I’m a 51-year-old man, single now for five years, following an 18-year relationship. Having avoided meeting anyone since, I finally feel ready.
Thought of the day
The sun shines on my desk.
Such joy, such joy it is
To work as if at music
On such clear Autumn days.
Iain Crichton Smith (Scottish poet, 1928-1998)
But the dating world has completely changed. People only ‘meet’ online first — and it’s brutal out there. Last month, I was getting to know a lovely guy. He was warm, funny, sincere, romantic, principled. We spoke on video day and night for weeks and it started to get serious. We planned to spend the weekend together and I was nervous but excited.
He was even talking about relocating, should we feel we could have a future. I felt I was falling in love and he said the same. As I waited for him in a nice restaurant, suited and booted, he suddenly texted he couldn’t make it. Unceremoniously dumped like he had no respect, I was more hurt than angry. I haven’t heard from him since.
He is the seventh or eighth man this year to have done this. Each time, it’s they who contact and chase. I’m sceptical at first, but they always seem genuine. But just as it gets close to meeting, they either start becoming ‘too busy’ or I’m ghosted. They block me.
Many straight single friends, male and female, tell me their experience of modern-day dating (always online) is just as hideous as it is in the gay world. The obvious thing to tell me is: stop looking for love and try to meet people in real life. But after lockdown, meeting people in person is harder than ever.
I steer clear of the gay scene, so online is where people meet these days. Those guys can’t all be narcissistic time-wasters. So it must be something about me — doing something wrong.
I remember my mother saying calmly: ‘I’ve never felt such hatred for anyone as for you. I can’t even believe you came from me. You’ll never amount to anything — and you’ll end up unwanted all your life.’ I was about three. Stuff like that was drilled into me for years: I was ‘too thick’, ‘too plain’ or ‘just bloody useless’.
She could be good, but had a terrible temper and a vicious streak. My dad was cold and distant and would walk out on us a lot when I was a lad. I have little to no contact with my difficult sisters, so my family didn’t exactly set me up for developing relationships.
My long relationship was volatile. He walked out many times. I always vowed never to take him back, but he always begged — and in the end I’d capitulate.
After we split, I used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Thankfully, that’s behind me now. I just want a quiet life with a soulmate. But the more our lives go online, the harder natural human interaction becomes. People are just a swipe to the left or a swipe to the right on a phone screen.
As I sat in that restaurant alone, humiliated yet again, I couldn’t stop wondering whether my mother was right. What am I doing wrong? How can I find the right person without being burnt?
This week Bel advises a reader who feels the dating scene is full of selfish and mean time-wasters
This is a sad tale of disillusionment. I’m glad you point out that dating is bad in every walk of life, and there’s no way anyone who has read your letter could just say, ‘Aha, that’s the gay scene, isn’t it?’
Because there are countless stories of ‘ghosting’ (inexplicably cutting contact) and other forms of rudeness and ill-treatment — and men and women seem equally able to dish it out.
Why is it so much worse now? Your email makes me deeply grateful to have been born before ‘swiping left’ sank its poisoned claws into love.
Yes, people sometimes used to go to matchmaking agencies, but they mostly tried to meet partners through old-fashioned methods: clubs, sports, courses, voluntary work and other activities.
Social life included chatting up people in the pub. Of course folk got hurt, too, but at least you met up, found out if somebody had BO, saw how a smile crinkled his/her eyes, and so on.
Here, I should disclose that you are one of my hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’ whom I’ve never met, so I know more about you even than a problem letter to this page (originally over three times as long) revealed.
This includes that you are very handsome, hunky, interesting and bright. I just want to assure you that, from my perspective, you have so much to offer the world — if only you could ‘unhear’ your mother’s put-downs. It breaks my heart to read how she destroyed your confidence.
Have you ever had therapy to help? Since online dating has been disastrous, why are you so determined to tell me there is no other way? Yes, the wretched virus has made everything more difficult, but do we give in?
You can tell I have no easy answer to your problem, since the search for a ‘soulmate’ depends so much on luck.
One thing I will say. On Facebook, you are opinionated and sometimes deliberately provocative (occasionally in a sexual way), so if you added those men as ‘friends’ before arranging to meet, they might be intimidated/deterred by what is a powerful ‘presence’.
You should also try to aim for men who live in your area so you can meet quickly. Talking of ‘a future’ before you’ve met is just daft.
In the past, you lurched from drama to drama. The truth is, you’re not fully stable yet. So I’d ease up on the online scene and think creatively about a new life.
Cultivate friendships of both sexes, and think about your inner life, too — because, honestly, it’s clear to me that you’re worth far more than the superficial judgments of a bitter woman or trivial, selfish men who want to play games.
Our daughter-in-law despises us
We have the perennial problem with our daughter-in-law.
She doesn’t like us; nothing we do or say is right. Our other son asked her to be kinder, but now they don’t speak to him.
Her husband, our son, sees us occasionally with our grandson, who is just two, but the rift is breaking my heart.
