Dear Bel,

For 16 years my daughter has been in a relationship with a man who has constantly demeaned her, treated her worse than a dog, speaks to her as if she is half-witted (she is a teacher) yet doesn’t work and lives off her earnings.

This behaviour grew worse after she became ­pregnant ten years ago, and I ­consider he has been ‘punishing’ her ever since, for having the baby. When she told him about the ­pregnancy his first words were, ‘You will be getting rid of it, won’t you?’, which he claims he retracted.

How can you unsay anything that hurtful? Recently she told me she loves him, but I suspect it’s only so that she can stay with her daughter.

He’s ‘discovered’ she’s been in an online relationship with a man in America. Foolishly, she expressed love for this man because (I think) after years of being ground down, she grabbed at a chance of ‘happiness’ with someone who told her she was clever, funny and pretty.

She sent him some compromising pictures which, since she ended the relationship, he has threatened to spread all over the internet.

Her partner is understandably ­furious about this stupid action (as am I, but who hasn’t made ­mistakes?), particularly as she also included an innocuous picture of their ten-year-old daughter. He tells her she has a serious mental health problem, but after being ranted at by him we have come to the conclusion that it’s he who has the problem.

His paranoid behaviour seems to be getting more extreme. He threatened that we’d not be able to see our granddaughter again — almost foaming at the mouth and telling us to leave ‘his’ house.

My daughter is the mortgagee — so how can he claim the house is his? He borrowed £20,000 from his ­parents for the deposit as she made little profit when she sold her house. She got into debt after she took out a loan to buy his flat, which he then sold at an enormous profit. He told us half the house is his because he coerced her into signing a co-­ownership agreement.

He can’t go on the mortgage (as he is unemployed), which I assume gives them 50/50 joint ownership.

I am concerned for the welfare of both my daughter and my grand-daughter, but do not see a way to resolve this awful situation.

Have you any suggestions to help my daughter escape this toxic man? She’s too frightened to seek professional help and I fear she’s stuck in his evil web for the rest of her life.

FRANCES

This week, Bel advises a mother whose daughter is in a toxic relationship

This week, Bel advises a mother whose daughter is in a toxic relationship

One of the hardest things for a parent to come to terms with is how helpless we are — ultimately — to help our grown-up children.

Thought of the day 

Why, then, do you wonder that good men are shaken in order that they may grow strong? No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it . . . It is, therefore, to the advantage even of good men . . . to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them.

From On Providence by Seneca (Stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome, born 4BC)

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I’ll be frank — currently I live with this issue every single day. We love them, see what is wrong with their lives, perhaps work out what they could do to improve matters, but then what?

We toss and turn at night and find ourselves groaning involuntarily during the day and feel sick with anxiety, but then what? We work ourselves into a cold fury at the ­person or people who are hurting them, but then what?

Helplessness — is what. I’m not trying to be depressingly negative because my role should be to try to help people, but although you can put a plaster on a child’s grazed knee, and soothe tears with hugs and kisses, when your beloved child becomes an adult, they step beyond your reach into messy lives they have to make — or break — ­themselves. This is the truth. We can offer words of comfort and support but usually, if we offer advice, they do not want it.

If your daughter says she still loves this awful man and wishes to stay with him, then (however you ­interpret her reasons) there is ­nothing you can do to change her mind. The fact that she has behaved

Her endless chatter needs to stop!

Dear Bel,

I HAVE a small problem which will, I know, seem nothing. Yet it bothers me greatly.

Recently a pleasant woman joined our knitting group, and although she is very nice and kind, she never stops talking.

All of us like to chatter away, and get on well and have great, interesting ­conversations — but we also take our turn listening to others. That’s surely essential for any group.

But when someone takes a breath, this woman jumps in with a related topic, but then continues, going on and on, barely pausing for breath, often with the most inane conversation. The thing is that some of the other ladies will turn around and have their own conversation, ignoring her, while the rest us who are somewhat more polite are simply bored silly.

