Splitting up: The 52 year itch!- Daily Mirror newspaper- Exclusive news feature- ***May 2010***

Doreen Whiting, 72, telephoned us to say that she and her husband, Len, were desperate to sell their house after deciding to split up after 52 years of marriage.


The couple were keen to sell the story, partly to get publicity for their house sale.


We sold the story as an exclusive to the Daily Mirror newspaper.


Doreen and Len went on to appear on ITV's This Morning with Phil Schofield and Holly Willoughby for which they received another fee.


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The 52-year itch: Couple at war unable to sell their home after decing to split

Doreen and Melissa Thompson (Pic:HarryPage)

After 52 years of marriage, two kids and five grandchildren, you'd think Doreen and Len Whiting would have learned to put up with each other's bad habits.

But you'd be wrong, Doreen has decided she's sick of the sight of Len and that they should split for good.

However, there's just one snag - they can't sell their marital home. Not a single person has been round to view it - so the bickering couple who wed in 1958 are stuck under the same roof.

And it's driving them potty.

Doreen, 71, says: "Ooh it's hell here. I just want to move out and start living again. We argue all the time, and I can't bear to be in this house any more."

And Len, 72, chips in: "The thing is, for all the time I was working we had a mortgage to pay. I had to do it. But now Doreen's got what she wants. Now she wants to sell the house."

Arguments about co-habitation and mortgages were the furthest thing from the couple's minds when they first met as 15-year-olds cycling around Peckham, South London.

They were instantly attracted to each other and decided to get engaged after a blissful couple of years together.

"The thing I went for was the colour of her hair," smiles Len. "She was a redhead. And her personality. In those days, she was good company."

Ouch. Doreen's compliments are equally back-handed.

"Well, he was good-looking back then," she says casting a disapproving look at him now. "He was slim. We just got on. We were good mates."

Sadly, those days are long gone. Now they can't even agree on how they decided to get married.

"She pushed me into marriage," protests Len, who was serving with the Queen's Regiment at the time. "I had no idea she fancied me that much."

But Doreen snaps back: "We were engaged for two-and-a-half years Len! What are you talking about?" She explains that their original wedding day was pushed forward as Len was due in Germany at the time.

For a long time it seems their marriage was a genuinely happy one - mainly because they spent large periods of it apart.

After a short time in the Army, Len became a stonemason in 1967 and stayed in London during the week.

Meanwhile, Doreen moved to Berkshire with their children, Leo, now 49, and Lisa, 43, and then on to Llandysul in Wales in 1984.

However, once Len retired seven years ago, big cracks started to appear.

Doreen reckons she was so used to living by herself that having Len back full-time was just too much. The couple argued about virtually everything - food, cleaning and, most of all, what to watch on the telly.

Eventually, Len moved into the spare bedroom. Doreen says: "Before, it was OK because he was never here. When he was a stonemason up in London he only came back for high-days and holidays only.

"When he retired, things changed. It was strange. I'd got so used to it just being me and our daughter Lisa I'd got into my own way of doing things.

"It was annoying having someone else to cater for. Suddenly we were arguing. Over what? I don't know. Silly things."

Len butts in: "What are you talking about? You're forgetting I was the main breadwinner for all that time."

Doreen folds her arms defensively. "No you weren't," she says. "I've never been without a job."

Incredibly, it was on the day of their 52nd wedding anniversary when Doreen dropped the big bombshell - she wanted to officially separate.

She explains: "I'd been thinking about it for a while. I thought I'd wait to get Christmas out of the way, then I wanted our wedding anniversary to pass. But then we had a huge argument on the day of our anniversary, I can't remember what it was about now, and I told Len there and then I wanted to separate."

For Len, the news that Doreen wanted to split up came as a bolt out of the blue - and it puts it down to her apparent inability to communicate.

He says: "I mean, I know things hadn't been great. But the problem with Doreen is she never talks about anything. I'm not a mind-reader so how am I meant to know she was thinking all these things?"

Now it was all out in the open, Doreen pressed ahead with her separation plans - but the property market had a nasty surprise for the couple.

Doreen says: "I hoped it would be straightforward. But since then we've had no one come to see the house and it's like we're stuck here. My friends refuse to come round because of him, because we argue so much. It's a nightmare."

Their situation is far from uncommon - countless other couples decide to separate while the housing market is slow, only to find themselves stuck.

But Len and Doreen had celebrated their golden wedding anniversary - surely they were in it for the long-haul? "I know people might wonder why, after 52 years together, we'd even bother splitting up," says Doreen. "But we've just grown apart. We want different things. But now we're stuck here."

And, in order to keep the peace - or some semblance of it at least - the warring couple have set up a rigid housekeeping schedule to make living together as painless as possible.

They ration out TV time, cook separate meals and Doreen has handed housework chores back to Len after doing them for more than half-a-century.

Their separate bedrooms are furnished totally differently. Doreen's is all girlie with horse ornaments and bottles of lotion - with countless photographs of her hero, 007 legend Roger Moore. Len's, on the other hand, is ultraminimalist, with a bottle of Old Spice aftershave on the side.

"I sleep here and that's it," is how he describes the lack of decor.

Their sprawling home which they bought for 40,000 is set on 10 acres of land - but even that's not enough space to keep them apart. "Well, maybe there would be enough space if we had separate kitchens," muses Doreen. "But even then he'd have to come through the house and I'd have to see him, so maybe not."

Doreen has her sights set on a little bungalow in nearby Carmarthen.

But for now, the ex-couple are trying to maintain peace until a buyer is found.

On the market for 420,000, their amazing house has memories they now, sadly, wish to escape from.

"We did have happy times here, once," says Doreen. "But unfortunately, not any more. We really need someone to come and buy this to save us!" For the first time that day, possibly all year, Len is in agreement.

SPLIT IS A REAL CHORE

WASHING

Doreen says Len used to bring his dirty washing home for her.

"Once we separated, I told him he could do his own," she says. "But the first time he did it, he opened the machine when it was full of water. He then took the sopping wet washing and put it in the tumble dryer. After five hours it still wasn't dry. The utility room was flooded. I had to get on my knees and clear it up."

COOKING

After years of cooking, Doreen relinquished responsibilities. "At first we'd cook our own meals," she says. "Then Len pointed out it was a waste of electricity. But he likes fried things. I prefer salads."

SPARE TIME

Doreen's a TV soap fan while Len likes football and war films - "which he watches all the time", says Doreen, rolling her eyes.

So while Doreen spends the days on the computer in her bedroom, Len watches TV or spends time outside.

He says: "Doreen's down here at 7pm on the dot to watch her soaps. Make sure you don't sit in her seat. Even the grandchildren aren't allowed to sit there."



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