I have been seeing a lot in the media lately concerning the menopause, but much of it seems to be rather jokey. ITV’s Loose Women, for example, often make light of it.
What is missing is the effect this condition has on husbands and marriages.
The menopause has cost me the love of my life. At 64, I have little or no future to look forward to and I am considering ending it all.
My wife hit the menopause about five years ago when she started getting bad sweats and mood swings. I encouraged her to see a doctor for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which she did, bringing an end to the sweats.
Thought of the day
For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.
From A Gentleman in Moscow (2016) by Amor Towles
But the mood swings continued to worsen and I noticed a change in her personality.
She basically stopped caring and seemed irritated by anything and everything I did or said.
She seemed hell-bent on an endless search for the perfect life and left home on two occasions, but made a complete mess of things and came back to try again — though she always returned with more debts that I had to clear up. I never blamed her for this and could only blame her biology.
In the past two years we had no marriage to speak of, no physical relationship and lots of severe tempers aimed at me. On one occasion, I had to dial 999.
Recently, things had improved and we had planned to spend Christmas week away in Europe.
A week before we were due to go she announced that she had been seeing someone else, was leaving me and wanted a divorce.
This has ripped the heart out of me. Having stood by her for five years, I feel totally betrayed and have been considering suicide. I know this is a coward’s way out, but I am looking at being made destitute and homeless just before retirement beckons. I will not come out of any divorce with sufficient funds to start again.
Do I let her go and stew, and ignore calls for a divorce; or do I bite the bullet and wash my hands of her?
I feel lost and so alone. Help me please.
This week Bel advises a reader who reveals his wife is leaving him because of her terrible menopause
My heart goes out to you in this terrible grief, and it’s clear how seriously you have been thinking about ending your life because in your longer letter you mention your chosen method.
So please, please listen carefully when I remind you the Samaritans are there day and night — phone the free helpline on 116 123, or (if it would help to write to them as you have to me) email: email@example.com (while realising that it may be a day before you receive a reply).
You have been through hell in the past five years, so your current despair is understandable. But ‘despair’ means a complete lack of hope, so I urge you to take some deep breaths and listen to me again when I say that there will be a future for you, with or without your wife.
You are quite right that there is too much flippancy about issues such as the menopause, although there are some very good, serious books on the subject.
You are surely not the first man to have witnessed a serious personality change at this stage, although, of course, the effects of the menopause can vary hugely from woman to woman. I would urge other couples reading this to take it seriously (see nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/treatment) and be prepared for upsets.
Femail Magazine recently published a feature about women who had ditched their men after considerable weight loss — the point being that they, like your wife, experienced a mental change to match a physical change.
Reading that piece, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for their husbands, although we were invited to celebrate the women’s new lives. But is it so easy?
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Many people fantasise about ‘the perfect life’. The trouble is, if they abandon all they know, they can find themselves in a far worse position. This might well prove to be the case with your wife.
What next for you? I think you should seek help urgently (try relate.org.uk) and ask your GP for medication for depression, explaining why you have been driven to the edge.
A key question must be whether or not you would wish your wife to return to you after this latest shock. Twice you have welcomed her back and paid her debts, but such loyalty to your marriage vows sounds severely tested. In any case, it will surely be good for you to step back and let her know enough is enough.
If she believes she can continue trampling on you — even driving you from house and home after a divorce — she must be made to realise your time of victimhood is over. You have been pushed, and now it’s time to resist.
A cooling off period is essential; time in which to get professional help, seek legal advice, talk to friends, look at all options, think carefully about the future. You feel ‘lost’ at the moment, so need to draw yourself a map towards the next step. It can be done.
In five years, you will be younger than I am now, and that’s not old. You may come through this turmoil with your wife — forgiven — at your side, and grow old with her. Or become tougher and forge a new life, even meeting somebody new. You may even look back and realise this was a new start.
How dare my friend date my ex!
I am a 50-year-old divorcee, happily in a new relationship after 20 years in a great marriage that dissolved amicably — we have always remained good friends.
It was always my hope that my ex would find love again. But now this has happened, it is with a very good friend of mine.
