Couple who separated in 2019 reunited during lockdown

Woman who invited her estranged husband to move in for lockdown for the sake of their son, 5, despite their hostile relationship reveals they’ve now reunited after realising they’re ‘meant to be together’

  • Emma Jones and husband Dean separated in 2019 after marriage counselling
  • Bradford couple were torn apart by grief after losing first unborn child in 2013  
  • But at height of lockdown, they moved back together for their five-year-old son 
  • It forced them to work on their relationship, and now, they are happier than ever

A couple who separated in 2019 revealed how moving in together for the sake of their son during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown got them back together. 

Beauty therapist Emma Jones, 40, and her husband Dean, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, separated in 2019 following years of a ‘volatile’ romance which unravelled after losing their first unborn child

Dean was faced with an impossible decision when he had to choose between his unborn child and his wife when Emma developed sepsis following complications in 2013 when she was six months pregnant. They named the baby, a boy, Isaac.

The couple tried to stick together following their immense loss and got pregnant in 2015, with Cole, now five, but eventually called it quits after couple counselling failed to help them resolve their issues. 

But, when lockdown happened, the couple found they had to work together to look after Cole, and moved back in together, unable to visit anyone else. 

Emma explained it got them to communicate about losing their first child in 2013, which led them to heal from the traumatising event and rekindle their romance. 

Their incredible story is featured on The Year that Changed Love on Channel 4 at 10pm on December 15.

Beauty therapist Emma Jones and her husband Dean, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, separated in 2019 following years of a ‘volatile’ romance which unravelled after losing their first unborn child in 2013 when Emma was six months pregnant. Lockdown got them to move together to look after their five-year-old son Cole, and they are now back together. Pictured: the couple on their wedding day in 2013 in Cyprus 

A beaming Dean and Emma with Cole on a day out in 2019. Emma said she realised during lockdown that there was no point fighting with Dean anymore, which led to their final reconciliation 

Dean and Emma on an outing in 2020, wearing face masks. The couple moved in together after the start of the UK lockdown in March, to take care of their son Cole

It was the height of lockdown and beauty therapist Emma had invited her estranged husband Dean to move into her home for the sake of their five-year-old son Cole.

Torn apart by grief after the death of their first child, Isaac, the couple had finally separated a year ago, after marriage guidance counselling failed to heal their rift.

But, when the Zero 7 song Destiny came on the radio, memories flooded back of their wedding day seven years ago on the island of Cyprus, and Emma sank to the floor in tears.

‘In all honesty I don’t really understand what happened,’ Emma said. ‘One minute I was listening to the music, the next I was sitting on the floor sobbing uncontrollably, saying: “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Emma with Dean and Cole in 2017, when their son was three. The beauty therapist explained Deand and her were struggling to communicate following the traumatising loss of their unborn child in 2013

The family in 2020. This year, a year after separating, the couple were able to work out their issue, just in time to celebrate their seven years anniversary 

‘Dean kept saying: “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” but I couldn’t explain. Something just clicked in that moment and I thought: “What the hell are you doing? Why are you messing around when you are supposed to be together? Why are we having endless futile arguments?’

It was that evening that the couple took their first steps into healing their relationship, talking for the first time about the loss of their first baby Isaac, in 2013, when Emma was six months pregnant.

‘I think the reason we had such a volatile relationship was my inability to confront things,’ Emma admitted. ‘But, when we were in lockdown and our wedding song came on, I realised that I had to do everything I could to save my marriage.

The family looking happy last year. Emma said she felt her ‘inability to confront things’ was what made the relationship with Dean so volatile 

Dean and Emma in 2017. The mother-of-one said she felt guilty for the loss of their unborn son Isaac in 2013

Emma, pictured on her wedding day in 2013 admitted she was still reeling from losing Isaac when she was pregnant, She explained she never realised Dean was not blaming her for the death of her unborn son 

‘Dean is a wonderful Dad – he’s the only other person I trust to look after Cole, the kid we hoped and prayed for. 

‘So we began talking about losing our first son Isaac. I never understood how Dean felt about it. I never believed it affected him as much as it did me. I never really realised how much he loves me and how much he cared.

‘I just naturally thought: “I’m female. I carried our baby”. And I guess I’ve always punished myself about it. 

‘I never realised that Dean didn’t feel that way – he didn’t blame me at all. It was all in my head. But because I felt that he blamed me, I just shut off for such a long time. We had been to counselling to try and get over it and we always just seemed to make it worse. We never realised that it’s us that needed to talk.’

