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by Team Fresku / Health & Self April 8, 2020

Self isolating with your ex

IT SOUNDS LIKE the premise for a scripted reality show – a kind of Dates With My Ex on steroids.

Of course, there is no script – for any of this. The whole world is pitching about in uncharted waters. It’s terrifying and surreal and most of us have never known anything like it. I know that people have it so much worse than me (not least those in abusive relationships), but there’s no doubt that this period – isolating in the countryside with only my ex-husband for company – is proving a personal challenge.

We actually split up in September, sort of. There wasn’t a specific day we called it quits. Instead, it was a gradual realisation; a semi-conscious uncoupling, if you will. The catalyst, strangely, was a really happy event. We’d managed to achieve something we’d long talked about, which was buying a second home . We got married there in 2013 and it’s always been a special place for us. My ex in particular has been dreaming about owning a little piece of it since childhood. We didn’t think we’d manage it until we were much older, but a combination of being careful with money and my ex selling his business culminated in us getting the keys to a pretty house in August.

The first week was great. We couldn’t believe our good fortune and went around in a gleeful daze, saying over and over, ‘I can’t believe we’ve pulled this off !’ Underneath, though, I was aware I wasn’t as happy as I should have been, but kept pushing the negative thoughts away.

My ex, however, is not one to bite his tongue. He was feeling similarly: a creeping sort of dread that our little team of two, for all its material achievements, was missing something fundamental. Somewhere along the line, when we were busy congratulating each other for overpaying on the mortgage, we had drifted away from being husband and wife irretrievably into friendship.

Fast-forward to early March and we were still living together. Our five-year mortgage ended in April and so we had decided to stay in the house until then, albeit in separate rooms. In the meantime, I had secured a solo mortgage offer so I could buy him out and he had booked two months to travel to a foreign country, to learn the language and generally try something out of his comfort zone. Without Covid-19, he would have moved out this very week. Instead, we are holed up together for who knows how long.

Superficially, things haven’t changed much. We’re both self-employed and work from home, so we’re used to living on top of each other. He remains as incapable of any kind of domestic initiative as ever, so I’m still issuing instructions about picking up dirty socks like a weary mum to a teenager. I continue to drive him nuts by being on my phone when he’s trying to tell me something.

The big difference now is that we can’t make the regular escapes nor can I visit my nearby mum and stepdad because they’re both over 70.

As for him, the string of Tinder dates he’s been going on for a while have also come to an abrupt halt. It’s just us now and, though cabin fever is hitting hard, it’s bigger than that. Our mechanisms for coping with the end of our marriage have effectively been banned. We are literally not allowed to move on. Sitting on the sofa between us every evening is our joint failure to make the marriage work.

To pass the time in some semblance of sanity, we’re doing the stuff that always worked between us and still does. This basically boils down to walks with the dogs, watching boxsets and drinking wine. We share the same dark sense of humour, and God knows there’s plenty of material for that at the moment. And, in fact, we might soon be spending less time together. His usual work in property has dried up and so he’s applied to be a delivery driver , because he wants to do something useful. I’m proud of him for that.

Over lunch today, I said, ‘I’d a million times rather be with you than on my own during this.’ He looked at me as if I’d said the most obvious thing. ‘Yeah, course,’ he said. ‘You’re still my favourite person.’

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