BEL MOONEY: My mum's turned her back on me and my fiance

‘If we ask the universe to make us more loving, it may not send loving people to us . . . Instead, it may bring hard-to-love people into our lives . . . They may be just the ones we need — the “wrong” people can often be our greatest teachers.’

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (Swiss-American psychiatrist, 1926–2004)

Dear Bel,

After three years of a long-distance relationship, I got engaged to my boyfriend two weeks ago.

We are both 25 with Masters degrees; he’s had a stable job for two years; I’ve just started a good job.

We have faced obstacles. He is Moroccan and lives in Rabat; I am British, living in France. We met when he was doing an internship in Europe.?

For the past couple of years he hasn’t had a visa, so we meet in countries visa-free, or I visit Morocco — which presents an additional challenge, as sharing a room is illegal unless you are married.

From the start, my mother was not happy with this relationship. I understand her fear that we might have cultural problems, but it’s not the case.

For a start, he is not Muslim, although from a Muslim background. He despises religion — his family briefly kicked him out a few months ago for criticising Islam online. In philosophy and ideals, he’s a European. I told my mother, but she’s convinced he is ‘pretending’ so he can ‘take advantage’ of me in some way.

When I broke the news of our engagement she said some very hurtful things, shouted at me, then hung up. She always lectured me about the importance of financial independence for women, yet told me my fiance isn’t suitable because he won’t be able to ‘take care of me financially’.

When I pointed out the contradiction, she said she’s ‘still old-fashioned’. She comes from a very poor family, fretting about money her whole life — although my father was well-off. They married eight months after meeting and I’ve wondered if his wealth was the attraction. Their marriage is not happy and they live apart.

After three years of a long-distance relationship, I got engaged to my boyfriend two weeks ago

After three years of a long-distance relationship, I got engaged to my boyfriend two weeks ago

At almost 26, I’m being treated like a disobedient child. She’s told my father that my fiance and I are too young to make such a big commitment — and that she now wants no contact, because I’ve chosen fiance over family.

She says she’ll send my belongings and doesn’t want to hear another word about me. We’ve always been close, messaging and phoning several times a week. Now she’s cut me off and I’m hurting very deeply. There’s a hole in my life.

I don’t know how to deal with this. I know she doesn’t want to discuss it, so the messages I’ve sent have been as if nothing has happened. It’s been two weeks and I’ve had no reply.


What a miserable situation; I am grieved to read of this turmoil. At 25, and highly educated, you are far from being a child and have every right to decide your own future.

You have lived abroad and know at first hand the cultural problems your own boyfriend has had to face, through feeling at odds with his own family and religion.

This experience — as well as the fact that your relationship has lasted for three years — leads me to have every hope that you have a good chance of creating a happy life together.

Having said that, I confess that in your mother’s place I would at first have been concerned about the enormous differences between a young British woman and a man brought up in Morocco.

It is far from easy to bridge the gap between different religions, lifestyles, cultures. Your mother’s objection to your fiance might well stem from the kind of ‘old-fashioned’ (her word) feelings Jane Austen wrote about; on the other hand, I’m afraid they might also stem from innate racism. It is common — indeed almost natural — to be afraid of ‘the other’, especially for somebody from a very narrow background.

Your mother refuses to believe you when you tell her your fiance feels European in outlook — perhaps suspecting his upbringing will ultimately triumph over his current intellectual values.

In all honesty, she could be right — since nature and nurture in unison exert a powerful double-pull. But from the tone of your email she could be doing him an appalling injustice. It’s very mean-spirited of her to respond to your news with such hysterical hostility.

The information you give about her background and your parents’ unhappy marriage goes a little way to explaining it — but not very far.

Perhaps it might help to reflect that she may be very lonely: sad that her daughter lives in France and afraid that marrying a foreigner will take you farther away than ever.

Given that you have been close, I can easily understand why you feel there is a ‘hole’ in your life at the moment — but, remember, she probably feels that same way.

Yet my feeling is this impasse will not last, as I simply cannot believe that she will sustain this anger and disappointment. First and last, you are her child.

Can I suggest that instead of all these messages (this is no way to communicate, you know) you take pen and paper and write her a long, loving proper letter, spelling out in detail how much you value your mother-daughter relationship? I’m sure she will come round.


Was I wrong to cut off my best friend??

Dear Bel,

I have cut off my male best friend of 20 years.

I’m 27 and have post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently, and without meaning to, he triggered a very bad incident in me. He told me about a change in his life that brought back memories of abuse from my past.

