Living

‘I Live With My Ex, But Started Dating Someone New During The Pandemic’

It felt like I was cheating—not with the dating part, but with the isolation part.

A pastel-hued illustration of a city skyline

(Illustration: Chantal Bennett)

It’s been a few years since I split from my kids’ dad—and about 100 years since I last dated—but right before everything shut down, I met a woman online. We only went out three times before isolation set in, but there was a spark. We wanted to keep it up, so now I see her a few times a week. Our date options are limited: We go for walks, meet at her house when her kids aren’t over, or sit in a car, parked somewhere. There’s almost a flavour of being teenagers again, with nowhere to go.

I also live in a house with my ex and our two kids. I call it an in-house separation: We ended the romantic part of the relationship, but in a very amicable way that made it possible for us all to keep living together after we split, just spread out more in the house. It ended up being a nice situation that wasn’t terribly disruptive to our kids. They’re teenagers—they don’t want to know a whole lot of details about their parents’ relationships, I find. So at first, they didn’t know that I was seeing someone and not keeping a six-foot distance. It felt like I was cheating—not with the dating part, but with the isolation part.

My ex knew about it from the start, though, and he’s also seeing somebody. So we’ve been really good at communicating the rules: Nobody else comes to the house, we both keep an eye on the health situation, and if anyone in the network feels sick, we shut it down. It forced me to be more honest with him more quickly and that’s been rewarding. When we made this decision about our home life, I didn’t know if it would be a step to a bigger breakup, but it’s reinforced for me that this is a way people can live if they’re grown up about it and talk to each other. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I can do that.

The one thing isolation has done is slow everyone down so we can make some careful choices. I feel this flurry of something new and exciting, and I might want to rush headlong into it—but I can’t be that impulsive because these decisions have consequences. When I do see her, we just have time together, so it’s also sped up our relationship in terms of how intense it can be. There’s no going out to a movie, no trying someone’s favourite restaurant, no introducing anyone to each other’s friends. We’re getting to know each other one on one.

I wasn’t entirely open about what I was doing at first, and I hesitated to keep extended family fully informed in case they were upset that I wasn’t following all the isolation guidelines. And sure, once the guidelines are lifted, I want to openly date the woman I’m seeing. But right now, I leave to see her, and it’s like I have the city to myself. The world has become very sombre and serious, and I don’t quite match what’s happening in it. I’m just walking around with this big, dumb grin on my face.


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Sincerely,

Maureen Halushak, editor-in-chief, Chatelaine