I realise she has problems, but why can’t he stand up to her?
Five years ago, we lent them most of our savings, but only a third has been repaid. We thought she’d appreciate that, but sadly not. I’ve asked him many times what we’ve done wrong.
He admits she needs help, but always finds it easier to say sorry to her, even if he’s done nothing wrong.
With another baby due soon, I can see it getting worse. Do you have any suggestions?
You called your email ‘The usual daughter-in-law problem’ — and I could almost hear your weary sigh. I gave one, too. Not out of boredom, but sympathy.
In-law issues occur in many cultures — and often give rise to both misery and cruelty. I’ve seen it before.
You ask why your son can’t (or won’t) stand up to his wife. If I don’t quote the old saying, readers will send it in, so here goes: ‘Your son is your son until he takes a wife; Your daughter’s your daughter the rest of your life.’
This dynamic is age-old, and explains why the care of elderly parents mostly falls on the shoulders of daughters.
To defend it, a man might say: ‘I have my own family to take care of.’ In my experience, a lot of blokes can’t be bothered to care if wife and mother get on or not.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
- BEL MOONEY: Are my kids being mean to me – or am I a silly old woman? 28/08/20
- BEL MOONEY: Has my bullying husband now got dementia? 21/08/20
- BEL MOONEY: How do I tell my family I’m dating a divorced dad-of-three? 14/08/20
- BEL MOONEY: Should I run away with the love of my life? 31/07/20
- BEL MOONEY: I grew up with only hate, so will I ever find love? 24/07/20
- BEL MOONEY: Is it worth having a baby with my vile husband? 17/07/20
- Has the latest ‘mummy brag’ gone too far? Taking pictures as they pump breast milk is the latest fad for celebrity mums – but, asks BEL MOONEY, are these intimate portraits of real motherhood… or just naked attention seeking? 13/07/20
- BEL MOONEY: My fiance doesn’t want the baby I’m expecting 10/07/20
- BEL MOONEY: How can I let my cheating husband go when I still love him? 03/07/20
- VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
They often choose to dump mum — when emotional intelligence could help create a calm middle path.
So your son just gives in. The fact that his own kids will be deprived of grandparents matters less than an easy life at any price. It’s terribly sad — and annoying.
That loan rang alarm bells in my head. Although most people would hope your daughter-in-law should be grateful, it had the opposite effect. If she disliked you already, then becoming beholden to you will have increased her resentment.
I fear there’s no way back from that, but it’s a reminder that loans within a family are rarely a good idea. Gifts are fine.
Why not suggest a ‘meeting’ with both of them to chat about your will? Money usually interests people, especially selfish ones. It should be at your place, putting you in charge.
And if she doesn’t want to come, try to insist because you want to discuss her children and it can’t happen without her. Over tea I would explain (calmly and warmly) how you have been considering money for your grandchildren. Ask what they think. Listen. Then explain that of course your own savings would have gone towards this nest egg, so what is to be done?
Might they make a standing order which (in turn) you will use for an Isa (or whatever you come up with) and add to?
This way a sum of money will be set aside for the children’s future.
Never again ask your son what you have done ‘wrong’. That puts you in a position of begging. Instead, accept the fact that you’re unlikely to have a good relationship with his wife, and change your expectations.
To come to an arrangement about the money and channel it as I suggest might make you feel in control, at least — since happiness might be too much to ask for.
And finally…I’ll always bellow Rule, Britannia!
Have you ever dabbled in ancestry websites? You pay, spit into a test-tube they send, and wait for the results.
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.
I once did three, for a feature that didn’t materialise. The results varied a little, which made me suspicious. And since I already knew that (from just two generations back) I have Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English genes I knew I’d continue to bellow Rule, Britannia! with gusto!
But emails arrive saying, ‘Good news! We’ve discovered new DNA matches for you!’
There follows details about people I have no interest in at all. The last one told me a certain bloke is alleged to ‘possess 0.4 per cent shared DNA, suggesting the following estimated relationships: 3rd to 5th cousin’. He ‘appears in a family tree with 2,658 people, managed by (name withheld) from UK’.
What? What have all those people to do with me? Or the ones in America?
Ireland, of course, is full of Mooneys, some of them must be relatives and I’m sure it would be fascinating (time and energy allowing) to follow up direct connections (great-grandfather William Mooney worked as a carter born in Dublin).
But do I have time for the stream of ‘3rd to 5th’ cousins the site chucks at me? Of course not. Nor am I interested in whether I have a tiny drop of pure Neanderthal running in my veins.
True relationships start at home and spread outwards, including important friends with whom you share nothing but love. Family and friends, then community, then town and area, then country (England) then nation (Great Britain)… those are the powerful ripples within my heart, spreading outwards, but not too far.
That’s why most people feel sad and appalled when there’s a plane crash, but it’s hardly shocking if you especially want to know if fellow Brits were involved. Humans need to feel they belong somewhere. The world is too large and daunting for little me.