Family day out. Dean said he felt Emma was listening to how he felt for the first time when the two decided to communicate about losing Isaac during lockdown 

The couple met in 1999 in their home city of Bradford, and were friends long before they became involved 

‘Lockdown gave us an opportunity to speak,’  Dean, an insolvency accountant, added. ‘It wasn’t forced, nobody was asking about it, it just kind of came. 

‘I broke down in tears – crying is not something I’ve ever done – and I told Emma I just can’t go through this again. I felt she was listening for the first time.

‘I told her we needed to be on the same hymn sheet and go forward. We’ve got a little boy, our lives have been on hold for years and we’ve just managed to both pull things round workwise.

‘Grieving never leaves you. You’ve just got to learn to compartmentalise and say: “OK. I didn’t have this, I didn’t have that. But I had this. And now I’ve got this – as in my memories.” Isaac would want us to carry on and we have to.’

When reflecting on his relationship with Emma in the past, Dean admitted he felt like they were living different lives (pictured in 2019)

Emma and Cole. The mother admitted to trying to take her own life in December 2013 after losing her first baby 

The couple, pictured on their Cyprus wedding day, who knew each other as teenagers, were reunited in 2010 and soon began a long distance relationship when Dean was working in Manchester and Emma doing her beauty therapist qualification in Bradford 

The family looking dapper at a friend’s wedding in 2019, the year Emma and Dean would eventually separate 

The family are now looking to the future with Dean and Emma working on fixing their past issues (pictured in 2019)

Exchanging rings on their wedding day in 2013. Emma admitted she found bereavement counselling too hard

The reunion was the end of a rollercoaster love story for the couple, who met in their home city of Bradford, in 1999, when they were still teenagers. 

While Emma, a 19-year-old single mother, was studying beauty therapy and wanted to create a secure future for her son, Spencer, Dean, 18, was training to be an accountant and not ready to settle down.

‘I’ve always loved him,’ Emma said. ‘I’ve always wanted to be with him. I told him when I was 19 that I loved him and wanted to be with him. But we were both in different places.

‘I was doing my beauty qualification at college and was working full-time to support Spencer, Dean was starting to do his accountancy qualifications and wanted to have a good career.’

It was not until 2010, when they bumped into each other at the Mint Club, a nightclub in Leeds, that they rekindled their friendship. By then Dean was working as an accountant in Manchester while Emma was teaching beauty at Bradford College, 50 miles away.

Cole and his dad Dean in August. After Cole’s birth, the couple decided to be honest about Isaac’s death with their son, and Emma said he knew ‘he has a big brother in Heaven’ 

But a long-distance friendship gradually developed into love and the couple began planning their wedding. 

They got married in Aphrodite’s Sacred Gardens, at Yeroskipou Town Hall, in the city of Pathos, on the island of Cyprus, where Dean’s parents Brenda and Michael, have an apartment, in October 2013, when Emma was three months pregnant.

Wearing a Grecian-style wedding gown, Emma recited her vows: ‘Dean you are my soulmate. I’ve loved you longer than I can remember. 

‘I will love you further into the future than I can forsee. You’re everything I want, you’re just what I need and you’re more than I ever dreamed of having.’

But their joy was short-lived: on December 12 a complication with Emma’s pregnancy left Dean having to choose between saving his wife’s life or that of their unborn son.

The couple on their wedding day. After Cole’s birth, Emma and Dean kept arguing and reconciling over and over again 

‘I was more than five months pregnant,’ Emma recalled, ‘when I woke up at 5am to find the bed soaking. I woke Dean up and said: “Dean. My waters have broken. We need to go to hospital.”

‘When we arrived at hospital, the doctor said: ‘We’ve got to deliver your baby as you’re too unwell.’ But I was screaming: ‘No. you can’t. He’s not old enough to survive.” Then the doctor told me I had sepsis, which is life-threatening.

‘Even then, I just wanted them to save my baby. I didn’t care about my own life. Finally I became unconscious and the doctor said to Dean: “Either we deliver him now or your wife dies.” Dean just said: “I can’t make that decision. I can’t.” Then the doctor replied: “She’ll die then,” so Dean just said: “Right. Fine. Do it.”

After burying their first-born, whom they named Isaac, on December 20, the couple faced a bleak Christmas, exacerbated by their inability to communicate with each other.

‘I just thought: ‘I’ve just killed his baby. How can he want me around him anymore?”  Emma admitted. ‘So on Christmas Eve I locked myself in the bathroom and took loads of sleeping pills.

‘Dean broke down the door in the bathroom and said: “We’re going to my parents at Christmas.” I said: “I don’t want to go. Christmas is cancelled.” But Dean insisted.’

For the next six months, the couple struggled on, unable – or unwilling – to share their grief. Dean had started a new job in Manchester and was torn between his vulnerable wife and being the breadwinner.

