We Agreed To Divorce, Now We’re Locked Down Together

Illustrated by Naomi Blundell Meyer
Welcome to Love Lockdown: a weekly column about how people are navigating romantic relationships in the time of coronavirus.
Sally Jackson, a nutrition coach and emotional resilience trainer living in Exeter, asked her husband for a divorce right before lockdown measures came into force. Here, she tells us how it feels to be locked down with a soon-to-be ex-partner.
My husband and I have our wedding anniversary coming up but this is an anniversary like no other. Not long before lockdown measures were announced, I asked my husband for a divorce. We’re now in limbo, living in the same house and unable to move forward until lockdown ends. 
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Our relationship has always had a certain degree of tension but on the whole we’ve had a lot of fun together. I’m a nurse by background and have done a degree, a master's and a doctorate since having our now grown-up children, whereas my husband is easy-going and less ambitious. We’re very different but for most of our marriage I felt that we balanced each other out.
Things changed about three years ago when I decided to move from Cambridge to Devon to be closer to my mum. We moved in with her while we were waiting for our house to sell but ended up living there for over a year, which put a massive strain on our relationship. It was a time of my life when I was starting to feel like I had more choices – I had started a network marketing business and had been through a lot of personal growth, becoming stronger and more independent, but it felt like my husband didn’t particularly like these changes.
We eventually managed to buy our own home but I soon noticed that my husband wasn’t unpacking his boxes. He said that he didn’t have the time but I began to get the sense that he didn’t feel like our new house was really home. Differences between us started to seem more significant. I have a lot of dreams and plans. I want to travel. As time went on, it began to feel like these were just my dreams, not dreams that we had together.
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We were due to visit my daughter, who lives in the US, in March but not long before our departure date the relationship began to unravel. I told my husband that we needed to talk and laid out how I felt. I told him that if things didn’t change, I wanted a divorce – I wish that I hadn’t used those words, because what I really wanted was for him to understand that a marriage takes two. I wanted us to work on it and get help, but he only heard the word 'divorce'. He moved into the spare room soon afterwards.
A few days later I wrote him a letter saying how I felt and that I wanted to work on our relationship. After I sent it, I saw that he had taken his wedding ring off. That’s when I knew that it was over. The next week, lockdown was announced and we were confined in the house together, both working from home.
Lockdown has been extremely challenging. My husband has always worked away from Monday to Friday, so having him in the house all the time would have been a big change anyway, but now it’s especially difficult. 
Silly things can become points of tension very easily. We cook separately, and in the morning I’ll wait until I hear him in the shower before I go down to the kitchen and make sure that I’ve gone out for a walk before he comes downstairs. I pretty much live in my bedroom and office, and only very occasionally go into the living room. Yet at the same time I still find myself calling my husband 'darling' because I’ve done so for so many years – it’s the strangest combination of feelings.
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There are also still moments of normality. A couple of weekends ago we sat and had a beer at the front of the house together. On another occasion, I was due to call into a friend’s lockdown birthday on Houseparty but almost cancelled because they weren’t yet aware of the situation. I ended up being persuaded to join by my mum, and had a great time. It made me realise that a lot of my personal resilience comes from her – my mum is an amazing woman.
I’ve taken up running to give myself a new challenge. I’ve reached out to let people know what’s happening and have received incredible support in return. I’m doing online Pilates and laughing yoga, and I’m making sure that I eat healthily while allowing myself the occasional biscuit, chocolate and glass of wine.
Because of lockdown my husband and I haven’t talked about what comes next. I don’t dare rock the boat because things are only just in a manageable space. For now, I’m focusing on remaining positive. I’m a wellbeing and emotional resilience trainer, so I’ve had to work hard to put all of my practices into place. Every morning I write down everything that I’m grateful for, and I’ve also been visualising myself on a train travelling across Canada. It was a trip that my husband and I had wanted to take together, but now I imagine myself doing it alone and feeling happy. 
Lockdown has made me realise that life isn’t a rehearsal. You only have one chance and you have to make the best of it. There’s so much that I want to do and lockdown has emphasised that I can’t spend life with someone who I feel holds me back. 
Find out more about Sally's work here.
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