‘I got back together with my ex – and here’s what Jennifer Lopez needs to know’

·6-min read
Cathy and Andrew have been married for four years
Cathy and Andrew have been married for four years

Many people were surprised to see the pictures of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez on what looked like a date at the start of this week. Affleck and Lopez had been a mainstay of the tabloids in the early noughties, which chronicled their relationship from the start, through to their engagement, postponed wedding and eventual break-up. Now, almost 20 years later and after several relationships on each side, it looks like they might be back together.

If they are back together, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I got back in touch with my teenage sweetheart, Andrew, in my late 40s after almost 30 years apart. It ended very well: we’ve been married for four years now.

We first met in 1986, when I was 17. I’d packed my bags and left my home on the Isle of Wight to go to stage school, where I had dreams of becoming a professional dancer.

In my first year, we did a production of Fiddler on the Roof, in which I played Hodel, one of Tevye’s daughters. The main part of Tevye went to Andrew – a charismatic third year, and one of the most popular boys in the school. He had this aura: women wanted to be with him, and men wanted to be him. I just thought he was so cool, especially because he was the lead singer in a band called Eat.

I was delighted when I realised he fancied me back. We started dating and quickly moved in together, to a flat in north London.

Unfortunately, about a year after we started dating we had a painful break-up, when he left to go to pursue his music career in the US. I started an acting career, doing bits of work in television, then eventually left showbusiness and became a yoga teacher. Along the way, I got married and had two wonderful sons, who are now 18 and 20.

I loved my husband, and our relationship was so right for me at the time. But towards the end of my marriage, when things weren’t going well, I would daydream that Andrew would walk down the garden path and whisk me away. It sometimes felt like he was the one who got away.

Cathy and Andrew when they first met in the 1980s
Cathy and Andrew when they first met in the 1980s

My ex-husband and I grew apart, and eventually we got divorced in 2013. I was single for about four years after that, casually dating one or two men, but nothing turned serious. My lovely sons were so supportive; when my eldest was about 16 he said: “Mum, you know we don’t want you to be single forever.”

In 2014, a friend of mine sent me a message. Eat were having a comeback tour, and he suggested we go. I hadn’t spoken to Andrew for decades, but I still thought about him all the time. I went on Instagram, and sent him a message: I told him I’d got divorced and was thinking of coming to see him play. We texted back and forth for a bit, and I invited him over for a cup of tea. He said he had a girlfriend so it wasn’t a good idea – all the while hinting that he was still attracted to me after all this time.

Two years later, I got a text completely out of the blue from Andrew, telling me he’d split up with his girlfriend and asking me if I still wanted that cup of tea. I said yes, immediately.

A few days later, he was walking down my garden path to the front door, just as I’d imagined he would for all of those years. It sounds like a cliché, but honestly it felt like no time had passed, even though it had been 30 years. The chemistry was still there, exactly as it had been when I was just 18, even though I was then in my late 40s.

Even our families felt the same. It felt so natural that we were back together again: it was more like “Hello again” rather than “Who’s this new person?”

Some of my friends weren’t as keen, though. The ones who remembered the last time we were together were wary, making sure I remembered how bad our break-up had been, and asking whether I was sure about opening that can of worms again.

They had a point, in a way. But even though it felt like no time had passed in terms of our chemistry, both of us were older and more mature this time round. Back then, we were both so ambitious and set on becoming big-name stars with our careers in entertainment.

Over the course of 30 years, though, we had both changed and mellowed. His dreams of becoming a rock star in the US hadn’t panned out, and he’d come back home. I now had my career as a yoga teacher. We had both, in our own time, realised what truly made us happy: living simply, surrounded by people we loved.

A month after that cup of tea, he had proposed and we were shopping for an engagement ring. We were both just so sure that this was it. It was both the quickest- and slowest-moving relationship I’d ever been in, depending on how you look at it. Either it took a month or 30 years for us to get engaged.

I made sure I spoke to my ex-husband soon after Andrew and I got back together and told him about what was going on, reassuring him that nothing had ever happened with Andrew while we were together. My ex was amazing and really supportive, which helped the boys to adjust.

All through this time, I made sure that the boys felt secure. I had never introduced them to anyone I had dated because I wanted to be sure it would last before bringing a new man into their lives. This time, I did introduce Andrew, because I knew that this would be forever.

We got married in 2017, in a small wedding on the Isle of Wight. Afterwards, Andrew and I made the unusual decision to “live apart together”: although we were married, I lived in my house with the boys, and he lived in his flat, but we spent the weekends together.

This was the right decision for my boys, who at the time were 14 and 16: Andrew was able to get to know them slowly before living with them. In the end, this worked out really well. Andrew moved in in 2019, and the boys are now really relaxed and happy around him.

People might ask about whether we regret “wasting time” not being together. I don’t see it like that at all: the time apart was absolutely necessary for both of us to mature and become truly comfortable with ourselves.

We’ve now been back together for five years and I couldn’t be happier. I see our lives like two wiggly lines that crossed when we were young, then came back together again later in life.

As told to Helen Chandler-Wilde

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