‘He had worked really hard to get this new job,’ Emma explained. ‘It was a good promotion for him so I really encouraged him to go back to work. I didn’t want to hold him back.’

‘Emma dropped me off in the morning,’ Dean added, ‘and something was telling me: “Don’t go through the doors.” But I just ignored the voice in my head and carried on. It was the worst experience ever. I wasn’t ready. I should have been brave enough to tell them I was not ready.’

While Dean was at work, Emma sought bereavement counselling. But she found it too difficult. ‘I tried bereavement counselling,’ she revealed,  ‘but I didn’t find it easy to have a counselling session with people who didn’t know me or haven’t been through the same thing.

‘And I wasn’t ready to speak to other bereaved parents because I felt guilty seeing other parents in pain and realising that some of them had lost two, three, four or five babies.’

Meanwhile, Dean pushed his feelings to the back of his mind in a bid to support his devastated wife. ‘Nobody mentioned counselling to me,’ he says. ‘And I didn’t realise I could take time off work to grieve. I wanted to prove I was worthy of my new job but then I was feeling guilty that I should be there for Emma. I was just shellshocked.’

After struggling on for six months, the couple, who were trying for another baby, decided to up sticks and stay with Dean’s parents, who lived in the village of Kellington, near York.

‘We knew we wanted to have more children,’ Emma said, ‘but there was a chance that the sepsis would make me infertile. 

The couple revealed they had not thought of getting back together when they moved in to look after Cole during lockdown (pictured last year)

‘I had it in my head that I would never get pregnant again but if I did, I would have to be under constant supervision with the doctor for my mental state and my physical state. And Dean wouldn’t be able to go to work and leave me alone.

‘In the end, Dean said: “We have to go to my parents because I can’t look after you on my own. I can’t go to sleep. I can’t go to work. I never know if I am going to come home and find my wife dead.”’

The following month, Emma discovered that she was pregnant. Their son Cole was born in April 2015 and the couple moved into Dean’s old house in Bradford.

But their relationship spiralled downwards, with Dean struggling to find work and Emma juggling working as a beauty therapist with caring for a new-born.

‘We were leading different lives,’ Dean explained, ‘and we were just not dealing with anything. If Emma is not ready to talk about something, she’s not ready to talk. She’s like an ostrich, while I’m like a dog with a bone.

‘I like to get things off my chest. Otherwise it makes things worse. I was badly affected by Isaac’s death but because I was trying to be there for Emma, I never had an opportunity to speak about anything. Eventually it all proved too much.’

Over the next few years, the couple reconciled and parted as they tried to come to terms with their loss. ‘When we had Cole, we always agreed, we would maintain a united front and not let him see the problems that we had,’ Emma said.

‘He knows he has an older brother whose in heaven – he’s always known because he’s got Isaac’s bear with his ashes in – we never wanted to keep it from him because there will be times when we’re upset but we wanted to show a united front and not fall out in front of him.’

So, when lockdown loomed, they felt they had only one option – to move back in together. ‘Our relationship was quite volatile and we weren’t very good at communicating,’ Emma recalled, ‘but we were the only two people that could look after Cole.

‘We weren’t allowed to visit family or friends – we were not allowed to go out of the drive really – so we felt we should try to get along because of our son. We really felt that our relationship was over and we were not looking to get back together but we wanted to put Cole first. 

Certainly, at the start of the Channel 4 show, their hostility was palpable. In one scene, Dean told the film makers: ‘I’m still in the kitchen,’ and Emma raised her eyebrows, joking: ‘Best place for you.’

But gradually they began to talk and emerged from lockdown in a totally different place. 

‘We could see the difference of what it meant to Cole – and to us – what being a family was like,’ Emma, who is grieving for the death of her mother Julie from cancer last month, said. 

‘We had never had that before. Yes, we were married and we lived together but it always felt like going through the motions to keep Cole happy, but then actually spending this quality time together through lockdown, made us realise what we were missing.’

They are now planning to buy a house, and aim to renew their vows on their tenth wedding anniversary. ‘I never hated Dean,’ Emma said, ‘I resented the situation but I never hated him and always missed him.

‘That’s what I discovered in lockdown. He would spend time with me when Cole was here and then it was right: “He’s gone to bed. See you later.” 

‘And I would be sat there thinking: “Why does he have to go when Cole goes to bed?” ‘It made me miss him. 

‘And I thought: “Right I have to tell him, rather than trying to act like I don’t need anyone. I need to say: “Sorry. Actually I do want you. I do need you. I’m sorry for acting like a dick all that time.” Luckily Dean felt the same.’

The Year that Changed Love is screened on Channel 4 at 10pm on December 15

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