LOOSE WOMEN’S Denise Welch, 64, on how giving up alcohol was the key to keeping hold of love.
Getting married was never the be-all and end-all in my life.
Some women seem to want that more than they want a career or children.
For me, it went hand in hand with having a lovely life, but it wasn’t a dream I had when I was a little girl.
I was 24 when I first got married [to actor David Easter in 1983]. It was short-lived.
We were far too young, with no money, and we split after five years.
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We should have followed my parents’ advice not to do it in the first place.
Then I met Tim [Healy, an actor], and we married in 1988.
It was a wonderful day and I was five months pregnant with our first child.
I wanted to get married because I knew that once I had a baby, I probably wouldn’t get around to it, and it was important to me.
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I don’t know why – I wasn’t religious and my parents didn’t put any pressure on me. It was just something I wanted to do.
I remember walking into a bridal boutique in Brent Cross shopping centre, trying on an off-the-shoulder dress and going: “I’ll have that, thanks.” That’s how I always buy clothes.
Tim and I were married for 24 years and we have two wonderful sons together [The 1975 frontman Matty, 33, and Louis, 21], but in the end we grew apart.
The marriage wasn’t a failure – we are still friends and we work at being a blended family.
After Tim and I broke up in 2011, it wasn’t long before I met Lincoln [Townley, 49, an artist] in a nightclub. It was 6am and we were both drunk!
When I was doing the Dancing On Ice Tour, he asked me if I wanted to go for lunch. I said OK, and it was the first time we’d had a non-nocturnal chat.
We realised then that we really quite liked each other.
I will only ever be grateful to alcohol for one thing: how we met.
If we hadn’t been in the state we were in, we wouldn’t have been in the nightclub at that time in the morning.
We soon realised though, the only thing stopping us from moving our relationship forward was our dependence on alcohol.
Lincoln quit first. I didn’t think I had as much of a problem as he did, but two months later – after a drunken night where I woke up having no recollection of the evening before and I’d broken things in our flat – I realised I did.
I knew our relationship wasn’t going to work with just one of us sober, so I gave up, and we haven’t had a drink in 10 years.
My marriage [Denise and Lincoln wed in July 2013] is the bedrock of my life.
We never take each other for granted – something that happens in too many relationships.
My marriage to Lincoln is the bedrock of my life
In this marriage, I nurture and water it in a way I’ve never done before, because it is that special to me.
I suffer from depression, but if my marriage is good, I can deal with everything else.
At 64, I don’t care how schmaltzy I sound, but there is nothing in my life I would like doing without Lincoln.
We are a couple in the true sense of the word.
We recently won the BBC show Unbreakable [where celeb couples compete to prove they are the perfect pair].
We decided to do it because, at the beginning of our relationship, there were a lot of naysayers.
People said: “How can these two get together in the state they are in?” and: “She’s 15 years older than him – that will never work.”
But the truth is, Lincoln and I saved each other. Our lives were both in freefall for different reasons.
When we met, I was going through one of the darkest periods of my life and I was desperately ill and unhappy.
And with Unbreakable, we wanted to show people that we are very happy together and are both flourishing.
When I met Lincoln, he had his artwork hidden underneath his bed, and now he has representation and sells his paintings all around the world.
There are lots of women in their 40s and 50s who haven’t found a great love and think it’s too late, but I’m somebody who’s said:
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