Back together or bust?
May 16, 2012 4:00 PM   Subscribe

My fiance's parents moved back in together after almost 17 years of being divorced. I know it's really none of my business, but still I'm curious: has anybody else had parents that got back together after a long time apart, or has anybody done this themselves? How'd it go?

To be clear, I'm not even sure if they are "back together" or just living together again as companions. They are both in their 60's.

In some ways, even though I've spent a lot of time with each of them, I feel like I don't know them very well. They are private people in some ways, though also incredibly kind and generous (especially his mom.) They've always seem like they have a lot of issues, but have done OK in spite of those issues.

I do know the divorce was fairly traumatic, and sudden (dad left mom, spent all the money, took years to dig out of, though they all turned out OK; mom got another career, dad sort of floundered around and it was never clear why he left in the first place, but is OK)

Neither remarried or were in other serious significant relationships (his dad dated more than mom).

Then, his dad had to have surgery over the winter and stayed with mom while he recovered. Next thing we know, they have moved in together. Fortunately, this has not been dramatic yet for anyone. My fiance is basically like "They are lonely. I'm glad they have each other again" as long as they don't rope him into it emotionally. He admits that it's every divorced kids fantasy to see their parents back together, too, so he's not sure how this is going to play out.

This just all seems... so strange to me! 17 YEARS of divorce, and now they are living together again? (Also this is funny timing because fiance and I are getting married in 5 weeks).

Has anybody gotten back together with someone after years apart? Or known anybody who has? How did that go? I feel really skeptical about this, but I also want to respect them, and also want to hope that maybe they can find love, 17 years after the fact.
posted by Rocket26 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My parents got back together after four years of being legally separated. I understand their reasons (shared history, children and assets) but in my opinion, their relationship is just as toxic as it ever was. I wish they had waited 17 years.
posted by Wantok at 4:08 PM on May 16, 2012

I know of two couples this happened with, and they're two very different stories.

The first couple split up because he was working too much and was never home. They were separated almost a decade, and had been dating other people. His new girlfriend convinced him to get married, and he thought about his ex-wife, and realized she was the only woman he'd ever really loved. So he called her up and asked her to get back together. She agreed to start dating again, and they kept it secret from the kids, until it got serious enough that she let him move back in. She refused to marry him again, though - they've been back together for almost a decade without getting married, and seem very much in love.

The second couple split because they had a really tumultuous sort of relationship (according to their son, kind of always) after 16+ years together. They were apart about 10 years, and became better friends over that time. Eventually he decided to move back in for financial reasons and for companionship (seems like it was a bit lonely for both of them, though curiously, he too was at some point about to remarry. Interesting.) It's also not clear how romantic the relationship is. They were in the same bedroom but now they're separate again. It's been about 5 years of living together now. There are still disagreements, but it seems they get along pretty well on the whole.
posted by namesarehard at 4:23 PM on May 16, 2012

How long were they married/together? This hasn't happened in my life, but I can think of several couples I know who would totally be just strange enough/still attached to each other enough to do this. Like, my mom and stepdad: they have been living apart 95% of the time since 1995, but apparently plan to start living in the same house together for the first time this next year. None of us kids are entirely certain how that's going to play out (I'm the only one with clear memories of a time when they cohabitated,) but we're reassured by the fact that they did live in the same house (as in, actually slept in the same building night after night for months on end) for a good twelve years before they stopped.
posted by SMPA at 4:25 PM on May 16, 2012

Author Ruth Rendell got divorced, re-married that husband four years later and they stayed together until he died. Kingsley Amis spent the last years of his life living with his ex wife and her husband. On the non-famous level, I know more than one former couple where one partner became ill or needy and the other took them in, and also people who have dated their exes but ultimately decided not to reunite.

I have no difficulty with this concept at all. Especially if you have reasons to be thrown together, you may discover that one or both of you have grown in ways that soften whatever incompatibilities drove you apart. Sure, you could also reunite in a fit of craziness or sentimentality or weakness; a lot of exes do that but to me there is no need to be automatically skeptical.
posted by BibiRose at 4:43 PM on May 16, 2012

My hairdresser re-married her ex-husband 38 years after they divorced at ages 19 and 20. She called him up to wish him condolences on his wife's death, and one thing lead to another ...
posted by Prairie at 4:51 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

My aunt divorced her husband in the seventies after he left her for one of his many mistresses. They both led seperate lives, both briefly remarried poor choices, but kept in contact because of the children. They are actually very close now and would probably be back together if they didn't live on opposite sides of the world. As it is, they skype/email more than most people in LDRs, vacation together, and fly to each other's countries quite often. It works for them.
posted by saucysault at 5:15 PM on May 16, 2012

1.5 years after being separated, my (now) wife and I got back together. I was over at her (my former) place, to talk about how she was going to buy me out of the house. We ended up spending the night together, slowly dating, which led to marriage and a kid.

