe him to be’ — once you found out he was a liar? How could you sustain romantic illusions about a man who humiliated you?

It’s always useful for people with problems to begin their own process of healing by reading as much as possible about what’s troubling them, and so you should start online. Many websites deal with abusive liaisons, for example, hiddenhurt.co.uk.

Then, wouldn’t it be a good idea to go back to that supportive group and tell them all about this latest situation?

You will probably have to brace yourself for some disapproval, but perhaps you need to go through that process, too.

You may find some of the women (you should insist they are honest) have themselves had experiences of becoming sexually submissive — and losing even more self-respect because of actually enjoying the abasement.

If some women express exasperation with you (and it’s hard not to feel it, reading your abject email), that will only echo what you feel about yourself.

They may well advise you to seek one-to-one therapy, and if you can afford it, even two sessions would be helpful.

Look at welldoing.org — read some of the articles on subjects that interest you and then, with your consciousness raised, enter your postcode for therapists that practice nearby.

You need to talk through what in your background could have led to such low self-esteem, and discover why you identify ‘love’ with self-abasement. Still suffering from an addiction to a damaging relationship, you need to be totally honest about that, too.

With or without a therapist, start by separating yourself from your phone, so you can’t keep checking on this man.

For an addict, this is the hardest thing. Do you have a friend who could help you by locking it away for set periods?

There are plenty of ‘genuinely decent men left in the world’, but if I were you, I would give online dating a miss for a while.

You provide no information about work or interests, so I can only suggest you focus on yourself and try to broaden your interests. You need to live without men for a while to find yourself again.

My brother won’t come to Mum’s 90th

Dear Bel,

When my mum had a stroke at 75 I took a five-year career break to care for her in the family home. Several years later I was able to retire early at 45. Since then we have muddled along with laughs, some tears and medical dramas along the way.

This spring she’ll celebrate her 90th — with her twin! My only sibling lives in Europe so to make it easy for him and his wife to attend this remarkable birthday I suggested a Saturday lunch so they could — at a push — fly in the morning and go home in the evening. We’re 30 minutes from the local airport.

To my shock, my brother said they can’t come. Excuses were work commitments and cost. I emailed saying I thought he was being cruel, that he had months to find a cheap flight and that I wouldn’t be responsible for telling Mother and the other guests why he refused the invitation.

Mum dotes on her firstborn so the birthday will be spoilt. My aunt, her twin, still has her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. I’m single with no children so will be Mother’s closest relative there and other family members are looking forward to the hotel get-together.

I’ll probably end up offering to pay airfares for my brother and his wife. When I sarcastically asked if they’d come to the funeral if Mother died, he said he had money ‘set aside’ for that.

Surely it would be better to make her happy in life than roll up for a funeral service after she’s gone? I see no way forward unless I bail him out. Or should I let it go ahead without them?

GILLIAN

Just what can be going on in this man’s head?

Some readers will doubtless write and rebuke me for a lack of understanding — because maybe he is afflicted by problems from childhood, or is made to feel insecure and embarrassed because you have done all the caring, or somehow this is your fault for having ‘bailed him out’ in the past and offending his pride, or perhaps he is having problems in his relationship with his wife . . .

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

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    BEL MOONEY: Life’s been wretched – and I blame my bitter mum
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    BEL MOONEY: I miss Dad, but he was so pushy, he ruined my life
    11/01/19
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    BEL MOONEY: My friend has cut me off because I voted for Brexit
    04/01/19
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    BEL MOONEY: I’ve rebuilt my life, but yearn to fall in love with someone special
    21/12/18
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    How to help give the kindest farewell: BEL MOONEY writes a heartfelt but uplifting despatch from the hospital end of the line 
    15/12/18
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    BEL MOONEY: My son is dying but his wife won’t let me see him
    07/12/18
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    The greatest gift for a child this Christmas? Read them a story! BEL MOONEY on the ultimate way to boost your kids’ concentration and leave them with a lifetime of memories
    30/11/18
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    BEL MOONEY: I’m trying hard to change, but she’s fallen out of love with me
    30/11/18
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    BEL MOONEY: What can I do about my grubby and lazy partner?
    23/11/18
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    VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But I’m sorry, stuff all that! We can always find excuses not to do the right thing. I say he has a solemn duty to come and celebrate his mother’s 90th. Yes, a duty — although it should be a delight. Only terrible illness should keep him from this birthday celebration of his 90-year-old mother and (how wonderful) her twin sister.

In your place, I wouldn’t just ‘let it go ahead without them’ — not without one more effort to get them there. Instead, I would swallow my annoyance and offer to pay for his tickets. The rights and wrongs of that course of action would come second to your mother’s happiness.

Yet it will only work if you take some deep breaths and vow to make this happen. And — listen — being so mad at him isn’t going to achieve that. Being angry rarely achieves anything, even if annoyance is justified. Being angry inhibits thought.

If I were you, I’d tell him all those nieces and nephews and your mother’s other relatives are keen to see him (and I’m sure they are), therefore you have no hesitation in offering to pay for one or both of their tickets, instead of future birthday/Christmas presents.

You could do that online search you mention in your longer, uncut message and send him the links. Please be upbeat in tone — for the sake of your mother. She is the one who matters.

And finally… Welcome to Planet Mindful… 

The other day, in the supermarket, I stopped in front of the large magazine display and noticed something wonderful. In 1970, my journalistic career began in magazines, but recent years have seen a huge increase in the variety of titles.

Excellent old favourites (Good Housekeeping, Woman & Home) still prosper. But now, in addition to the well-established Psychologies, there’s a whole range of publications devoted to what I’ll call ‘a better life’.

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.

This isn’t anything to do with money, but emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing — and creativity, too. I’ve sampled Planet Mindful, Real Simple, Breathe, In The Moment, Teen Breathe (get those kids off their phones!) and Project Calm — all beautifully designed, printed on elegant matt paper and full of articles to make you think and feel so much better. All worth a try, I promise you.

Then there’s the selection dedicated to physical health (Women’s Health, Yoga, Fit & Well) . . . so many titles, all with betterment as the driving force.

What does this tell us? That these days many women (and the buyers of all the above will be women, although men will take a look) want more than the old staples of fashion and cosmetics and interiors to inspire them to try new things. Or just . . . well . . . inspire them.

You could call these magazines ‘self-help’, because that’s what they aim to do. Help you to help yourself to become calmer, fitter, happier, more creative, more understanding of yourself and your fellow humans — and what’s not to like about that?

Despite what seems to be the negative message of toxic online comment, I believe we are becoming more self-aware and tolerant than ever. The trouble is, it’s the nastiness that gets the attention (like the boorish baying and egotism of some MPs, rather than others’ quiet good work) — which is why I’m praising good impulses here.

My January philosophy is to stop worrying over what I can’t change — and step on to Planet Mindful.

 

 

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