BEL MOONEY: I changed after a heart attack… so my partner ran away

Dear Bel,

Although I’m not sure what I hope to achieve by writing, I still have questions regarding my relationship breakdown.

Perhaps I’m hoping my ex-partner will read the letter and realise that it was never my intention to hurt her and that I really was going through some sort of mental breakdown following a myocardial infarction (MI).

Five years ago I was in a wonderful, loving relationship — then I had the MI. It turned my world upside down and inside out.

I’m sure my partner was as loving and caring as she always had been but I have no recollection of the period following my attack. Apparently I turned into a completely different person.

Not being able to remember events after the MI, coupled with my partner leaving, has left me feeling abandoned, alone, empty and extremely unhappy.

I have plenty of friends but I can still manage to feel alone in a room full of people. I rarely go out now, only if I really need to.

I visit my family every so often just so they don’t worry about me. I haven’t spoken to anyone because they’d only fuss and constantly check up on me, which is the last thing I need. The most difficult part of the whole sad story is that my ex-partner didn’t/doesn’t believe me. I have never, ever lied to her but she has chosen not to believe me. I thought she would have been more understanding because she has had issues of her own in the past to deal with. Unfortunately, she’s a very determined, dare I say stubborn, woman.

BEL MOONEY SAYS: I send sympathy for your distress, yet also have plenty of questions, just as you have. Illustration: Neil Webb

BEL MOONEY SAYS: I send sympathy for your distress, yet also have plenty of questions, just as you have. Illustration: Neil Webb

She was, still is, the only woman I have ever truly loved and I miss her terribly. I think back to the trouble we had to go through to be together. It wasn’t easy but we made it work.

I don’t understand why she could possibly think that I would knowingly throw it all away. I know she thinks I deliberately drove her away but nothing could be further from the truth. Her leaving was certainly not what I wanted but I had no idea what was happening.

It was only after Covid struck that my head and my emotions began to return to something resembling normality. Only then did I realise exactly what had happened.

All my hopes, plans and dreams for the future were built around her. I loved her totally — why would I knowingly drive her away?


The usual phrase for MI is ‘heart attack’ — and I confess my initial puzzlement over the medical term you chose is only matched by a slight confusion about the events you describe.

I send sympathy for your distress, yet also have plenty of questions, just as you have. You say you had a mental breakdown after the heart attack and can remember nothing, but surely you must have asked your partner exactly how you behaved, which was appalling enough to drive her away? Did you have those conversations?

You use the word ‘hurt’ which implies serious emotional damage to her. Then, how were you ‘different’ after the MI? Did she leave you while you were still in that mental state, or afterwards?

You mention Covid — are you saying you contracted the virus too? It’s not clear. You are lucky enough to ‘have plenty of friends’. Haven’t you sought their insight and advice concerning the period you can’t remember?

I’d have thought they would be able and very willing to answer your questions in some detail and at least offer an inkling of why your partner couldn’t stay the course. Somebody you know well should be able to give guidance.

Can you see why, somehow, your email doesn’t quite hang together? After being ill, you behaved in such a way to cause your ‘loving and caring’ — but stubborn — girlfriend to leave you, but you have no idea why and are now lonely and reclusive, keeping everybody at a distance, which can’t help your state of mind.

It’s interesting that you say (almost accidentally) that you and your girlfriend ‘went through trouble to be together’.

Then you sound quite resentful when you say: ‘I’d have thought she would have been more understanding because she has had issues of her own in the past.’ What ‘issues’, I wonder?

Have you thought seriously about counselling to help you make sense of events?

A mental breakdown needs on-going help. I believe the process of finding the right therapist (see, for example, is in itself a helpful exercise.

I ask all the questions above to encourage you to be honest with yourself about what went wrong. Pieces of this jigsaw are missing, and only you can find them — with the help I suggest.

You admit your relationship ‘wasn’t easy’. Perhaps because ‘all my hopes, plans and dreams for the future were built around her’ your relationship had become under strain even before your heart attack. It’s just possible that you had become too needy — and then (through no fault of your own) began lashing out verbally because of the terrible shock to your system of the MI. Then she decided she had just had enough.

I’m not writing that bluntly to hurt you, but you will continue to be unhappy unless you start —with as much help as possible — to accept the past and move on with your life.

Must I celebrate this ‘big’ birthday?

Dear Bel,

I am approaching my 80th birthday on June 6 (D-Day baby). I am now single, live alone in my own bungalow with no money worries and have three lovely children, all married, and three grandsons.

Thought for the day

The world is what was given,

The world is what we make

And we only can discover

Life in the life we make.

