BEL MOONEY: I’ve been a slave to my cruel partner for 30 years

'To outsiders I’m a 50-year-old who has it all: a big house and land, money, an apparently lovely partner of 30 years'

Dear Bel,

To outsiders I’m a 50-year-old who has it all: a big house and land, money, an apparently lovely partner of 30 years.

We’ve had ups and downs, but I always thought we loved each other. He’s moody, jealous and a perfectionist — which I learned to live with by not having to be told about anything twice and making sure I don’t repeat past errors.

He criticises everything — I cannot remember when he last gave praise. I gave up working full-time because my office hours interfered with his life — and now only do two mornings a week for some contact with the outside world.

Gradually, all my close friends have melted away. I keep busy with an animal society and manage our property on my own — putting out the bins, cutting the grass, cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry, as well as looking after my farm animals.

If I get caught sitting down with a cup of tea, he calls me a lazy, ungrateful b***h — so I leap to it! He never offers any help, and I have to be exceptionally grateful if he lifts a finger. Now I realise I’m nothing more than a hired help.

We saw our financial adviser, who said the best thing would be to marry. Secretly, I’ve always yearned for that white-dress day (yes, even now) and thought this might give him the impetus. Later, I said maybe it was something to consider and he said: ‘Huh, I’ll speak to the accountant tomorrow and see what he says.’

A dagger through my heart. If he loved me, he’d have asked me then.

A couple of weeks later, when we made new wills, the solicitor also suggested the easiest thing would be to be married.

It was an uncomfortable moment, but new wills were made, with each the other’s executor. Back home, he says he wants another executor as well so I ‘don’t do anything stupid with his money when he’s gone’.

Then last week he called me a money-sucking leech for needing ‘too much’ housekeeping, and I realised I’m nothing more than his slave. I feel empty, heartbroken and alone. I talked to my aunt (the closest person I trust), but she didn’t want to know.

I can’t leave because of my animals (children would have been easier!) and (having put 30 years into this) don’t see why I should give it all up. But I long for some affection.

He knows something is wrong, as I’m cool and civil (he hasn’t a clue why), and is trying to make it better by buying me things.

I’m depressed and menopausal, but I sometimes wonder if it’s my fault for not being more assertive in the beginning. What shall I do? I don’t think he’ll ever change.


There can’t be a single woman reading this who doesn’t reach your final conclusion (about you not being assertive enough) pretty near the beginning of your letter.

Perhaps it does no good to say it, but you are surely a contributor to your own unhappiness.

It defies belief that you have lived with this controlling man for 30 long years, putting up with exploitation, ill-treatment and unforgivable rudeness, which many would call abuse.

You probably should have called time on this prison sentence years ago. For three decades you have tolerated his demands, his lack of appreciation, his refusal to consider what you might want (marriage, for example) or to see you as an equal partner in any way.

You were 20 when this ‘relationship’ began and over half your life later, this man has no interest in what you are thinking or feeling.

Please forgive me, but you must be able to see how this all looks from the outside. Like no life at all, but a hideous compromise.

I wish you would leave him and make a new start where you might even meet somebody very different — somebody who’d make you feel loved. The fact that you are ‘depressed and menopausal’ goes a long way to explaining why this has suddenly all folded in on you, making you feel so full of despair.

But surely the seeds have been there since the beginning — at which time you should have refused to put up with it. There is a lesson here for all couples. If you don’t begin with equality, it can rarely be achieved.

Nevertheless you have animals and a home, and it’s far from easy to change a lifestyle.

You don’t say whether the property is jointly owned, so it’s impossible for me to give much advice about one path of action — which would be to get a solicitor and work out how things stand. But I do think you are urgently in need of counselling to help you find a way through this impasse.

You should look at the Relate website ( for a start, to investigate ways of getting in touch with one of their trained relationship counsellors, face-to-face, online or by telephone.

Your partner need not know about this. But talking to somebody will hopefully give you the courage to tackle him about your present unhappiness and bruising feelings of rejection. How can he be so stupid as to have no idea of why you are hurting? Somebody has to tell him and it can only be you.

What about rebellion — like no meal on the table? How about that for wild courage? I wish and wish you would.

Do you still long to marry him? With all your experience of what the man is like?

Only you can know the answer to that leading question, but you should give it careful thought. Can you visualise standing at the altar with him, saying ‘I do’?

At a youthful 50, you have many years ahead and need to consider how you wish to spend them. Might life with animals be infinitely more rewarding than life with a man who never gives love or support?

You say he ‘will never change’ and so your decision will be how much longer you are prepared to sacrifice your heart and soul for the sake of security. That — or finally stand up to him and demand your human rights…


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