Isabelle Silbery: 'I've found love again. And it's teaching me why my marriage didn't work.' 

After coming out of a seriously crappy time post-break-up last year (by that I mean a mini-breakdown), I’ve spent the last eight months in many therapy sessions, debriefs with girlfriends and dived headfirst into some deep, uncomfortable work on myself.

I’ve started to reflect on what hasn’t worked for me in past relationships, and since finding love again in a new partnership (much sooner than I expected to), I’ve asked myself: why is this working when the others haven’t?

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As a helpless romantic, I always thought love was enough. When I married 11 years ago, I was naive to the red flags that would’ve been obvious to anyone else and, like many others, have discovered a pattern of subconsciously picking the wrong partner, because I thought being in love was enough to carry it through. It turns out there’s a lot more to it.

COVID boyfriend (Alex) and I have been isolating together since the pandemic began, when we had only been on a couple of dates.

We knew this would be an interesting experiment during an interesting time. But what has made this relationship work when it could have easily blown up in our faces?

Speaking with my friend and life and relationship coach, Megan Luscombe (a total guru on all things sex and relationships), she said we aren’t alone in this experience: she’s talking to others who have approached dating in new ways, and found that isolation has either expedited the depth of the relationship or brought about the end of it sooner.

She says, “Couples who isolate together have had to learn about each other’s behaviours quickly. What would have been a dating process of getting to know each other over six months instead has become a crash course in two.

Some couples thrive in this type of scenario, almost in a baptism by fire way. Whereas some fail and ultimately their relationship ends.”


“When two people are dating and in close proximity of each other day in and day out, they’re able to see if they could be a team, which is what a long term relationship is all about: teamwork. Isolation is stressful for everyone but the couples who take it as an opportunity to grow and learn about each other, instead of projecting and blaming each other for stress, are the ones who’ll go the distance”

In my case, I was determined to apply the lessons from what didn’t work in previous relationships.

After any breakup, it’s easy to put the blame and focus on the other person. But instead, I decided to take it as an opportunity to learn from my own behaviour and triggers – because I never want to feel that low again if things don’t work out the way I want them to.

I’ve had some Oprah “aha” breakthrough moments with my therapists and friends, but really the proof is actually putting it all into practice when I’m anxious, under stress or triggered.

So what better way to walk the walk than to test it out with a man who I felt a spark with, being together day and night during one of the most stressful periods anyone can remember?


Firstly, at 35 years old, it’s honestly the first time I’ve felt truly equal in a relationship.

I don’t just mean financially or intellectually, but as though my views matter.

Alex feels the same: it’s important to me that we can both bring an abundance of knowledge to the table. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need to be mentally stimulated as well as physically, but maybe I’ve always prioritised the physical side because I thought I was unworthy of both… or doubted that it was truly possible to have both.

Like others, I’ve brought my own crap (a huge backpack of it) with me.

We all have past traumas, unresolved grief and problematic ways of communicating. But I recognise my crap isn’t Alex’s to resolve. It’s mine. This is a very different dynamic than I’m used to.

For example, every time he compliments me, I respond with something negative about myself to counter it, which he very lovingly pulls me up on. He says, ‘This needs to stop’.

It’s the first time someone actually gets me, sees what I’ve been through, but also won’t allow that to sabotage our relationship. We have healthy boundaries where he says ‘Izzy, I see what you’re doing, and I’m not taking that on.’ So when I’ve projected my stuff on him (or vice versa) we’ve found ways to call each other on it and work our way through it. That takes strength and strong self-worth from us both.

The other crucial relationship advice that has stuck with me is around how important listening (rather than talking) is in communication.

Psychotherapist and relationship guru, Esther Perel, says we need to “Listen. Just listen.”

“You don’t have to agree. Just see if you can understand that there’s another person who has a completely different experience of the same reality,” she advises.

So as we head towards another major adjustment, stepping into post-isolation life, I feel fortunate enough to have worked at creating strong foundations based on the relationship ingredients that don’t just depend on love, but actually strengthen and deepen it.

For more from Isabelle, follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Supplied/Isabelle Silbery.