I’m 27 and have post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently, and without meaning to, he triggered a very bad incident in me

I’m 27 and have post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently, and without meaning to, he triggered a very bad incident in me

He and I have had problems before with my triggers, but although he was trying to be sensitive, he set me off again. He didn’t do anything wrong, and I feel terrible ending what was probably the closest friendship I have ever experienced.

I don’t think I can continue hearing from him without repeated episodes. Have I done the right thing? I know he was unhappy about this, too.

In our last conversation, we dealt with other long-standing issues and put some closure on the matter. I miss him terribly. Should I just have called a time-out?


There is so little information here that although I have read your email several times for clues, I still feel blindfolded.

Never mind . . . you and I have to think about the nature of friendship and how precious it can be.

Whatever you decide, you must always keep this thought to the forefront of your mind: that your dear friend has always meant a lot to you and always will.

You give no detail about your PTSD, nor hint at what your friend might have said to trigger it. The first thing to say is I hope you have received professional help for this condition, especially as it seems to show no sign of easing.

If you have received counselling in the past and stopped, then I beg you to go to your GP and explain about these triggers, with a view to getting help again. This is a serious condition — anyone who does not fully understand it can visit for invaluable information.

Your friend has always been very understanding, hasn’t he? You’ve known him since childhood and shared so much with him, growing up together with the same depth of empathy.

He has been the one to whom you could always confide your troubles. Somebody like you, who has suffered great pain and goes on enduring the effects of abuse, must have an incalculable need for close friendships. Or perhaps just one precious friend.

You know what I’m going to say, because you have pre-empted it. You miss your friend ‘terribly’ — and know he’s completely innocent of any wish to hurt you. He’s always tried to help. So imagine that you are an all-powerful goddess figure, holding up a pair of scales, like the scales of justice on top of the Old Bailey.

On one side, a lumpen weight; you have the wrong that was done to you in the past — an outrage you find it hard to speak of. But into the other side of the scale I want you to put the years of friendship with this man, one by one — 240 months have to be a considerable weight.

Add to that the depth of your affection over that time, chuck in the fun, the confidences, the cups of tea and glasses of wine, the laughter and the tears . . . Top it with what you know about your friend’s personality, weighing every good thing like a lump of silver. In your mind’s eye, I hope you recognise that the weight on the good side is much greater than that on the side of sorrow.

This exercise of visualisation can be very useful for all of us, when confronted with the kind of choice you have.

Maybe someone has quarrelled with a family member and is now refusing to speak to him/her. If so, weigh up the bad you think they have done against all the good. If in doubt, interpret an action positively.

Always reach out for the goodness in people — it is far more precious than any slight or hurt.

Of course I think you should make up with your old friend as soon as possible. If you don’t you will be allowing the evil that has been done to you to triumph over all the good this valuable friendship represents.

Please don’t do that. Make contact with your friend and talk once more, even if you put a bar on certain things. And do go on seeking professional help.


And finally... Selfies make Florence a tourist hell

We escaped to Tuscany for our first and last week of holiday this year. These days I like being at home with my lovely things around me — and the dogs. In truth, the horrors of Florence didn’t help.

You might wonder how I can use that word of one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Fairness demands a correction: the city is still glorious, but its visitors are not.

I was last there in July 1969, when my first husband and I had just finished university finals and went camping in France and Italy for a month.

Everywhere stupid people waved selfie sticks as they posed in front of the glories of Western civilisation. File photo

Everywhere stupid people waved selfie sticks as they posed in front of the glories of Western civilisation. File photo

We wandered into the great cathedral and marvelled at its glory. In the Uffizi Gallery my 22-year-old self, a passionate art lover, shed tears in front of works by Giotto, Duccio and Botticelli I had only seen in books. My spirit was uplifted.

This time any tears would have stemmed from anger and sadness. What a change! The noisy queues for the Duomo snaked all round the building, and everywhere stupid people waved selfie sticks as they posed in front of the glories of Western civilisation, making themselves more important than what it represented.

Walking through the Uffizi was hell. We stood in amazement as tourists pushed and shoved to get to the front of a swirling crowd before a famous painting like Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus, raise the phone, snap, then march away. So many pathetic, meaningless selfies in front of great art! Why? They did not look at anything. I bear witness to that depressing fact.

This year Florence staggers under the weight of a record 11 million visitors so far.

An experienced English tour guide told me it’s becoming intolerable and that the Russian, Korean and Japanese groups are by far the worst, for sheer rudeness as well as indifference. Where will it end?

Our holiday was lovely, but those scenes haunt me, summing up the chaos and emptiness of modern life. It’s good to be home.

÷ 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.?

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