INSOFAR as living arrangements go, it’s an unconventional set-up, to say the least.
Christine is fully aware that their domestic situation will raise a few eyebrows.
But she insists it’s only done in the interests of 10-year-old twins Leo and Penelope, and Felicity, seven, who are all autistic and remain at the heart of every decision, since the breakdown of the McGuinness’ 11-year marriage in the summer of 2022.
“It’s the one thing that we completely agree on – the children’s needs come first,” says former model Christine, 35.
“We don’t want them to be affected by anything.
“Patrick’s diary is busy, as it always is, so he very much dips in and out of the home, because he’s working away a lot.
“The same as when I was his wife, I’m there to support the children when he goes out to work – that’s how it is.
“When he comes back, that’s when I’ll try to put some of my work in.
“It doesn’t affect the children, because they’re not moving anywhere.
“They’re in one home, in their beds every night, and Mummy and Daddy come and go depending on our work schedules.”
And yet it is the same £4million family home that appears to be at the centre of the divorce battle.
Recent reports revealed that Christine has hired “pitbull” lawyer Catherine Bedford to fight her corner and help her avoid having to sell the house in rural Cheshire she loves so much.
Last month, Paddy indicated he was preparing for an expensive process, admitting on This Morning that he was going back on tour for the first time in six years, because his “money has run out”.
The divorce is not something Christine will talk about today, citing “legal reasons”, but she does hint that continuing to live together isn’t sustainable in the long-term.
She met comedian and presenter Paddy, who at 50, is 15 years her senior, when she was just 19 and, since her whole adult life has been defined by the relationship, she struggles to see herself now as a single woman.
While sharing a house has benefited the children, it’s also making it difficult for her personally to move on.
“All I’ve known since I was 19 is to be with Patrick.
“And because we still live together, I don’t really feel ‘single’.
“If – or when – we do go in separate houses, perhaps that’ll change.
“But I don’t know when that’s going to be, so at the moment everything still feels the same.
“We co-parent, we share a home and we will share our children forever.
“I definitely haven’t done the whole going out and dating thing.
“I’ve never used a dating app and I’m certainly not looking for love.
“I can find that later in life if I feel like I need it.
“Right now, I don’t feel there’s anyone missing in my life, and maybe that’s because I still live with him.”
In fact, she says the very idea of dating fills her with dread. While making the NTA-nominated BBC documentary Paddy And Christine McGuinness: Our Family And Autism in 2021, Christine was diagnosed as autistic, which helped her understand and come to terms with years of inner turmoil and social awkwardness.
“Dating isn’t something that appeals to me [as an autistic person] at all.
“Obviously, I separated from Patrick almost two years ago now, and I think people would maybe expect me to be ready by this point.
“But there’s literally nothing about dating that excites me.
I can’t even imagine going on a date! Meeting someone would need to be more natural, maybe a friendship that developed into a relationship, but that’s not something I’d want to happen right now.Christine McGuinness
“I can’t even imagine going on a date!
“Meeting someone would need to be more natural, maybe a friendship that developed into a relationship, but that’s not something I’d want to happen right now.
“I’m quite happy just by myself and am much more excited about booking a yoga class for myself or sitting on the couch for an hour in the peace and quiet.”
For a while, the two of them seemed inseparable and were even snapped kissing at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in December 2022 and again on holiday in Ibiza last summer.
But any relationship (romantic or otherwise) now appears to be over and both have unfollowed each other on social media.
“I’m not going to discuss Chelcee,” Christine says firmly when asked about the rumours.
She surely can’t be short of offers, though – just look at our pictures today, as she recreates the iconic Christine Keeler pose for our Valentine’s Day shoot.
“I really struggle to read people.
“My friends sometimes point out that someone was coming on to me, whereas I’d taken it as just them being nice.
“For me, it needs to be very clear, very black and white.
“They would need to actually say: ‘Can I take you on a date?’ and then I’d say: ‘No, I haven’t got time!’”
This Valentine’s Day will be spent working, before coming home to the children.
Anyone entering Christine’s life would have to be comfortable coming pretty low on her list of priorities.
“I don’t want to go into anything where I’m not there wholeheartedly, so I’m more than happy to put love on the backburner.
“I’m living my life, I’m having fun and it’s absolutely no problem not to have a romantic love in my life.”
There can be little doubt that Christine’s autism diagnosis, followed by the separation from Paddy, has given her a fresh sense of freedom and a new outlook on life.Christine’s autism diagnosis, followed by the separation from Paddy, has given her a fresh sense of freedom and a new outlook on life[/caption] Christine at a festival with her children in 2022[/caption]
After a lifetime of masking her autistic traits and many years of staying at home, to the point that she became a virtual recluse during her 20s, she is emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
She’s also written a bestselling children’s book (and is about to release her follow-up) and launched a budget beauty range called Lifestyle in B&M stores nationwide.
