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Can a relationship work the second time round?


Leighann Mitchell with son Isaac and partner Barry Nolan. They have decided to give their relationship another go after breaking up.

Leighann Mitchell with son Isaac and partner Barry Nolan. They have decided to give their relationship another go after breaking up.

Katy Perry and John Mayer

Katy Perry and John Mayer


Leighann Mitchell with son Isaac and partner Barry Nolan. They have decided to give their relationship another go after breaking up.

Even in the topsy-turvy world of celebrity make-ups and break-ups, the resurrection of John Mayer and Katy Perry's relationship has caught just about everyone by surprise.

The pair, who first got together 2012, split for a third time almost a year ago.

But then last week they walked arm-in-arm into Sunset Boulevard's chic Tower Bar for dinner.

"They wanted to announce to everyone in Hollywood they are back together," suggested the observer.

Nevertheless, associates of Katy (30) are said to be worried that the pop-star has once again taken her 37-year-old singer-songwriter ex back. "Certainly, getting back with a former flame can be quite a complex matter for our friends and family to process," explains relationship counsellor Lisa O'Hara. "Especially if in the past they've seen you unhappy with the same person."

Lisa, the author of When A Relationship Ends - Surviving The Emotional Rollercoaster Of Separation, also sayss that loneliness is a big worry for most people.

"You split up, and suddenly you realise that you're on your own. That fear can be a big driving factor - it's actually often enough to make a couple give it another go," though she warns that "unresolved issues don't just go away". Lisa further stresses that grief, hurt and regret are all part-and-parcel of ending a relationship. "Being sad because you've broken up with someone you loved is not an indication that you've made bad choices. It's normal to grieve the end of a relationship; it's normal to long for what is gone."

However, Lisa believes that a proper time-out can allow people to address and resolve any niggling issues - much as it did for one of Hollywood's most high-profile pairings, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. The actors have publicly spoke of their own struggles to keep their 13-year marriage afloat, and in 2013 announced that they were taking time apart before reuniting last year. "It can actually be the best thing for some couples - a bit of space; some time to breathe and reflect."

Leighann Mitchell says that spending time away from her boyfriend Barry Nolan has been tough for the two of them - not least as the pair are parents to a young son, Isaac, who is one.

"We live in an era where our phones, our laptops, our shoes break and we just throw them away and upgrade to something new," says Leighann (23). "It's an attitude that's creeping in to other parts of our lives, but you have to really work hard at any relationship."

Leighann and 29-year-old Barry are originally both performers - Barry hails from Rialto and is well-known for his popular gigs in packed-out pubs, while Dun Laoghaire-native Leighann is a former Voice Of Ireland auditionee who grew up on the stage, acting in pantos. "It all started because back in 2010 I reckoned I'd add him on Facebook. We had some mutual friends and I thought he was gorgeous. A few days later he messaged me to ask me out on a date."

The pair's romance built slowly, and they initially bonded over their love of being on stage. "We ended up singing together a bit at gigs. We were spending lots of time in one another's company but it wasn't until September 2012 that we started going out officially," Leighann says.

Then things moved quickly: "By that December we'd moved in together and shortly afterwards, I found out that I was pregnant. We were both over the moon and really excited about the next chapter in our lives. We even moved to a bigger house in Lucan to better accommodate our growing family. Everything felt right."

However, Leighann says that pressures were soon mounting. "So much change was taking place. I was trying to get my own beauty business off the ground at the same time; he was working insane hours so that he could provide for the baby. We started to bicker; I was upset, he was upset. There just didn't seem to be any common ground anymore."

Indeed, by the time their son was six-months-old, Leighann moved out. "I quit. I decided to relocate to Wicklow. My beauty salon was taking shape, I was getting the web side of things set up but moving out of Dublin made it all much more affordable.

"Barry remained in Lucan in the family home. He's a former All-Ireland kick-boxing champion and now works for a gym in a senior sales role and so needed to remain in situ.

"We spent five months apart, sometimes barely speaking except when Barry would come to collect Isaac at the weekends. There's a fine line between love and hate. I learned that. You can convert passion to revulsion so easily. It's actually frightening."

In fact, Leighann felt there was little hope for her and Barry - until one day a few weeks ago he knocked on her door. "I answered and he just told me then and there that he wanted his family back. We're building on that now."

The couple are still living apart, but plan to begin co-habiting again later this year. "We're taking things slowly," Leighann explains. "We're dating and spending quality time together. We're working back up to where we were.

"With my son and my partner I'm looking at a real future now - and it's the future that I've always wanted."

Facing facts: What should you consider?

Relationship counsellor Lisa O’Hara (mindandbodyworks.com) explains what to consider before reuniting with a former love-interest...

Know what you want:

Ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve from the reunion. You need to be clear in your own mind what your relationship priorities are before taking the plunge for a second time. If your partner can’t give you what you need, it’s time to walk away.

Communication is key:

Talk, talk, talk! Be open to what your partner wants to say to you. Listen carefully and adopt a non-defensive approach.

Don’t bury your head in the sand:

It’s tempting just to ignore the elephant in the room — you hope blindly that it will go away but it won’t. So make sure you both know what has been left unresolved after your time apart and seek professional help if you’re not making progress.

Nobody’s perfect:

The minute things don’t go to plan, you might feel like throwing your hands in the air and packing your bags again. But it’s far more important that both parties are committed and working hard to improve their relationship than focusing on small slip-ups. So be patient.

Irish Independent