The Strictly make-up artist
is gearing up for a ‘tearful’ first Christmas without Ant McPartlin
This time last year, Lisa Armstrong’s life was falling apart around her as she desperately battled to save her marriage.
Now, as she faces her first Christmas without Ant McPartlin since 1994, she is trying to look forward.
Ant, 43, and Lisa, 42, are still technically married, as details of a financial settlement are still being thrashed out by lawyers.
But they have been free to cut their final formal ties since mid-November, and friends say Lisa is determined to start 2019 with a clean slate.
‘Last year she was dreading Christmas because her whole life was up in the air,’ a long-standing friend tells Now. ‘This time around she wants to try and enjoy herself, despite the inevitable pangs of loneliness and the flashbacks to when times were good with Ant.
‘She’s been to hell and back, but in the end it wasn’t the despair that was killing her – it was the hope, the hope that things might be able to work out.
‘This Christmas is all about being with the people who have always loved her. Those precious friends who will never let her down, no matter what.’
For Lisa, that means heading back to her hometown of Oxford to be with her parents and close friends, who have been by her side throughout the ordeal.
Then, there’s who her friends call ‘the real man in Lisa’s life’ – her pet Labrador, Hurley. ‘When Lisa needs a cuddle, he’s her go-to guy,’ adds the friend.
In the run-up to Christmas, Lisa has barely had time to think, let alone brood about her divorce, especially with Strictly Come Dancing keeping her busy deep into December.
Her work heading up the make-up department has given her a ‘huge sense of validation’, and she candidly refers to her colleagues on Strictly as a ‘second family’.
Throw in her busy social life – since splitting from Ant she has been spending a lot of time with Clare Buckfield, Declan Donnelly’s ex, and her best friend Frances Emes – and it’s clear to see just how far Lisa’s come.
But Christmas is different to the rest of the year. It can be a lonely time for many and it’s certainly a period when Lisa will have time on her hands to think about what might have been.
Lisa’s feelings are often displayed in the tweets she likes.
She recently liked one from actress Sheridan Smith, which read: ‘I seriously wonder how some people sleep at night,’ and another from a fan, who wrote, ‘You’re an inspiration to all wronged women you managed to hold your head high and maintain dignity in the face of the vilest betrayal.’
Lisa is understood to be planning a New Year trip to meet up with friends in the USA and soak up some winter sun – the country she turned to not long after Ant ended their relationship.
In the meantime, she’s busy dipping her toe in the dating waters.
While friends say she’s not ready for a serious relationship, they reveal that she has been scanning a few dating apps and enjoying ‘a fair bit of window shopping’.
‘The divorce is basically done and dusted and that’ll be a major watershed,’ adds her friend.
‘She’s a strong, independent woman, but this is not what she wanted. It was Ant who tore her life apart, not the other way around. And while she’s not going to live the rest of her life as a victim, of course she’s going to shed a few tears this Christmas.
‘It’s tough and there are days she feels incredibly lonely, and Christmas will undoubtedly exacerbate that – after all, it’s her first Christmas knowing that there really is no going back, that ship has sailed.
‘Ant has moved on, and she must too. But Lisa is determined that she will come through all of this stronger.’
We hope it won’t be too sad a time for you, Lisa.