She doesn’t seem to have any self-awareness at all, although she is a ­relatively intelligent woman who has lots of interests. The point is, I’m concerned about her and don’t want her to get hurt by someone saying something undiplomatic, owing to frustration or boredom.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with this?

LAURA

Have you ever seen a play or read a short story by the great 19th-­century Russian genius, Anton Chekhov?

His writer’s microscope so often focuses on the quiet, the domestic, the seemingly trivial, and this approach guides the readers towards an awareness that every life matters, that the smallest detail can suggest an almost tragic intensity, and that we can understand more about the world and our fellow human beings by observing them at their most humble.

So here we have a knitting group, and a new member who talks non-stop, to the great concern of another kind ­member (you) who doesn’t want her to get hurt.

Yes, the issue is very small, yet it can teach us much about human nature. Why do people talk so much, with no thought about the listeners?

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

I knew a dear man who drove his family mad (as well as sad) with embarrassment because he buttonholed people and just talked at them, with no need for any response.

He seemed utterly self-­centred and lacking in any interest in others, yet I believe the ­problem lay in a deep sense of inferiority, made worse by the strange loneliness of someone who thinks no one truly understands or appreciates him.

Nervous chatter can be the result of sadness and stress.

Might that be the problem here? Do you know much about this lady’s background and current circumstances? Is her inane chatter rooted in ­shyness, or maybe in stress caused by events in her life?

Does she feel inferior somehow? Is she new to the area and how did she hear about the group?

I’m bombarding you with questions because surely the first step forward is to find out more about her.

You’re understandably afraid someone will hurt her feelings, therefore you must be bold enough to take her aside and tell her that although you’re glad to have her, she’s got the dynamics of the knitting group all wrong.

Tell her gently that everybody has to listen to everybody else and never hog the conversation.

Of course, she might bridle a little, yet you should have the confidence that comes from essential kindness. It might be an idea to suggest a signal you can give her, to let her know it’s time to let somebody else speak. You could say, ‘Oh no, I think I’ve dropped a stitch’ — or something like that. Or be more overt and say, ‘OK, girls, I reckon we should change tack — so what do you all think about x?’

You’ll be saving her from ­herself and protecting her from hostility.

Having said that, remember again that some people talk incessantly to fill up the lonely silence within themselves, but others are thoughtless and self-centred. I hope you can find out.

 And finally.. Yes life can begin again, so be brave 

IT IS always pleasing to hear back from readers whose ­problem letters have appeared on the page, so I want to share this lovely email from SK with you.

It came a few weeks ago, and I was grateful for this peal of positivity which many people will find inspiring.

‘Hi Bel, I don’t know if you remember me, but I wrote to you last year and you gave me some advice which I didn’t like at the time. But I did take it on board and I did leave my husband.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week. 

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5hy, or email [email protected]

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. 

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‘A year on, I’m living the best life. I got our narrowboat in settlement and she is now my home.

‘In July I went off for a ten- week cruise on her on my own and had an absolute blast.

‘It wasn’t always easy and at times I was sad, but I learnt a lot about myself and learnt the most important lesson of all and that was how to live on my own.

‘I am now about to move into a marina for the winter and embark on another journey.

‘I’m enjoying being single for the first time in 37 years and again, I can’t thank you enough for your advice and guidance.’

There are many messages there. First, notice that she didn’t like the original advice I gave, yet clearly realised, on ­reflection, that I was right.

Many of us dislike hearing what turns out to be the truth, but how brave of this lady to admit that.

How brave, too, to embrace her new single life with such flair.

But the main lesson for those of you in unhappy marriages is that you can start again.

Yes, it is difficult and scary — as facing change usually is.

I happen to believe in the institution of marriage and know that, at best, it can be the bedrock of society, especially where the raising of children is concerned.

But when it goes wrong? SK’s email proves life can begin again.

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