Q. I left my husband about 18 months ago. There was no one else involved and I’m still single, but I just didn’t love him any more. The problem is that while I am happier than I have been for a long time, he is miserable and I feel so sorry for him. This past year, he has been living alone (as have I) – our two adult children live with their partners. But while I have been content and fulfilled – studying, working, walking and keeping up with friends and our children by Zoom – he has done little other than work.
He’s not a bad person: he’s kind and pleasant and has been a good father. I’m still very fond of him, but the truth is I was really bored. We met when we were in our early 20s but had grown apart. I felt as though I was screaming inside. I studied, got a degree, got promoted and wanted to expand our horizons. But he refused to do any of the things I wanted to do – exotic holidays, theatre, even trying a new restaurant. He’s in his late 50s, but seems to have the attitude of someone in their 80s. However, just because I no longer love him romantically, I still love him as a friend and I feel so selfish. We met for a walk for the first time in months recently and he burst into tears. My son is asking me if I would ever consider going back to his father because he is worried about him. A part of me feels that I should, but I would be condemning myself to a life of frustration.
A. This is so hard for you, because it feels as if you almost have to choose between your happiness and that of your ex-husband. However, much as you feel sorry for and remain fond of him, no one can be responsible for another person’s happiness. I fear that if you went back now, it would be out of duty and pity rather than love – and that wouldn’t be fair on either of you. I could suggest going to counselling together to see if the marriage can be saved, but this risks building up your husband’s hopes and he could be hurt more in the long run. It sounds like you had been unhappy for years and had grown apart, so I think that you would not change your mind.
Your son also probably knows it is unrealistic to expect you to go back to his father – but of course you and your children are worried about him. It is perhaps better they try to offer help rather than you because otherwise he will hold on to the relationship. It does sound as if your ex is depressed. It doesn’t help that meeting anyone new will have been almost impossible for him this past year, and he hasn’t been able to have a social life or see friends. So ask your children to make sure he sees his GP. It is a hard loss for him after a long marriage and he will need support and counselling. Please don’t feel selfish or guilty – I think you probably tried hard in this marriage for a long time before you made the agonising decision to leave.
I can’t stand her boastful new man
Q. My best friend met a new man six months ago and has been raving about him ever since. She keeps telling me how she thinks he is ‘the one’. I finally got to meet him last week and I didn’t like him at all. Although he’s good looking and clever, he kept putting her down – and she didn’t seem to notice. He was also boastful, bragging about being promoted at work. For all his supposed success, though, he wasn’t generous when it came to paying for the coffees! I think my friend is being blinded to his faults by her body clock – we are 35 and she is desperate for babies. But he seemed bored when she was asking me about my little ones. I don’t want her to make a mistake, but how can I warn her without losing a friend?
A. It’s incredibly difficult to tell someone who thinks they are in love that they are making the wrong choice, because they mostly don’t want to hear it. Her ticking body clock will not help matters. But it sounds as if this man may not be thinking of babies, and there is a chance the relationship will end before they get to that point. Of course you don’t want your friend to waste her time. I think you can risk it, but do so with questions rather than a direct approach. Don’t say outright that you think he is wrong for her. Instead, if she asks, tell her that you think he is good looking and clever. Then ask gently if she noticed that he was quite critical of her. Gently steer her towards questioning her choices for herself. If she does get angry, reassure her that it is precisely because she is such a good friend that you want to be sure he is right for her.