She’s also a regular on daytime TV, where she looks at ease on the sofa as a voice for autistic families, and comfortable in her role as advocate and campaigner.
“I used to say no to everything.
“The number of things I’ve turned down because I’ve been scared of what people might think or that I might get it wrong or look daft or not understand.
“Now, I just go for it.”
She does hesitate to describe herself as independent, but does she feel stronger than she did a year ago?
“I think I go up and down with it.
“There are days where I feel on top of the world, and then there are days where I don’t.
“But I’m still here, still smiling and my kids are happy.
“So I think I’m doing a good job.”
She’s certainly a long way from the girl who left school at 14 with no qualifications and, she says herself, no friends.
As documented in her powerful 2021 autobiography A Beautiful Nightmare, Christine has survived childhood poverty, sexual abuse and an eating disorder, and never believed she would amount to anything in life.
“I was a young girl from a council estate and I never knew what I was going to do other than stay around there, maybe get a local job but not going much further than that.
“I never believed I could do more.
“[This sort of success] doesn’t happen to girls like me, so it’s up to me to try to embrace it and make the most of it.
“I’ve written these books and I’ve watched myself on TV, and I still can’t believe that it’s me who’s doing it.
“It is a world apart from where I come from.”
However, she stops short of calling herself a survivor.
“It’s kind of hard to say and accept that, because it’s acknowledging things that have happened, which for many, many years I’d blocked out and didn’t want to talk about.
“I had never said too much to anybody until I wrote the book.
“But it was good to get it out there and I’m very aware that my life has been difficult and I’ve been through a lot.
“You just hope that the next part of your life is going to get better.”
Her new children’s book, The Magic Is You, The Magic Is Me, comes on the back of last year’s Amazing Me, Amazing You, which featured characters inspired by Christine’s experience of autism.
That debut went straight to the top of the Amazon children’s books chart, and when Christine was given the news, she burst into tears.
“The new book is about the magic of adventure and friendship, and I kind of wish I’d had a story book like this when I was younger.
“I never had friends and even now I struggle to make them.
“But hopefully I can inspire others to understand how important it is just to be there for each other.”
When asked about her proudest achievement, Christine immediately replies that it’s her children.
All of them are doing well – Leo has just been appointed head boy at his school, which is a job he takes super-seriously.
“I think back to when he started school and couldn’t last longer than a couple of minutes in an assembly hall, to now, with him being up there giving out star of the week certificates to the other children.
“It’s just amazing.
“Felicity goes to gymnastics every Saturday and, although she’s nervous and doesn’t speak to a lot of the children, she goes in there and does it.
“Penelope is into her computers and she likes to stay at home.
“She’s the one who struggled the most to settle into school after the holidays, but they all inspire me every day.”
Christine is honest about the uncertainty she lives with – she doesn’t know what the future holds for any of the children.
But it’s not something she stresses over any more.
“I don’t know if they will ever live independently.
“I don’t know if they will work or have relationships or friendships.
“These are all things that used to keep me awake at night, but I’ve come to accept there’s not an awful lot I can do other than use this time to try to support them as much as possible.”
Her personal hopes for 2024 are to carry on exploring what life has to offer.
After years of hiding away, this is her moment and she tries to make sure she doesn’t leave too much of a gap between social activities in case she slips back into old habits.
“I’m completely exhausted from the amount of energy it takes to socialise and come up with conversations.
“But I want to keep pushing myself and doing things that scare me.
“I want to keep saying “yes” to things when my gut feeling is wanting to run for the hills.
“Going ahead and doing it anyway while feeling the fear helps me massively.”
She adds: “I’ve learned that stepping out of my comfort zone is the way I grow.”
- The Magic Is You, The Magic Is Me by Christine McGuinness (£7.99, Scholastic) is out March 28.
In the make-up chair with Christine
Do you have any skincare heroes?
I swear by micellar water; it’s such a nice, simple product.
What are your make-up bag essentials?
A Charlotte Tilbury bronzer and lipgloss.
What do you splurge on?
Anything by Obagi.
Any beauty bargains?
My lipgloss from B&M. It’s £1!
What are your beauty hacks?
Always wear SPF – and a big pair of sunglasses can hide a lot!
Who’s your celebrity beauty icon?
Pamela Anderson. She’s gone make-up-free and looks incredible.