Dear Bel

My family and I are in a difficult relationship. People are always fighting with each other and it is usually me who takes the blame. But they’re also very opinionated. Now, I’m 40 and one of three women.

We didn’t have the best upbringing but while the others did well with seemingly perfect lives, I was very wild, had numerous relationships and drink and drug problems throughout my 20s and while my two children were little.

Thinking of the Day 

When the sun sets, we can sit down

And count what we did, and counting find.

One act of self-denial, one word to ease the heart of those who heard it 

One glance most kind, That fell like sunshine where it went — Then we may count the day well-spent.

From At Set Of Sun by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American poet, 1850 – 1919)

After 30 years of marriage, I settled down. My marriage ended several years ago. I now enjoy a quiet, happy life with my children and friends. Last week, my sister and me had an argument about her parenting style.

She is too harsh on teenagers and made some terrible comments about her and her husband. My past and the traumas my children experienced when I was wild were revealed to me by her. She has since had mental health problems as a result.

This is something I am aware of and I hate every day that I have missed out on the most important years of my children’s lives. My children tell me not to worry because it’s the past.

I apologised to my sister but she hasn’t said sorry for what she said to me and I just can’t forgive and act normal. I can’t believe she threw the worst thing she could have said at me and have felt depressed since.

Sincerely, I thought that the last few years had been wonderful and the past was over. So I was almost able to forgive myself because my children constantly reassured me.

Although I feel almost guilty about it, my sister and I will still be able to do lots together. How do I proceed?


This week Bel Mooney advises a sibling who is considering cutting off her sister after a row, during which her sibling brought up some uncomfortable things about her past

Bel Mooney offers advice to a sister who wants to cut off her brother after an argument in which her sibling raised some questions about her past.

Do you know why you are constantly quarrelling with your partner?

It’s okay to be honest. You mention ‘opinions’ but that sounds as if you might be sitting around discussing politics or issues — which I doubt.

What triggers these fights? Different lifestyles? You may have different lifestyles.

Since you mention your sisters’ ‘perfect lives’ I suspect you remain rather jealous of them and therefore look to pick fault whenever you can.

Are you sure that there is truth to this? You must be truthful if you want to progress and live the life that you desire. Take a look at the ugly quarrel that occurred recently.

It sounds to me that you are the one who started it. You also have your opinions on their parenting. If you’re admitting here that you ‘said some awful things’, they must indeed have been terrible.

What were you thinking — to interfere and carp and insult? As most people behave in that situation, your sister lashed out right back at you — and her remarks about your past pierced to your heart, lacerating a guilty conscience and the painful awareness of time ruined that can never be retrieved.

It was, frankly, quite unforgiveable from you both.

Many families behave like this, and it makes life miserable for all concerned — especially, perhaps, younger people who witness their parents and older relatives using them as weapons in their endless stupid rows.

How can they be expected to watch their older relatives being rude and cruel to them? What can the younger members of their families do to make a harmonious and civilised life?

Perhaps it would be helpful and possibly healing to decide that both you and your sister have real affection for your nieces and nephews — and concern for their welfare.

Despite your aversion to quarreling, it is clear that you were aware of this concern.

I’m deliberately trying to seek a positive spin because this is supposed to be the season of peace and goodwill — and I reckon you need to buy into all the good tidings. You must be an adult, and take control.

Either you can cut off your relationship with your sister or have a new one. Did you apologize once? Well, apologise again. You will be able to forgive her if she keeps reiterating her regrets during the row.

For your past mistakes and for the neglect you have shown your children, it is possible to never forgive yourself. When the memories are truly bad, permanent regret is possible. Guilt can be an honest and sincere response.

You can still forgive your sister, and she can also forgive you. Now is the right time to forgive your sister and put them first.

You say you’re not a close family and yet you hang out. Try to foster closeness while controlling conflict.

Heaven save those who are not tech-savvy

Dear Bel

With my 91 year-old mother, we flew from London Stansted airport to Edinburgh.

All of the above was possible online, including the purchase and reservation of tickets. I also had booking assistance. We checked in. Then we printed luggage labels. Finally, security checks were completed.

My mother struggles to navigate the virtual world.

Most of our daily lives are now online, whether it’s accessing money or ordering prescriptions.

Should you wish to do it the old fashioned way and speak to a human, you will need your magnifying glass to spot the ‘contact us’ button buried at the foot of the webpage.

