Nineteen years after Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck called off their wedding, the couple have announced they’re engaged.
Three couples share their own stories of rekindling their romance after a breakup, and how their relationships have changed.
‘It’s like picking up where we left off 40 years ago’
During the first lockdown I was working in Riyadh. Work continued, but any social life there came to an abrupt halt. This prompted me to spend a lot of time on Messenger, reaching out to anyone I saw online for a chat. One of those was the love of my life from university days in Exeter, Sue. We weren’t together long back then – she graduated the year before me, and ran away to the theatre. It was an amicable split, but we’d only seen each other once since, when I took my kids to one of her company’s performances.
So, 40 years later, and with two divorces and six kids between us, we started chatting again. We got on tremendously and planned to meet up when I was back in the UK, with no particular agenda.
The second lockdown came and I was by this time looking after my poorly mum in her retirement flat in Saffron Walden, so I wouldn’t break any lockdown rules. We did chat every day, though, and now see each other as much as we can. I’m still looking after my mum and working at home, while Sue is a teacher.
This summer it will be 40 years since one of our first dates at Glastonbury music festival, so we hope to go to our second festival together – but somewhere a bit more mellow, like Love Supreme on the south coast. And we’re planning to get married. Back in the day, Sue was ambitious to get on in the theatre, which she did, but since having changed career to teaching and nearing retirement, she is more laid back these days – and I’m perhaps a little more mature.
We’re enjoying getting to know each much more profoundly and sincerely after our short, youthful relationship. But in terms of our passion and comfort with each other, it’s like picking up where we left off 40 years ago. Nick, 61 and Sue, 62, Saffron Walden
‘My feelings hadn’t changed’
I fell in love with Jen very quickly, which is rare for me, but I knew that this was special. It was 2009, I was 44 and she was 38, we had both been married before and had one child each around the same age. We were both very focused on our children and it took a while before we introduced the other to our families, as we were protective and wanted to be sure. We dated for about four-and-a-half years and we never argued. We had disagreements, but never raised our voices or spoke negatively of the other; it was always a relationship based on respect, trust and love.
Unfortunately the relationship ended. I bought a house in Norfolk, and wanted Jen to move in with me from east London, but she never did. When I look back, I can understand why. Her daughter was getting ready for her public exams. We could have left it a year or two, but we never really discussed it. I think that was the mistake. We went our separate ways and did not have any contact for six-and-a-half years. Jen did try to contact me a few times, but I’m a stubborn person and felt heartbroken.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had moved back to London and was staying with some friends when Jen texted me again. I was going to delete the number when my friend asked me who it was from. I told him that it was Jen and that I was going to delete the message. He told me not to be so silly; we might be dead tomorrow. We eventually met up once the Covid restrictions were relaxed, and when I saw her, I knew that she was the one for me. My feelings hadn’t changed. Jen felt the same way and we have been seeing each other since then.
It’s a different relationship now. Our children are now young adults, and we have the freedom to spend time on us. Russell, 57 and Jennifer, 51, London
‘The time apart gave us the chance to grow up’
I met my fiance, James, when I moved into the same house as him during our placement year in 2012, between the second and third year of university. It took us nearly the whole year before we got together. We moved back to our respective universities in Durham and Loughborough and were long distance for a year, before moving to London together.
It was a bit quick in retrospect. The pressures of both our full-time studying for a master’s, plus part-time jobs at the weekend and being flat broke proved too much for us and we split.
I moved to Belfast to start my PhD and James went to Leeds for his PhD. It wasn’t until a year later that I got a message from James. He thought he had made a massive mistake and wanted to get back together. I agreed to give it a go and he flew to Belfast to talk things over. But I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted; I asked to just be friends.
Six months later, we started chatting via text again and I arranged to see him. He told me that he hadn’t moved on, and I found myself surprised that I didn’t want to let him go either. A month of dating later, we made it official and slotted back together, better than before.
The time apart had given us the chance to grow up and get better at communicating. Within a year, we were engaged. Now, having both finished our respective PhDs, we have been able to move in together, in the same city, and are happily planning for our wedding next summer. Alice, 28 and James, 28, Birmingham