I am struggling not to let this get to me. We move in the same social groups and I am dreading seeing them together, not knowing how to act.
I feel I should try to be the better person and accept that it is time to let go. But I feel so betrayed by both of them.
Is it too much to expect that people generally refrain from dating their friends’ exes?
Or is the ‘modern way’ to see who you want?
There are certain nuggets of folk wisdom which last for centuries because of the fundamental truth expressed. For example, in 1546, at England’s Tudor court, the question was asked: ‘Wolde ye bothe eat your cake and have (or keep) your cake?’
The Czechs say: ‘You can’t sit on two chairs at the same time.’ But the Germans prefer: ‘You can’t dance at two weddings at the same time.’
Across the Indian continent they say: ‘You can’t hold one sweet in both your hands.’ While the French advise you not to want the butter and the money you used to buy it.
In the Dutch Caribbean, the creole language Papiamento is admirably succinct. It translates as: ‘Choose — or let choose.’
Are you getting my point?
Cathy, there’s much I’d like to discover, mainly whether it was you who moved your ‘great marriage’ towards its amicable end after meeting your new love. It’s what my instinct is telling me — although, of course, I could be mistaken.
It would also be interesting to know how long your ex has been alone, comforted all the while by your friendship and that hope that he ‘would find love again’.
It might well have been quite pleasant to be happy with a new man while knowing your husband still cherished feelings for you that seemed to prevent him starting a new relationship.
You might consider my tone just a bit on the dry side. This is because I have a deep-seated resistance to the idea that anybody ‘owns’ anybody else — particularly once they are no longer committed.
Oh, believe me, from experience I know it can be hard, and a moment of sadness is understandable. But I think your sense of indignation and ‘betrayal’ is a step too far and must be controlled.
You ask: ‘Is it too much to expect that people generally refrain from dating their friends’ exes?’ I’m sure readers will have different views. But I can only say that if you genuinely care for a person (as you maintain you do for your ex), what matters is that they find happiness. If that happens to be in the company of somebody you know to be a good person, that is all the more cause for celebration. After all, he might have fallen in love with a stranger you detest.
Your question could be turned round: ‘Is it too selfish to expect my friend not to date my ex?’
Or: ‘Is it unreasonably possessive to expect my friend to turn her back on happiness because I still want my ex to care for me?’
My answer to both is ‘Yes’.
You see, you chose not to continue with the marriage, so now it is his right to choose to love where he wishes.
I suggest you come to terms with this situation and grow bigger than your ‘sense of betrayal’. Do this for yourself, even if it means putting on a performance. Act with dignity and wish for them both the happiness that you currently enjoy — or else I fear you will lose two friends.
And finally…a light-bulb moment to change a life
Now we’ve settled into January I’ll remind you of one or two things about this column, triggered by a lovely recent comment from Trish:
‘I am writing regarding your reply to the lady who felt she had been “not good enough”.
‘My story was similar . . . a controlling, hurtful mother who made me feel exactly the same . . . the worn-out record of all the things I wasn’t good enough at.
‘Your three small words were a light-bulb moment, advising her to say: “I am enough.”
‘I can’t begin to tell you how that has changed me. It was like a weight falling away — a sort of avalanche. I always read your column and admire your advice but I never expected it to reverberate to me, like a pebble thrown in a pool.
‘Thank you so much for your wisdom and those three transformative words!’
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
The point here is that even if your problem letter hasn’t appeared (it’s impossible to publish them all), I’m often delighted to hear from readers (like Trish) that something on the page, written to somebody else, has resonated.
So if you’ve written in (and all letters are acknowledged and then read carefully by me), do keep reading the column because you never know what will strike you. Maybe ‘transformative words’.
Now, an important word about identification. I always change names, but if you want certain details in your letter to be left out/disguised, just say so. I try, but I can’t mind-read!
I understand that people don’t want others to know they have written, though I’d whisper that sometimes this can work in a tough, unexpected way — to shift a family situation forward.
Sometimes a cool look at a problem is necessary, which is why I can’t just offer bland sympathy and stroking.
But I do offer a caring ear. So keep those letters and emails coming. In this little club, we can all help each other. You’ve certainly taught me a lot!