From London Rain by Louis MacNeice (N. Irish poet, 1907-1963)

I’m healthy and love being at home, reading, watching TV or walking my two dogs on the beach.

My daughter is the middle one, who keeps everyone in check. She knows how to handle her two brothers and me, too. She is a planner whereas I am, I suppose, a bit of a ‘I’ll see to it later’ kind of person.

My ‘problem’ (I know it is small, and enviable, in a way) is her pressuring me into planning birthday celebrations. I’m not a party person! I’d be happy just to go out for a meal with the family.

I have tried to slow her down, but she is of the opinion that we need to book things early. My elder son thinks I should let her do her thing, my youngest reckons I should tell her to lay off, as it’s my own birthday.

I have family in the Netherlands who would come over, which would be great, but then I’d be putting everyone to great expense. My daughter says they’d all be very happy with that and she’s probably right, but it still makes me uncomfortable.

I am in such a quandary, both liking and loathing the very idea of a party and not wishing to deprive my family (especially my daughter) of helping me celebrate, but sort of wishing it was all over already.

My daughter is doing this out of love, but how can I stop her without hurting her feelings and jeopardising our relationship?


You made it quite clear that you know how lucky you are and even expressed a degree of embarrassment at sharing what is on your mind.

I often remind readers (who might jump to criticise) that every problem —even if it seems trivial — matters to the person experiencing it.

I’m guessing that there are other people reading this who will understand; you don’t have to be nearly 80 to be unsure about who you are and what you want.

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 

Names are changed to protect identities. 

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

There is a sense of dignified rebellion underlying your letter, which I have seen more than once in older people, including my own late parents.

It expresses a dislike of being dictated to, as if no longer capable of making decisions for themselves.

The most affectionate, well-meaning bossiness can feel patronising and (whisper it) just a bit too controlling.

It’s quite possible to know that the persuasion is motivated by love, yet at the same time to wish it could be dialled down. I think that’s where you are, isn’t it?

If you told me that you detest the idea of this party, then I’d know exactly what to say. But you don’t hate the idea, it just makes you anxious. Given that you are torn between ‘liking and loathing’ your daughter’s plan, my advice to you is to follow your elder son’s advice and go with the flow.

Always choose the positive, not the negative. Always say yes to life, rather than turning your back on it.

The sensible thing would be to tell your daughter that, after all, you will happily leave it entirely to her. No more discussions. Yes, she can ‘do her thing’.

Let the family in the Netherlands come over if they wish, because surely it would be mean to deprive them of the choice of a wee holiday and a fun party?

Let your daughter invite whom she likes, because wouldn’t it be marvellous to see old friends and share a jolly time with them?

Let corks pop — because that silly, merry sound spreads good cheer. In your place, I’d think of the proposed celebration as not being for you but, joyously, for them.

Your peace at home, and walking with those dogs, sounds idyllic.

You can live the life you love — OK, lucky woman — 364 days of the year.

But look at the calendar beyond birthdays: time is shortening now for you, as it is for me, so why not allow one night of generosity, laughter and love to send sparks of light into the darkness?

And finally… I’ll be doing my best to get better

You like to know, so this is to say my column won’t be here next week.

My second hip is about to be replaced and that means rather a lot of discomfort and adjustment.

It’s a big operation, after all — but I know from last time (February 2017) that the pain is worth it and it’s thrilling when you can cast the sticks aside at last and skip into spring.

What makes me sad is having to give up my weekly personal training and Pilates sessions for a while.

Yet I’m the person who used to hate all exercise. Now I’m so glad to be much stronger and fitter than in 2017.

It’s made me think about the concept of ‘personal best’ —and to inspire me, my trainer Jenny set out a list of my best efforts.

You may have no interest in such things, but bear with me. I’ll just quote four: shoulder press with dumbbells, 5kg (11 lb) in each hand; cable row, 31.5kg (69 lb); cable squats, 37kg (81 lb); barbell deadlifts 40kg (88 lb). Each exercise done ten times and repeated three times.

No, I’m not going to enter myself for World’s Strongest Gran! But since my mother died two years ago I’ve been looking ahead, understanding that you have to use your muscles as you get older. Upper body strength is vital and boy is it going to help me!

Young and old alike, we all have to take care of the only body we have.

This is serious advice. Try to achieve your own personal best in whatever way you can.

For example, use that body weight — standing from a chair without using your hands and repeat it as many times as you can.

Of course, I won’t be able to do that in the coming weeks, but I will be able to use the hand weights I’ll have on the table by my armchair, alongside my laptop. Both are essential.

Join me in doing what’s possible — and then a bit more.

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