I live with my ex for half the week – even though we've been divorced 10 years

From the kitchen, I heard the door slam, then Andrew kick his shoes off in the hallway.

‘What’s for dinner?’ he called, before jogging up the stairs to see our 14-year-old daughter Francesca.

It was a perfectly normal family scene – apart from the fact that Andrew and I had been divorced for more than 10 years. And he wasn’t just here to see Francesca for a few hours. He actually spends three nights a week at our house.

We go on family holidays and mini-breaks together – we have one coming in July, to the Dominican Republic.

I’d never imagined when we first broke up that we’d end up like this but actually, it’s a situation that works out well for all of us.

We first met in my local pub where he was a chef back in 2004 and within 18 months, we were married, excited about the future and starting a family.

Sadly, that wasn’t as straightforward as we’d imagined and so after two years we started IVF.

We were lucky and I fell pregnant with Francesca during our first attempt. She was born three years after we wed.

In hindsight, the cracks in our marriage appeared shortly after that; our different parenting styles often leading to heated arguments.

When weaning, if Francesca didn’t like the food being offered, Andrew would offer several different alternatives – whereas I just persevered on one. I wanted a more structured routine whereas Andrew wanted to go with the flow.

At the time I put it down to needing to adjust to our new life as a family and was excited to be offered a new role at work that involved a move to Switzerland when Francesca was eight months old.

Our time in Geneva seemed to pull us back together as family, with Andrew being the stay-at-home dad looking after Francesca during the week and us exploring Switzerland and France as a family on weekends. Life felt good and full of possibilities.

Returning to the UK a year later, however, the fractures began to show again. My job required regular travel to London and working late into the evening.

Looking back, I can see our relationship had become very unequal and we both had very different expectations of the other’s role in the marriage, which led to a constant power struggle.

We tried different ways to improve this. I took a year out of work, then returned part time.

Ultimately, though, we didn’t succeed in finding a way through. We split in July 2012 and were divorced by December that same year.

I felt overwhelming relief once we had made the decision to separate. A huge weight was lifted. The arguments stopped and I no longer needed to worry about what was waiting for me at home.

Andrew moved into a house in a neighbouring village and we began to figure out a new routine as a divorced family, trying to give Francesca as much stability as we could. Our approach was always flexible with regard to Francesca with no set days or her spending alternate weekends with each of us.

At first, it was tough. We both felt raw after the end of a marriage we’d both imagined would last forever.

Gradually though, a new friendship developed between us and we supported each other beyond Francesca. Andrew would mow my lawn. I helped him change energy suppliers.

So in March 2020, when I realised lockdown was an inevitability, I suggested to Andrew that he move into the spare room so we could face the unknown together as a hybrid family.

We’d both dated a couple of times, but nothing serious – and we were both single in March 2020. Andrew was initially surprised by my suggestion but thought it made sense, so he agreed pretty quickly.

I don’t think either of us thought it would be for more than three weeks, so we both thought we could manage that. Francesca was muted in her response to the whole thing, but she was so much more relaxed over the weeks we all lived together, when there wasn’t any to-ing and fro-ing.

It was surprisingly easy to adapt to living under the same roof again. Being in the same house, but not as a couple, removed many of the emotions and expectations that had existed in our marriage.

Familiarity definitely helped and we slipped back into how we lived when we were married, but with no pressure. It was OK not to agree and I appreciated the help he gave much more than when we were married.

Having lived as a single adult for so long, I valued what Andrew did during that time, whether it was cooking the evening meal, doing the grocery shopping or just spending time in the garden with Francesca as a break from homeschooling.

Francesca also seemed much calmer – having both parents there.

I’m not saying it was always plain sailing – like when Andrew tried to help Francesca with a maths lesson during homeschooling, which led to a meltdown between all three of us.

We would each retreat to our bedroom when we needed time off, or go for our daily walk alone.

But generally the experience made us all realise there was a different way of living as a divorced family.

As we moved out of the first lockdown, we talked about the future and discussed ideas like Andrew moving back on a permanent basis and renting or selling his house. I thought Francesca would benefit more by him staying here a bit through the week and I also appreciate adult company on an evening to chat about the day.

But we both felt that would be a step backwards, so we went down the route of him spending half the week at his house and half at ours.

We’ve been living like this for two years and haven’t looked back. In many ways it’s the best of both worlds as we are a family at times but we also have time apart. This means tensions are often resolved quicker as we have time to reflect separately.

It’s a different way of living that friends and family have raised eyebrows over but it works for us right now. We’ve talked about what we’d do when one (or both) of us starts seeing someone – if that happens, it’s unlikely the way we live would continue and we’d go back to living separately.

As with anything, it won’t necessarily work forever but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

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