The best thing that has happened to me, the events started by that night.
posted by Danf at 5:24 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

A friend of mine and her husband of 15 years divorced. He married the woman with whom he had been having an affair. After about four years he left her to go back to my friend and their kids. They've been fairly happy for going on six or seven years now.
posted by tamitang at 5:50 PM on May 16, 2012

My mom and first stepfather were together for several years, then divorced and didn't see each other again for about 10 years (longer than their marriage). They got back together 3 or 4 years ago and seem to be happier than ever. Time will tell, but their marriage now seems happiest of any of my parents' marriages were (five and counting...).
posted by fishmasta at 7:29 PM on May 16, 2012

It's called "a failed divorce."
posted by alms at 9:16 PM on May 16, 2012

My parents were married 20 odd years, then divorced when I was 11 or so, got back together and remarried when I was 14, and then divorced a second time when I was 17.
After the first divorce, it was not my fantasy that they get back together, they were better apart, and I was not surprised when they divorced again (although it can be truthfully said that for the first, Mom divorced Dad, and the second, Dad divorced Mom). They were better as friends who had children together, frankly.
Best wishes to a better love for your fiance's parents.
posted by Sucht at 11:09 PM on May 16, 2012

I know someone whose grandparents got back together late in life, when they were in their 60s or 70s. Both had remarried, but one had gotten divorced again I think, and one's spouse had died. They spent their remaining years together as happy as can be.
posted by désoeuvrée at 1:09 AM on May 17, 2012

My sister is living with her ex-husband again. He wasn't a good husband so her siblings are all getting our heads around this. Their young adult children seemed to take it in stride.

On a similiar note, my ex stopped by the other day to let me know that he had made me next of kin on all the paperwork on his new job and insurance and to check if that was OK with me. He has six siblings and a girlfriend, but I know him best (although not inclined to live with him again).
posted by readery at 1:13 AM on May 17, 2012

my grandfather and grandmother had been divorced for 25 years. he remarried soon after the divorce, and was married to that woman for about 17 years until they divorced. then he started having health problems, and my grandmother said he could stay with her.

i'm gonna be honest, i don't know (nor do i want to know) if anything romantic happened. he stayed with her for quite awhile, and she was a little annoyed (she'd been living alone for 25 years!) but i think also happy for the company. they interacted well together. it was actually really, really lovely.

he saved her life when she went into cardiac arrest one evening. and her help gave us a few more years with him. i'm grateful on both accounts.
posted by kerning at 1:34 AM on May 17, 2012

My parents got back together after 2-3 years separated, during which my father lived with another woman and then left the country for work in Kosovo and Albania and my mom dated other men. They were 18 and 25 when they got married, and after more than 25 years of marriage they had gotten stuck in relationship ruts that had everything to do with who they had once been and nothing to do with who they were. I think they had to learn to get to know each other again and to talk to one another about their problems because of the financial issues and stuff related to the fact that they had five kids together. When my dad came back to the U.S., neither of them was dating anybody and they started dating each other until they decided for formally get back together. They never got divorced in the first place, so this summer will be their 40th wedding anniversary.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:55 AM on May 17, 2012

My parents got back together after about 10 years apart, during most of which my mother had re-married and my father had completely disappeared from our lives. At first we were kind of thrilled, but as it turns out, substance addicted dad + bipolar mom is still a bad mix and it ended rather badly after a few years, although they generally get along well enough now.

I think it's just that they were then, now, and always a poor fit for each other on many levels and no amount of "time apart" was going to change that.
posted by sm1tten at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2012

Well, I met my ex-husband when I was 18 and he was 17. We got married at 22 and 21 and had a daughter 3 months after we were married. There were a lot of issues between us: we argued badly, he didn't seem to respect me much, I felt stuck at home with a baby.

We got divorced when she was 2. I met and was with someone else for a couple of years and he dated around, but we always saw each other and were nice to each other because of the kiddo. When my dad and 3 of my friends died within a 4 year period he was there for me and we became really good friends again.

When I went to Wisconsin for a few weeks last summer we both realized how much we missed each other and one thing led to another...we are moving back in together this summer after being divorced for 10 years! I think we were just too young when me met and now we know how to deal with problems constructively.

So maybe don't be too skeptical, it can turn out well!
posted by shmurley at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the response. We got married last month and my husband's parents were here together- and they were the most grounded and happy I'd ever seen them. It was awesome to have them together at the wedding! And I'm happy for them.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:31 PM on July 12, 2012

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