This will take you to a list of frequently asked questions.

If you are so fortunate as to locate a phone number, a robot will greet you telling you you that everything is online.

My mother lives in California, and I have the ability to assist her. However, at 58, I already feel that my grip on the virtual realm is slipping.

By the way, not everybody has access to a printer for printing tickets and labels to return parcels. Not everyone can also get to a postal office to print a label. It’s driving me mad.

You agree that the only thing that makes elderly persons and others in vulnerable social groups feel less important and excluded is to force them online using a wide range of techology.


This wonderful letter is sure to be met with a lot of laughter and giggling wherever Daily Mail is read.

You have perfectly expressed how so many people feel — and that includes me. My husband, who is tech-savvy and trouble-shoots any computer problems I might have, also becomes frustrated by websites that tell him he is ‘timed-out’ when trying to order or book something.

What about the stupid boxes that pop up asking you to check traffic lights or staircases in pictures you cannot see?

And trying to order a new jumper online and failing to make it work, then realising it’s because you haven’t checked the little ‘accept terms and conditions’ box? And working out how on earth to return some piece of cheap tat made in China you’ve ordered by mistake in Amazon? All of this and more.

‘The future is digital’ they tell us, but nobody listens when we ask ‘Why?’ It’s one of the many aspects of modern life which makes people of all types feel they have lost any sort of control over once-easy aspects of daily life.


Bel Mooney’s Daily Mail Column: More

And let me say this with emphasis —those of us who are fed up with it are not doddery dinosaurs. I know of smartphone-using people older than myself complaining about the slow process for booking tickets through train companies websites.

It’s so nice to have a friend at the ticket office, or on the phone.

If you have to cancel your journey you’ll find it hard to return the tickets and get your money back at the station. No, online booking is its very own world — a black hole that sucks you in.

These days we hear a very great deal about ‘mental health issues’ and frankly, the emphasis is itself potentially damaging, since it seems to imply that ‘resilience’ is an unfeeling word.

Instead of reaching for the ‘MHI’ cliché, we need to use more precise descriptions for what’s going on and (for example) name ‘sadness’ and ‘gloom about getting older’ and ‘loneliness’ and ‘misery about a family quarrel’ and ‘nameless woe’. To that list, we can add ‘frustration’ and ‘alienation’.

It’s frustrating because I don’t see an end. Even newspapers and magazine are hurtling towards digital ‘platforms’ and this relentless drive towards the virtual world makes me sad, when (like you) I’m not thoroughly fed up.

Many readers may be thinking that there’s nothing wrong with any of this and that you haven’t written with a problem. But I believe you have and I’m glad you got it off your chest.

Your description reflects a contemporary malaise. Many people feel a constant low spirit and bewilderment because their world seems under threat.

 And finally… Losing your ‘mojo’? It’s not uncommon to lose your’mojo’

Your Christmas tree may be up, decorated and ready to go. Perhaps you have your cards written, wrapped and sent. These days I often feel not just short of time, but as if I’ve lost my ‘mojo’ too.

As I write, the room around me (my office, which doubles as grandchildren’s playroom) is a tip and I feel incapable of doing anything about it. As a result, my tiredness and tension rise.

When everyday pressures create serious divisions among families and partners, this is a danger. Easy to snap at Christmas — especially with the extra pressures caused by you-know-what. Unfortunately, January is seeing an increase in people seeking a divorce.

Get in touch with Bel 

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

Protecting identities, names can be changed.

Bel enjoys reading letters, although she is disappointed that personal correspondence cannot be entered into. 

But it surprises me how many don’t bother trying to put things right. I’ve been reading the Annual Review (2010-21) of relationship charity, Relate.

Relate employs 1,200 professionals who offer adult counselling and sex therapy as well as counselling for young adults and families.

Covid hit the counselling world full-on and so the charity had to develop new ways of working that weren’t face to face.

Relate’s services continue to deliver good results — 77 per cent of clients with relationship problems said their communication had improved and 72 per cent recorded improvements in their ability to manage conflict.

The report reveals that 30,528 people attended adult relationship counseling (that includes phone and webcam) and 2,398,537 used the online self-help service — all testimony to a need for experienced intervention (

If you feel stressed and isolated it’s all the more important these days to look for help outside your immediate loved ones — who may not be quite so loved.

I hear plenty of complaints about the modern world (see today’s second letter) but the proliferation of agencies (all with websites) offering help can be celebrated.